Bevelyn Kelly stood before the students and parents of De La Salle High School, thanking them for welcoming her grandson into their lives.
Terrance Kelly would tell her "with the biggest smile on his face" how they treated him to lunch or invited him to spend the night, saving him a trip home to Richmond.
"Through your acts of kindness, we knew you loved him, " Bevelyn Kelly said.
More than 1,000 people gathered in the De La Salle gym Friday to celebrate the life of Terrance Kelly, a May graduate who was shot and killed nearly a month ago.
The audience responded to his grandmother, who had collapsed and was hospitalized after learning of her grandson's death last month, with a standing ovation that lasted almost a minute.
Kelly's coach, Bob Ladouceur told the crowd, "I don't feel good being up here today. Terrance was taken from us in the prime of his youth in an act that defies all wisdom."
The 18-year-old football player was killed Aug. 12 in Richmond, two days before he was to leave for the University of Oregon on a full scholarship. Fifteen-year-old Darren Pratcher of Richmond has been charged with murder.
"We could do nothing about the single act of violence, but for all the reasons that lead up to his death, we can, " Ladouceur said. "Failure to do something means we have not learned from his brief and meaningful life."
A slide show projected images of Kelly onto a screen as former teammate Mahiri Wise, 16, sang "Our God is an Awesome God" and motioned the audience to clap along.
The montage included photos of Kelly as a child sitting with Santa Claus, Kelly as a teenager wearing a green Spartans jersey, and Kelly as a graduate donning a cap and gown.
Kelly's father, Landrin Kelly, was then presented with a white football jersey bearing Kelly's No. 28.
The 90-minute service coincided with the school's first Mass of the Holy Spirit since classes began three weeks ago.
Senior Scott Hugo, 18, said he talked to his coach about the death of his former teammate.
"I thought, 'What gives me the opportunity to be on the playing field and not TK?'" Hugo said. "He told me, 'You carry him with you because he doesn't have that opportunity.' My duty is to remember him and try to be a better person for him and because of him."
Even students who did not know Kelly personally said his death has reminded them not to take anything for granted.
"The reality that it happens close to home makes it hard to deal with, " said junior Harry Levy, 16.
De La Salle High School has established an endowed scholarship fund in Kelly's memory.
"I truly believe Terrance is alive and here with us now, " Ladouceur said at the service. "He is alive because he is a part of me. If you love him, he is a part of you, too."
Kelly's uncle, Billie Dempsey, said the family would be driving Friday night to Eugene, Ore., where today's University of Oregon football game will be dedicated to Kelly.
"Losing TK is still a bitter pill to swallow, " Dempsey said. "It knocked the wind out of all of us. It's no easy road. It's hard every step of the way."