Kristin Murphy, Deseret News
OGDEN — Emilie Parker cared about people and their feelings. She never said a mean word to anyone.
Family members, friends, LDS church officials and the governor of Utah gathered to say their final goodbye to the 6-year-old girl who loved to draw and the color pink. They said their lives were better for knowing Emilie and spoke of her as a role model and inspiration for everyone, despite her young age.
"Emilie was an example not only to her little sisters but to her family, to all her little friends, and now she has become an example to the world about purity, innocence, tragedy and forgiveness," her aunt Jill Cottle Garrett said Saturday.
Those words were echoed by Gov. Gary Herbert:
"This is a time for coming together. My prayer would be as a state, as a nation, that as we remember Emilie, that we use her example to be better people. The best way we can remember Emilie is improving our own lives," Herbert said.
Herbert made his comments before the congregation that had gathered at the Rock Cliff LDS Stake Center Saturday morning where funeral services were held for Emilie Alice Parker. She was killed in the shooting rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14 along with 25 of her classmates and educators. Saturday, the final three victims of Sandy Hook were laid to rest in separate ceremonies, including one for Emilie.
Several hundred people attended the one hour service inside the stake center. Many wore pink, including her sisters and cousins who wore pink coats and dresses, and her father who wore a pink tie.
Outside the church, scores of people lined Monroe Avenue to pay tribute to Emilie. They stood silently on the street lined with hundreds of pink ribbons. Some shed tears, a few held signs,while others clutched flowers.
Jen Jake of Lehi was among those who held vigil as the funeral procession passed by. She said even though she did not know the family, it was important to show that even strangers could do their part to uplift the family “even if it was just standing outside holding a flower.”
“We all need a healing point at this time,” Jake said. “The (massacre) was so horrific and so tragic that this is healing for us as well as the family. It meant a lot that we could be out here for the family.”
Many like Emily Hopper of Clearfield said they were there just to show support to a family that was enduring unspeakable grief.
“I’m sure they like to know that people care about them and cared about their daughter,” she said. “That little girl died at the same age as my son is. They are very strong parents to handle this (tragedy) this way.”
Sisters Barbeli Taylor and Claudia Wardle made signs that read “Rest in peace Emilie,” with another crafted with a pink flower on it. They drove up from Utah County to pay their respects.
“It’s important to support people who are suffering,” Taylor said. “(Because of all of us) I hope they have a little more faith in humanity and know that good triumphs over evil.”
“If it were my child, I’d want any support I could get,” Wardle said. “To know that there is still good and love in the world.”
As parents themselves, the siblings said they have great empathy for the loss the Parkers have suffered.
“We all need to show our support, not just now, but remember what happened to (all of the kids at Sandy Hook Elementary School) and make sure it doesn’t happen again,” Taylor said. “We must do everything we can to fight back. We need to have a safe world for our kids to grow up in."
Love of drawing
During the funeral service, Emilie's father and cousins talked about the young girl's love for drawing.
"If you left her a notebook, it was like giving a kid of piece of candy," recalled Robbie Parker, who said every page in the notebook would quickly be filled.
Many of Emilie's pictures were framed and hung up around the stake center on Saturday. The songs sung during the service also held special meaning. The two opening hymns, "Angels We Have Heard on High" and "Silent Night," were the hymns Emilie and her sisters had been practicing to sing at a Christmas pageant that was supposed to happen last week.
"I appreciate you guys singing that together since she won't have the opportunity to do that," her father told the congregation.
After the ceremony, Garrett said hearing those songs was a special moment.
"She had been practicing these songs, and we sang them to her because she was unable to sing them to us," said Emilie's aunt. "It was special because her little sisters were sitting on my lap and they were singing the words of the songs and they were smiling and they would go and pick a flower off of Emilie's casket and just dance, threw their flowers in the air and they were celebrating Emilie and her life today."
A choir made up of all of Emilie's many cousins said the LDS hymns, "I Am A Child of God" and "Love One Another" were songs that represented Emilie. Ben Marcheschi played the musical selection "The Waterfall" on the piano, a song that Parker said he would play on his computer and he and his daughters would dance around the room to it.
Robbie Parker also recited the lyrics to Empty Chair at Empty Tables from Les Miserables, noting that while the words seemed appropriate, it was not the way to remember Emilie. Parker recalled how is daughter loved to draw the cartoon character Puss in Boots, how she was a great communicator and could speak full sentences by 18 months and then joked how she got a lifetime of talking in during her short time on Earth.
Calebe Garrett, Emilie's oldest cousin, recalled how Emilie would make him smile just by the way she talked. He recalled her artistic and creative side and one day where he helped her draw a picture. He still has that picture.
"I carried Emilie's picture in my wallet ever since. I never knew it would mean this much to me," he said.
Now, Garrett said it's memories of Emilie that will help him get through this tragedy.
"Emilie was so special to me…remembering Emilie, we will be happy."
Robbie Parker said it was around this time of year that the family would read Christmas stories. Emilie's favorite was "The Legend of the Candy Cane." At Emilie's last Primary meeting at her ward in Connecticut, Parker said the class was talking about the symbols of Christmas and Emilie knew all about the candy cane. On Sunday, Parker said he received a letter from Emilie's teacher about how much she had impressed everyone.
"Every time we see a candy cane we will be touched by her testimony," he wrote.
Parker said his daughter was always willing to help around the house, take care of her siblings, and because their family had moved around so much in recent years due to Robbie Parker's work and thus not able to make many friends, Emilie became that friend they were missing.
"There was something about her presence from the moment she entered this world that we knew we'd received a special gift," Parker said.
He ended his remarks with tears in his eyes, when he recalled talking to Emilie after her grandfather died about how Heavenly Father missed him, and she said, "I think Heavenly Father misses me too."
He said Emilie possessed the Christ-like attributes of pureness and innocence of children, and said little children are alive in Christ.
"This state mourns for you and for your loss. We attempt to comfort you at this difficult time," Gov. Herbert said. "We certainly pray that your burdens might be light and God's spirit comforts you."
Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, spoke of the resurrection, and of families reuniting and being together again one day.
"We weep at the tragic loss of such a sweet child of God," Elder Cook said. "I don't think there was a tree or fence anywhere that didn't have a pink ribbon…..Our doctrine is clear, Emilie is safe in the Celestial Kingdom of heaven."
Emilie's LDS bishop from Connecticut conducted the funeral service. Her stake president, David Checketts of Connecticut was also in attendance.
"I represent the people of Newton today, and the Parker family," bishop Brett Keller said. "When they are ready to come home, we will be waiting for them with open arms."
Keller delivered reassuring words to the Parker family, telling them that adults do their best to protect the innocence of children and they leave it up to Heavenly Father to do the rest. Right now, he said Heavenly Father was taking care of everything else.
"Emilie has always had a heart of gold, you know that, it remains so today and it will remain so forever."
A large number of riders from the motorcycle clubs Bikers Against Child Abuse and Sober Riders participated in the funeral procession, following the hearse from the church to the cemetery.
Interment for Emilie was at Myers Evergreen Memorial Park, 100 Monroe Blvd.
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