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President Monson Sends Condolences to Texas Shooting Survivor at Family Funeral

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Photo by Jennifer Martino

In a day when miracles are often scoffed, there is a girl that is a living example that miracles – along with angels – do indeed exist.

With policeman at every door, hallway, and entrance of the Houston LDS church, and large media trucks parked strategically across the street, it was a surreal scene as mourners, supporters, and family members entered to attend the funeral for the six victims of the recent Texas shooting massacre.

Upon entering, eyes were immediately drawn to six glossy white caskets lining the front of the chapel, beautiful floral sprays draping the tops. 

It was hard to know how to make sense of the circumstances of the last five days when a family was murdered, with 15-year-old Cassidy Stay as the sole survivor.

Services were held Wednesday for Stephen and Katie Stay and Cassidy's four siblings: Bryan, 13, Emily, 9, Rebecca, 7, and Zach, 4. On the stand behind the caskets were large black and white individual photos of each family member. In the center – just as they were in life – was a photo of husband and wife – and best friends – Stephen and Katie, smiling. Happy.

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Photo by Jennifer Martino

An overflow crowd that filled the entire chapel and gym (as well as other local buildings via live feed) listened as life sketches, eulogies, and family members all echoed the same theme of forever families and an overwhelming gratitude for the gospel.

In attendance were first responders, several prominent members of both the Houston and LDS community including Congressman Ted Poe, Constable Ron Hickman, and Elder Bradley D. Foster of the Second Quorum of the Seventy.

“Katie will be forever our Mary Poppins,” Randy Cousins, Katie's uncle said. “She was practically perfect in every way. ”He spoke of how Katie loved holidays and throwing parties – especially during Halloween – and never, ever forgot birthdays.

“She celebrated life,” he said.

Speakers painted mental pictures of Bryan as a boy who loved to give hugs, running at his victim full speed ahead and throwing his arms around the person; Emily’s constant singing; Becca’s (always) dirty glasses and fly away hair; and super blonde Zach who loved his fish whom he named Goldie, Blackie, and Spottie.

Bishop Scott McBride spoke of how in the Church we are a family and are involved in each other’s lives.

“Our faith is firm,” he said. “The love of Jesus Christ and Heavenly Father is eternal.”

McBride fondly spoke of Emily. “It was like a little bit of heaven shining through Emily.”

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He continued, “People have been asking me what they can do. What can we do? We can open our hearts and eyes to see heaven. We can know we are children of a loving Heavenly Father. We can know that we are not alone. We can be more patient. We can be more forgiving. Be ministering angels here on earth. We can be the windows of heaven as we serve each other. As we do so, we will feel the eternal love of our Savior.

Addressing Cassidy, McBride said, “Family and ministering angels are watching over you. You’re not alone.”,=

Concluding the service was Elder Bradley Foster who began with a personal letter from Church president Thomas S. Monson. In the heartfelt letter of condolence, Monson marveled at Cassidy’s remarkable strength, testimony, and courage.

The letter encouraged her to continue in fasting and prayer for help, reminding her that she was sealed to a family, an ordinance that binds families together forever.

Monson also promised that she would find strength as she followed the Savior.

“The gospel is what makes people like Katie and Stephen,” Foster said. “They understood the plan of salvation. They understood we were brought here to experience earth, but our environment changes daily because of people’s choices. There is no earthly explanation for something like this. But it’s not what happens to us but how we handle those things.”

Foster spoke of the enabling power of Christ to get us through these times.

“Think about the Savior on that Friday. He was about to be put on a cross by evil men.  After he died people around Him cried and asked how God could have let this happen. Wasn’t He God’s own son? But as dark as Friday was, Sunday came. The tomb was empty.

“Good will always triumph over evil. We will have trials but 'be of good cheer. I have overcome the world' (John 16:33).

“The Holy Ghost brings peace, comfort, and understanding about those things that there is no earthly understanding for. The Holy Ghost reminds us of the eternal perspective.”

Foster’s take away message, however, was one of hope and that some of us could finally know how to emotionally process what we were experiencing.

“Cassidy had to stay behind to carry on the family name. She had to stay to carry on what her parents had taught her. Cassidy, you’re a sermon to a world losing faith, to a world that doesn’t believe in families anymore. 

“The plan of happiness is real,” Elder Foster promised. “It’s produced people we’ve seen here.”

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Photo by Jennifer Martino
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