Six-year-old Emilie Parker was remembered as a bright, happy child who loved to draw and who tried to be a friend to everyone at a funeral service in Ogden on Saturday. Reporters were invited to attend but not to record the service. Afterward Jill Cottle Garrett said the family chose Christmas music for the service rather than hymns more often heard at funerals.
"Emilie and her sisters were to sing in a Christmas performance," Emilie's aunt explained. "She had been practicing these songs. And we sang them to her because she was unable to sing them to us."
Bishop Brett Keller from the Parkers’ LDS ward in Connecticut told the mourners that Emilie is happy, safe and protected now in the arms of those who love her. His remarks were followed by a choir of Emilie’s cousins, forty of them from toddlers to teenagers, who sang two of her favorite Mormon children’s songs.
There was also a piano solo. Ben Marcheschi performed Waterfall by the Utah composer Jon Schmidt. Emilie’s father, Robbie Parker, then stood up and explained that Emilie and her sisters loved to dance to that music in their living room.
Her father told stories about Emilie’s adjustment to a new school in Connecticut, how she would try to be friends with girls on the bus even though they weren’t kind to each other, or how she resolved a conflict with a boy in her class. She was a great communicator, he said, who got in a lifetime of talking in her six years.
Elder Quentin Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints told the mourners Robbie Parker himself set an example for other families involved in the Connecticut tragedy by remembering that the killer’s family was also experiencing horror and sorrow. And he spoke to Emilie’s mother Alissa, promising her the pain would eventually recede while the happy memories remain.
The horror of the school shooting in Connecticut was barely mentioned at the service, which focused instead on the child whose small casket was at the front of the chapel, where Jill Cottle Garrett sat with Emilie’s family.
"Her little sisters were sitting on my lap," she said after the service, "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 danced, threw their flowers in the air. They were celebrating Emilie.
As the hearse left the meetinghouse for the short trip to the cemetery, about two dozen motorcycles ridden by members of Bikers Against Child Abuse followed to show their support for the family – support that Ogden Mayor Mike Caldwell promised at a public memorial last week.
"We’re grateful and honored that you’ve chosen to bring Emilie back to this community," Caldwell told a crowd of about a thousand mourners gathered at Ben Lomond High School. "And our promise to you is that we’ll always have a safe place where you feel that peace and love and sense of support and overwhelming comfort when you come to visit. And we’ll keep you in that warm embrace as long as we can, and that’s our promise as a community to you.
Emilie was buried at Evergreen Memorial park in Ogden. Friends have set up a Facebook page, called Emilie Parker Fund, for donations to help the family with funeral expenses.
Note: This story updates an earlier version posted on Saturday, 12/20/2012