'Goodbye, For Now'
Family and friends remember Shannon Lawrence during an emotional funeral at St. Michael the Archangel.
The vestibule of the Woodstock church was filled with poster-size photos of Lawrence and numerous floral arrangements. As the service began, it also held friends who could no longer find a pew in the 700-seat church.
Mourners began to arrive an hour before mass. They greeted one another with hugs, tears and stories about Shannon.
Among those in attendance were members of the Marine Corps League and the Warriors' Watch Riders, there to support Karen Lawrence, Shannon's stepmother and a U.S. Marine.
Father Larry Niese – Father Larry to his parishoners – was the celebrant.
"Today," he told the crowd, "we say goodbye, for now."
He reflected on Shannon’s life and helped mourners understand her tragic death.
"In all my years as a priest, I’ve never known anything as horrific as this," he said. "No words can express our deep sadness for the tragic loss of Shannon."
Niese addressed the questions running through the minds of many:
"Why did God allow this to happen?
"Where was God when this happened?"
There are no simple answers, he said, but God was there.
Between sobs, Justin Lawrence, Shannon's brother, told the crowd about the "the kindest, gentlest soul I know.
"Her compassion is mystifyingly endless," he said. "Everything she did, she did for others."
No wonder she wanted to become a nurse. It was a perfect fit, he said, because she loved helping people.
"She lies here today because of hate," he said. "She lives in our hearts because of love. Embrace love because only love can heal the hurt we feel today."
IN MEMORY OF SHANNON LAWRENCE
Click here to donate to Lawrence's two children, Emma and Peter. Emma turns three on June 25. Peter turned one the day before his mother's funeral.
Click here for Cecil Copeland's photo gallery of today's funeral and procession.