The school auditorium was full of students, friends, faculty, community, and family members of Ciera, the 14-year old freshman who took her own life last week. Those who attended the vigil came to celebrate the short life of a young girl, and to aid in their own healing process as they grieved her loss.
Ciera’s parents wore “in loving memory” T-shirts with a picture of Ciera that her father described as his “favorite picture of her.”
Before the service began, a woman stood up from the crowd and shared her own story about her daughter who had been bullied while in school. She addressed the audience in a voice thick with emotion, imploring parents to talk to their children, and children to speak out if they witness any type of bullying.
Minister Dana Brawley began the service with a heart-felt opening prayer. After the prayer, a girl who described herself as “one of Ciera’s best friends” took the podium to offer some words of encouragement.
The young woman spoke about her reaction to the news of Ciera’s death, recalling how she had “just sat there and cried,” and how she thought to herself: “How is this fair?” She also admitted to feeling angry and blaming God, the school, and others for what had happened. But at the heart if it all, she wanted Ciera to be remembered for who she was, a girl who “wasn’t afraid to be herself.”
After these words of encouragement, two more of Ciera’s friends and classmates came to the stage to sing a song of comfort. The song they chose was “If I die young” by The Band Perry. They sang: “Lord make me a rainbow/ I’ll shine down on my mother/
She’ll know I’m safe with you when she stands under my colors, oh/
And life ain’t always what you think it ought to be, no/ Ain’t even grey, but she buries her baby.”
Ciera’s family and friends wiped away tears as the lyrics to the song hit home, some smiling through the tears as if presented with bittersweet thoughts of the girl, and the tragedy.
Following the song, two of Ciera’s peers came to the podium to share their memories. “We are all deeply saddened by this event,” one stated. “Ciera was the type of girl who came to school every day with a smile on her face.”
CHS Principal Jeff Wick came to the stage to offer up reflections on behalf of the school. “This is a tough one,” he began. Wick spoke of how family members and students were looking for answers, and how often when students come to him seeking answers he has some to give. “This time, I don’t have the answer,” he said. “All I can say is that we have lost one of our own.” Wick told the audience that his memory of Ciera was that she was “always smiling, easy going, kind, friendly, and academically focused.”
Ciera’s family members also shared memories of her as a person, as a daughter, and as a cousin. One of Ciera’s cousins described her as a little girl with a big country voice, who had “the biggest, prettiest smile in Caroline, hands down.”
Ciera’s father gathered his strength and made his way to the podium, he recalled how Ciera looked out for how her mother, who was a cancer survivor, and himself, who had health problems of his own. “I love her, and I miss her,” he said. “This is hard for me, because I am the one who found her that way.” He looked out into the audience, at the faces of his daughter’s friends and classmates, and asked them simply, no matter what they were facing, to talk to someone. “Don’t do what she did,” he asked. “Ciera was my pride and joy and I’ll tell you one thing- Caroline High School is going to miss her!”
Several of Ciera’s friends and family members came forward to share their memories of her, to celebrate her life, and mourn her tragic death. “You never would have known that something was wrong,” one friend said. “She always smiled, I never saw her cry.” Another friend said, “I believe that if she had just talked to someone, she would have been better.”
All those who came forward to speak about Ciera remembered a her as a lively, sweet spirited young woman, who always seemed to be more concerned about other people’s problems than her own.
The service concluded with a candlelight prayer outside of the school. Afterwards, friends and family members consoled each other, as the crowd began to slowly disperse. The night’s sentiments made one thing apparent: Ciera will be greatly missed by all those who knew her.
The lyrics for “If I die Young” can be found at: http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/bandperry/ifidieyoung.html