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November 27, 2014

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At funeral for slain 10-year-old, mourners celebrate her life

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Brian Nordli

Mourners clap and sing to a gospel song at Jade Morris’ funeral. Hundreds of people filled Bread of Life Ministry to celebrate the 10-year-old’s life on Tuesday.

Jade Morris

Jade Morris

Jade Morris’ funeral began with a celebration.

As a church choir sang a toe-tapping, uplifting gospel song, the Bread of Life Ministry filled with joy. The hundreds of mourners seated in the church stood. In that moment the grief and pain over the 10-year-old’s death were channeled into clapping and singing with the choir.

“Let the peace of the Lord rise above us,” they sang.

About 400 people filled the Bread of Life Ministry Tuesday to celebrate Jade Morris’ life. Some knew the vivacious girl who loved to sing jazz and acted beyond her years. Others did not but came because they were touched by her story or wanted to pay respects to her family.

While grief brought them together, the funeral focused on a celebration of a life.

“You all might ask, ‘Why do we sing like that?” Bread of Life pastor Simmie Richard said. “It’s because we’ve had enough grief.”

Morris was reported missing on Dec. 22, the day after she left her house with 50-year-old Brenda Stokes, a former acquaintance of Jade Morris’ father, Philip Morris. One week later Jade Morris was found dead in North Las Vegas, and Stokes faces kidnapping and murder charges in the death.

But the service focused on none of that. The service was filled with uplifting music, swelling prayers and reflective stories. A slide show played on repeat in the background showed pictures of Morris as she grew from an infant into a beaming 10-year-old.

Morris’ music teacher, Marshall Ané, read from a book Morris had written called “The Jazz Singer.” The story was about a little girl named Jade Morris who learned to sing from Ané and became a famous singer “a couple centuries later.”

Morris’ uncle recalled how oddly mature his niece was. How she refused to sit in the front seat of his car because she wasn’t old enough, and rejected candy and soda because she had them earlier that week.

A third-grade teacher from Wasden Elementary School, where Morris attended, spoke of how much the school missed her.

“We miss Jade’s smile,” the teacher said. “There’s definitely something missing from our school.”

By the end of the funeral, some mourners wiped away tears with tissues passed out by ushers; others had tired red eyes, exhausted from crying. Sometimes even in celebration, grief is difficult to keep out.

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