Hundreds of members of a grief-stricken Aledo community attended the funeral mass of former educator Jami Diane Stavens Evans and her teenage daughter, Mallory Anne, Wednesday morning at Holy Redeemer Catholic Parish on Old Weatherford Road.
Supporters of the Evans family packed the church’s large sanctuary to capacity and then stood for more than two hours, lining the walls.
The matching white caskets, side by side, bore floral sprays filled with roses and lilies in different shades of pink, and two large portraits of the women were on display at the front.
“We are here as one family to honor and remember two beautiful people,” Monsignor Publius Xuereb said, welcoming the crowd. “Today we are celebrating their passage from death to eternal life.”
Michelle Stavens, Jami’s sister-in-law, read from the book of Romans, emphasizing that, “Nothing can separate us from the love of Christ.”
The choir and musicians, who led several songs, came from both Aledo United Methodist Church, the family’s former church, and Holy Redeemer Catholic Parish.
In one especially moving part of the service, two vocalists sang Psalm 23 in crystal clear tones, engaging the congregation by raising their arms on the refrain, “The Lord is my Shepherd. There is nothing I shall want.”
Xuereb spoke about how Jesus quieted the storms during his time on earth, then addressed Darryl, Jami’s husband of 26 years, and other members of the family, which includes daughters Emily and Audrey.
“Up until last Thursday, life was smooth sailing, just another trip,” he said, “then tragedy struck and your boat was tossed around by great waves.
“Jesus is in your boat, in your family, and I know He is in your heart. He has the power to calm all the storms of life.”
Evans’ son, Jake, 17, has been charged with capital murder of multiple persons and is being held without bond in the Parker County Jail for the shooting deaths of his mother and sister.
Xuereb said he wanted those attending the service to remember that Jesus died, was buried, rose and now sits at the right hand of the Father.
“If you want to be safe in life, share your joys, fears and frustrations with your mother or father,” he said. “Stay within reach, at the right hand of your mother. No one loves you more than your mom and dad.”
Kent Kilbourne, former pastor of Aledo United Methodist Church, began with a poem by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways,” inserting the names of Jami and Mallory.
He spoke of how Jami’s daughter, Emily, appreciated the high expectations her mother had for their family and said Jami taught her children to present themselves well in public.
Darryl Evans attributed his greatest accomplishments to the love and encouragement of his wife, Kilbourne said, his high school sweetheart and deepest friend.
The pastor talked about Jami’s “deep and rich path” into the Catholic church, calling her “a woman of great faith.”
Mallory, he said, was sweet and fun. When she was 4, he recalled, she was awestruck by the new steeple on the Methodist church, proclaiming it “the most beautiful steeple in the world.”
Afterward, Jami asked how much the steeple cost, he said, and made a donation later in the week.
“She had the soft and gentle hands of her mother,” he said, his voice cracking as he remembered Mallory. “Jami and Mallory, if we had to count the ways we love you, we’d be here forever.”
Aledo United Methodist Church pastor Jason Jones said he was honored to speak on behalf of the family. He said Jami, as a Stephen minister, had been there for countless people when bad things happened, assuring them they could depend on God’s love.
“We need to pray for the Evans family and the Stavens family,” he said. “Their lives have been altered, and they will wake up every morning needing prayers from this community.
“The Bible is full of tragedies and hardships, but it’s also full of people of faith who find their hope in God. Darryl is already modeling that faith for his family and his community.”
Philip Stavens, Jami’s younger brother, called Mallory fearless, a “bundle of joy, truly free inside and out.”
Mallory spoke to him about becoming a nun, he said, telling him she had found peace when she converted to Catholicism last Easter.
Stavens shared memories of growing up with Jami and said their frequent childhood spats gave way to a loving relationship when Jami left for college.
He remembered her delicious pies and her reluctance to take credit for all the things she did.
“I will always be proud to be Jami’s little brother,” he told the audience with emotion. “Thank you for joining us. Peace be with each of you.”
After the service, interment was in Annetta Cemetery. The burial was followed by a celebration of the women’s lives in the parish hall.