More than 1,000 mourners from Florida and beyond gathered at an Orlando church Tuesday for what a pastor called a celebration of the short life of slain toddler Caylee Marie Anthony.
“I believe today Caylee’s home,” said the Rev. David Uth, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Orlando, where the public memorial service was held. “My goodness,” he continued, “if she could step into this room for just a moment, in a childlike way she would tell us … she would jump up and down to somehow to show us the incredible place that heaven is.” Caylee was 2 when she was last seen in June. Her remains were found in December in a wooded area about a half mile from the home of her grandparents, George and Cindy Anthony. The girl’s mother, Casey Anthony, 22, is charged with first-degree murder in her death. Jail officials said Casey Anthony had not asked to watch the televised memorial service as of Tuesday morning, and the television would not be on in her unit. She met with her attorney, Jose Baez, during the service in a jail interview room, jail officials said. There was no television in the room. Baez was permitted to bring in a laptop, although it was unknown whether they watched the service. She said through her lawyer on Monday that she was opposed to the service being open to the public. Watch why she was against the public memorial »
A picture of the smiling mother and daughter was among those in front of the altar, placed next to a candle lit by Caylee’s grandparents during the service. The program featured many songs, a fitting tribute for a little girl who, according to her family, loved music. But there was no statement read from Casey Anthony. Casey Anthony’s parents and brother spoke, giving attendees a glimpse into Caylee’s life and the child she was. Her grandfather, George Anthony, recalled how Caylee called him “Jo Jo,” how she devoured her favorite food — green beans — and how she enjoyed singing and dancing with him. “She was a comedian to me,” he said. “She cherished not only the time that I had with her but cherished every day that she was around each and every one of us.” Watch more of his eulogy » Cindy Anthony remembered Caylee coming to wake her up on Sunday mornings. “Her face would be right in my face, ‘Cee cee, wake up,’ and she’d be right there,” she said, holding her hand just in front of her face. She said she missed swimming in the pool with Caylee and talking with her on the phone. Both the Anthonys expressed their support for their daughter. George Anthony asked those present to withhold judgment, to pray for his daughter and to write her letters. “I miss my daughter, Casey,” he said. Cindy Anthony said one of the things she misses the most is watching the love Caylee shared with her mother. “It breaks my heart that Casey’s not with us today to honor the child she loves so very, very much,” she said. Speaking to her daughter, she said, “I love you, and I wish I could comfort you right now. … Caylee was so much like you. She got your beauty and your compassion, and she got your spirit.”
Grandmother: Caylee ‘now has her angel wings’
Caylee’s remains won’t be at memorial
She asked mourners to stay hopeful. “Hope is what we need more of. With hope, we can concentrate on our faith. Faith is why I stand before you today with a smile.” ‘This family is incomplete. I am incomplete,” said Casey’s brother, Lee Anthony. He said the death of his niece had left him broken and repeatedly invoked her initials, “C.M.A.” “If I could ask something from anybody that was willing to hear it, it would be this: For those of us that are frightened or angry or mournful or that just don’t understand, I ask that you fill your heart with patience and grace, and that you allow yourself to yield any judgments that you may already have,” he said. “For those of us who will never be the same again, I ask that you fill your heart with hope and forgiveness and you allow yourself to cope and heal.” A slide show of Caylee as a baby and a little girl was played. Uth and the Rev. Shane Stutzman, pastor of Eastside Baptist Church, acknowledged that many people may have questions — some of which may never be answered. But both urged mourners to trust in God. “He has the answer. Let the peace that surpasses all your understanding hold you now in the palm of his hand,” Stutzman said. “I don’t think we understand all the things he could show us right now, but I know that he understands us.” “We don’t have to say goodbye this morning to Miss Caylee Marie,” he continued. “If you know Jesus Christ, you can say, ‘See you soon.'” Mourners were required to pass through metal detectors and not permitted to carry bags into the church. “We feel like we know this little girl. We need this day for closure,” said Sandra Mckeller, who drove six hours from Georgia to attend Tuesday’s service. “Today is about Caylee,” she added.
A large makeshift memorial, with teddy bears, candles and balloons, continues to draw the curious to the site where a meter reader found the child’s remains. Caylee’s body was found in a laundry bag wrapped in a plastic trash bag, and her skull was wrapped in duct tape, according to police documents.