At the funeral for shooting victim Terri LaManno, a call for love and forgiveness

04/18/2014 12:05 AM

04/18/2014 12:05 AM

Love and forgiveness. Not anger and bitterness. Family members who addressed mourners packing the funeral Mass for shooting victim Terri LaManno asked that they reject the latter in favor of the former. “It’s perfectly normal to be angry, but forgiveness is something she taught me since I was little,” said Alissa LaManno, daughter of Terri and Jim LaManno, who would have celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary this week. An overflow crowd attended the nearly two-hour service at St. Peter’s Catholic Church, where the LaMannos are parishioners. Mourners included members of the several communities that LaManno, 53, touched during her life. One section of pews had been set aside for members of the 1979 class of St. Teresa’s Academy, the high school she attended. Several small children wearing prominent eyeglasses also attended, probably clients of the Children’s Center for the Visually Impaired in Kansas City, where LaManno had served as an occupational therapist. Terri LaManno’s brother Thomas Hastings described his sister’s joy at working with the CCVI children. His sister died, he said, from the actions of a man “who was blind in a different way — blinded by prejudice.” “If she had lived,” Hastings said, “she would have forgiven this man, no question.” Terri LaManno was visiting her mother Sunday when a gunman targeted her outside Village Shalom, an assisted living facility south of the Jewish Community Center in Overland Park. The gunman had fatally shot a grandfather and grandson outside the community center before driving to the second facility and shooting LaManno. F. Glenn Miller Jr., a 73-year-old avowed racist and anti-Semite from southwestern Missouri, is charged with capital murder for the Jewish center killings and first-degree murder in LaManno’s death. He probably will face federal hate-crime charges in the future, authorities have said. Thursday’s service included other references to the shootings. “My mom showed great courage and bravery,” said LaManno’s son, Gian, speaking of his mother’s last moments. “I can picture her lifting up her hand and saying, ‘Calm down and think about what you are doing.’ ” During the Mass, friends and family members offered several intercessions, some asking for prayers “for our Jewish friends” as well as for the family of William Corporon and Reat Underwood, also killed Sunday. “We are not going to avoid the reality of what took place,” said the Rev. Stephen Cook, St. Peter’s pastor. “There is a deep wound in the community.” But, he added, “the children asked that this be a celebration of life.” One of the service’s readings, Cook noted, came from 1 Corinthians and included the words “love is patient, love is kind, it is not jealous it is not quick-tempered.” The reading, Cook said, “is more often said at weddings, not funerals.” The church sometimes filled with laughter. “Purple was my sister’s favorite color,” Hastings said, noting the prominent display of Lenten purple throughout St. Peter’s. “I’d like to thank the church fathers for decorating it for her.” But more often, the mourners grew quiet as speakers described the healing power of forgiveness and the sometimes daunting challenge of granting it. During his homily, Cook took a metal folding chair and sat down just opposite Jim LaManno. “This is what I’m asking,” Cook said, looking at Jim LaManno. “I want you to help us to keep our hearts open. We want to be forgiving. We want to be peacemakers. We don’t want our hearts to be filled with anger. Will you do that for us?” When Jim LaManno indicated that he would, Cook thanked him. “Of course he said ‘yes,’ ” Cook said, prompting more laughter. “I don’t think he had any other option.” But, Cook added, turning solemn, he had seen others react to heartbreak in a different, more tragic way. “Their hearts get closed,” Cook said. “They get full of anger, they get bitter.” So, Cook said, his request of Jim LaManno was a significant one. “This is not a small thing,” he said. “This is a huge thing. I tell you, Jim, it is a heroic thing. “None of us are ever going to see Easter in the same way again.”