'Special little girl' remembered at funeral

October 19, 2005|by CANDICE BOSELY


If everyone had a little more of Miana Stewart's qualities in them, the world would be a better place, Randy Stewart wrote in a letter to his daughter that was read aloud Tuesday afternoon at her funeral.

In the letter, Randy Stewart said he feels proud and privileged to have had Miana, 14, as his "special little girl."

Mary Stewart wrote in her letter that she always wanted a daughter and her time with Miana, although it was short, was wonderful.


"I'm glad that you're safe now with God. You'll be in my heart forever. Love, Mom," the letter ended.

Miana Rahshell Stewart, a ninth-grader at Musselman High School, was slain Oct. 13 in her Gerrardstown, W.Va., home allegedly by a man who told police he intended to burglarize the home.

She was the only child of Randy and Mary Stewart.

Miana's funeral service at South Berkeley Chapel was attended by about 700 people, including hundreds of students.

Dozens of family photographs of Miana, ranging from photographs of her as an infant to her most recent school picture, were on display in the chapel's lobby.

She was smiling in nearly every one.

During the funeral, three of Miana's favorite songs were played: "Down to the River to Pray" by Alison Krauss, "This is Your Life" by Switchfoot and "Country Roads" by John Denver.

Barbara Miller, a friend and neighbor, said she and Miana had formed a strong, fast friendship.

"God formed the foundation. Love created the bond," she said.

A couple of months ago, the two decided to get together weekly. Miller would teach the younger girl to cook, while Miana would teach Miller how to ride a horse.

"I grew to love Miana with a passion. She was the child of my heart," Miller said. "Miana had an angelic character. Her perpetual smile, the twinkle in her eye, the poise in her walk, the intelligence in her speech. When someone once said, 'To know her is to love her,' they must have been speaking of Miana."

Miller said that two days before Miana was slain, they cooked lasagna together. On the day of her funeral, Miana was supposed to have given Miller another riding lesson.

"There aren't words enough to express what a wonderful person she was," Miller said. "She was grace and beauty personified and love in action. Her loss will be felt in this community forever."

The minister who performed the service, the Rev. William Starr, addressed to the hundreds in attendance a question so many have asked: Why?

It would be less than honest not to admit that many are feeling confusion, frustration, anger and bitterness that Miana died, he said.

He said he watched Miana grow from a child, who not only insisted on bringing her stuffed animals to church but also on introducing them to the pastor, to a lovely young lady.

When his daughter called him to tell him of Miana's death, Starr said he felt a moment of helpless rage and voiced a few angry questions of his own.

"Why did He let such a bright and promising life end so tragically and so quickly?" Starr asked.

Life, he said in response, is unfair and grows even worse if anger and hurt cause one to let go of hope and faith.

He said God is not responsible for Miana's death or the attack on her mother.

The minister asked everyone to focus on the fact that Miana brought a great amount of joy to those who knew her during her short life, and also to concentrate on where she is now.

"In the coming days, try to imagine all the wonderful things she is experiencing," he said, adding that Miana is feeling peace, beauty and love in God's kingdom. "I truly believe that, and I ask you to try to believe that, too."

Miller pointed to the bright blue sky and warm weather as perfect conditions to honor Miana, who loved her horse, her dog, her family and her friends.

She played the clarinet and violin, and worked out at Gold's Gym. She loved her unique name, her church and its members, her home state - she became mad if someone made a joke about West Virginia - and her school, where she recently attended her homecoming dance, according to remembrances read aloud during the service.

Miller said she has told people not to focus on Miana's death, but to remember her as she was in life.

"She really lived her life to the fullest," Miller said.

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