WATERLOO, Iowa — It’s a hard road and the way forward is uncertain, but the burial Saturday of Elizabeth Collins showed that support for her family has not faded.
Nearly 200 people attended the burial, more than nine months after the girl went missing from her hometown of Evansdale.
Elizabeth and her cousin, Lyric Cook-Morrissey, 9 and 10, respectively, disappeared in July and were found dead in December. Their killer has not been caught.
“What we are going through today, we’re not sure how it goes. We try, we keep going, we hope, we persevere, we walk on,” the Rev. Chris Reeves said during the ceremony.
It was not a day that will end anything for Elizabeth’s parents, Drew and Heather Collins. Heather Collins said she believes the burial is a more vital step for Elizabeth’s siblings, Kelly, Amber and Callie.
“I think this is important for them, this is more for closure for them. For us, I don’t think there will be closure until the person is found, really,” she said after the service.
Rainy, drab weather gave way to a comfortable, yet cloudy, day as people arrived for the service. By the end, the sun had come out before dozens of pink and purple balloons were released to fly toward the heavens. After the 20-minute ceremony, laughter could be heard from the many small children in attendance. Young girls in pretty pink dresses collected flowers and little boys talked of the cartoon character SpongeBob Squarepants.
As the children dispersed about the lush green lawns at Waterloo Memorial Park Cemetery, Heather and Drew Collins took time to greet each and every person who lined up to give their condolences. Drew Collins took a moment with Elizabeth’s close friend, Gabrielle Engel, placing their hands on the casket.
Adonnis Hill, the father of Donnisha Hill, who was murdered in 2006 at the age of 13, gave the family words of encouragement. Hill has grown close to the Collins family as they have shared support and a quest for justice on behalf of the girls.
“We just try to keep each other above water, keep our thoughts clean. There’s a lot of prayer,” Hill said.
His advice for Drew Collins was to do a lot of fishing.
“My grandmother used to tell me fishing is like casting your troubles to the Lord. It gets rid of a lot of stress. It’s about patience. If he has enough patience, he will get his answers,” Hill said.
Elizabeth Collins was laid to rest in a wooden casket, placed inside a burial vault painted pink.
Pastor Reeves is a longtime friend of the Collins family and knew Elizabeth all her life. He spoke of the joy she spread, how she loved to sing and how still pictures show her tilting head.
“There’s a sense of finality in a funeral. It’s also a beginning. Now this door is closed, but a new door is open. How do I walk this out? We have to face a new day. The memories are going to be there,” Reeves said.
He also noted that the Collins family has always been generous and how their extensive network of friends and family has helped them through the ordeal, as has their religious faith.
An inscription on Elizabeth Collins’s gravestone reads, “You’re always in our hearts,” and “you’ll always be daddy’s little girl.”
Drew and Heather Collins have been active in seeking justice for their daughter, but also in doing what they can to prevent future tragedies.
“For us, we’re just going to continue to make things better for children and other families. We’re going to work on the Amber Alert to change that in Iowa,” Heather Collins said. “We’re just trying to make things better for other people.”