Lily-Bell Posley had been thinking about going home to Florida this weekend to be among family. She will be there, but not under circumstances anyone wanted.
Posley, 53, and three of her grandchildren were killed in a rowhouse fire Saturday on Amity Street in Baltimore. Their bodies are to be taken to Apopka, Fla., near Orlando, this evening.
A bigger memorial service will be held there, and the ceremonies of burial. Yesterday, the Maryland and Pennsylvania branches of the devastated family had a small service in at the Maryland Church of God in Christ in Pimlico.
The dead were represented in photographs mounted on an easel at the front of the church. Besides a portrait of Lily-Bell Posley - a woman of proper bearing with an alert, level gaze - there were shots of the children: Marquan Williams, 6, sitting in an inflatable plastic chair, and Nyjerra McCray, 4, and Shydeim Scott, 2, smiling and playing with other children.
Behind the easel was the pulpit, where efforts were made to explain the unexplainable. No mention was made of the circumstances of the fire, that the blaze had started from a candles used for light in a home without electricity. The pastors dealt with broader issues of loss and redemption.
"Everything God does and allows to be done has a purpose," said Elder Clinton Requer Jr. "Those are easy words to say, but when it's we who have the handkerchief, when it's we who have the sobbing heart, those words are a bit more difficult to take."
As the organ rose to crescendo with wailing of women in front pews, Requer sang: "At the cross where I first saw the light/ It was then I received my sight/ And now I am happy all the day."
When he stopped singing, and the organ receded to a murmur, loud cries softened into sobs.
After the service, Lily-Bell Posley's son, Ben McMiller, said if the deaths of his relatives have a purpose, perhaps it is to alert others to the plight of those who must live by candlelight.
"Hopefully, this won't happen again in this city," McMiller said. "We hope the agencies that are in control of certain things will have communications with social service agencies and help those in need and make people aware that there are funds and people ... to assist."
The four people mourned yesterday were not the only victims of the fire. Sitting on a step outside the church, Travis Derico, 35, talked about his son Dominique, 10, who was in critical condition yesterday with burns over 60 percent of his body. Derico said his son was unconscious, hooked up to a ventilator and a dialysis machine for injured lungs and kidneys.
"From when we first came into the hospital, his condition hasn't gotten better, and it hasn't gotten worse," he said. "It's a waiting process to see what happens."
Lena Busby, 59, of Apopka, Lilly-Bell Posley's sister, talked about the women of her family. Latasha McCray, who lost her children and mother in the fire, was trying to get her life together, find work and support her children, Busby said.
Of her sister, Busby said: "She was a very loving, kind, generous, meek person with great love for everyone. She loved her grandchildren so much. She never wanted to be separated from them."