Susan Jarrell was celebrated Monday for having a bright, infectious smile and a passion for teaching that touched not only her three children but hundreds of others during her tenure in the Rochester Community Schools.
And even in her tragic death, Jarrell left with an important life lesson, the Rev. Michael Wilkes said before hundreds of people who filled the spacious sanctuary at for Jarrell's funeral.
"Susan could've done anything in life and chose teaching as her calling," Wilkes said. "This is a teachable moment ... for a lesson of faith, community, forgiveness and belief in the future to come."
Jarrell, 45, of Bloomfield Hills, was found shot to death in the driveway of her ex-husband's Bloomfield Township home in the 2200 block of Bedford Drive last Tuesday. before turning the rifle on himself at about 8 p.m. Further details about the incident have not been released.
Kenneth Jarrell in Tennessee.
Wilkes' words about forgiveness and looking forward were directed to the large crowd attending the late-morning mass, but much of the focus Monday was on the Jarrell children: Nicholas, 14, Elly 12, and Caroline, 10. The three children were the focus for Jarrell, who Wilkes described as a devoted mother, passionate about her children and excited about their potential. Poster boards filled with photos of Jarrell and her children in all stages of life from infancy to earlier this year lined the glass entrance to the sanctuary.
Dozens of people waited in line to pay respects as they entered the sanctuary, touched the dark wood casket and paused in prayer. Others placed single white roses in a vase by the side.
"Selfless. Caring. Optimistic. Smart, in lots of ways. Truthful," Wilkes said, repeating words the children used to describe their mother in a previous conversation.
All three children and other family members helped drape Jarrell's casket with a white cloth that symbolized her baptism, and each led the congregation in individual prayers, along with their cousins, during the hourlong ceremony.
They were composed throughout the ceremony as dozens of others were driven to tears, and seemed to be uplifted by the support of their classmates. Nicholas was consistently surrounded by friends from the University of Detroit Jesuit High School. Classmates from left Jarrell's daughters messages of sympathy, friendship and support on poster boards that were displayed outside the sanctuary.
They were also supported by many students they didn't know from and in Rochester, where Jarrell taught since 2010. Rochester Community Schools were closed Monday for Martin Luther King Jr. Day and many students and teachers took the opportunity to honor the French teacher.
Roughly two dozen members of the Stoney Creek High School Choir participated in Monday's service. Several students sent .
Wilkes urged all in attendance to lean on each other and treat Monday's ceremony as not a time for sorrow, but rather to celebrate a gathering of love.
"Love will lead to forgiveness," he said.