Family lays daughter to rest, wants community to carry on her legacy of love

Posted at 10:50 PM, Sep 03, 2017
and last updated 2017-09-04 09:28:00-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Many shed tears at eight-year-old Elise Grace Johns's funeral Sunday afternoon, but a profound positivity was present in the room above anything else.

The word "grace" was repeated countless times throughout the Forerunner Christian Fellowship Church. 

That's the message the Johns family wants the community to take with them after Elise's tragic death in a car crash.

On August 23, a car pulled out in front of the Johns truck at Gregory & Paseo. The truck crashed into a light pole, sending Elise, her younger sister Hope, her older brother Kaden, and her father Jason to the hospital.

After five days, the Johns said they had to let go.  Elise's heart was beating, but an MRI showed no signs of brain activity.

Everyone described her as a loving, sweet, caring girl who loved to dance.

"She was just, her sweet smile -- when I found out about the accident, I immediately sank to my knees," said April Bateman, a friend of the family.

At least a hundred friends and family packed the church, the space decorated with pink and yellow flowers -- Elise's favorite colors. 

Jason, a pastor himself, and his wife Sarah spoke to the crowd about carrying on Elise's purpose, which was to love. They stressed they can't blame the tragedy on God, but can only continue to trust.

"The way they've handled this, they show forgiveness, grace and love in the midst of this trying time. It's changed my life just to see them walk through this," said Trisha Gilbert, a member of the church.

Many said it was hard to see their pastor's family in such a terrible position, but were inspired by their strength.

"We love each other, and are here for each other, and build each other up when things like this happen, and that's why this is a celebration," said Letha Buller, another friend of the family.

"We were on our knees and praying and felt the pains of what was going on with the family very, very deeply, so being here to celebrate was not just for us to help us know and understand that she's gone, but also to be there to support the family," said Shannon Davis, another friend at the ceremony.

Hope, who is just five years old, was still in the hospital over the weekend of the funeral. The family said one of her lungs collapsed, but is now functioning. She's still fighting to recover from other major organ damage.

The Johns have a GoFundMe page set up, which has raised nearly $150,000 so far.

You can follow Hope's progress at the family's Facebook page.