by: Monique Ming Laven Updated:
OSO, Wash. - It speaks volumes when the best news someone gives you is that they'll pay for your loved one's funeral.
But the pain in Oso is deafening. And even the grimmest of gestures are touching in this community.
On Monday, just as the Snohomish County Sheriff's Office released its official list of people missing in the landslide, victims' families were finding out that when and if their loved ones are recovered, they will be able to say a proper goodbye.
Catholic Community Services is the largest contributor in the effort to ease families' grief by taking on some of their financial burden. The organization has told Oso Community Church that it will cover funeral arrangements for families who need it, no matter what their religion.
"It means everything," said the Rev. Gary Ray of Oso Community. "I think in times like these, our faith is strengthened and character is born out, and that's what we're seeing in these days - the very best in humanity." He says his community was struggling before the landslide, and its unemployment rate was roughly twice the state average. Their grief would only be compounded if they could not give their loved ones a proper funeral.
The assistance stretches to people like Nichole Webb Rivera. Her daughter Delaney Webb was engaged to marry her fiancé Alan Bejvl. The two were visiting Delaney's grandparents, Thom and Marcy Satterlee, on March 22. All of them were likely talking about the young couple's wedding. It was planned for the summer, right on the Satterlees' property. They all loved the beautiful, lush land by the Stillaguamish River. But then that land swallowed them all. Only Alan has been recovered.
"I was very happy to welcome him into our family as one of my own," said Rivera of her would-be son-in-law. She says he was a nice young man and clearly very in love with her daughter. Although the couple never got to take their vows, Rivera says even in death they will not part. With help from Catholic Community Services, the two will be cremated, and their ashes mixed together.
She even plans to sprinkle their ashes near where they would have gotten married- land that is now a giant mud pit. But that is what her family called home, and where her father had even planned to establish a plot to store all the family's ashes. But, it was supposed to be incremental, each generation in its own time.
Instead, Rivera says she hopes all her family members will be found soon. She says they'll be returned to the very same land that took them. Only their last trip will be on her terms, not the land's.