VAN ALSTYNE — Remembering the smiles and laughter characteristic of Reagan Ashley Small and Grant David Small, friends, family and the community celebrated the lives of the two Van Alstyne children with a candlelight vigil Tuesday night.
About 100 people, many clad in pink T-shirts honoring the children, surrounded the grave site that was covered in rose petals and trinkets reminiscent of the children’s likes and personalities. While tears fell from most faces, the message of the evening was one of hope and a celebration of the theme “love never ends.”
“Tonight is about light, love and life — that’s what Reagan and Grant are,” Karen Sparks Small, the mother of the children, said. “They were light and love and they were full of life. In their eight and nine years, they lived life to the fullest.”
Of the millions of memories, Sparks Small said the simple ones are her favorite. Like reading to them, helping them with homework, riding bikes — just alone time with them. And the numerous times she was in the car with them, driving to their sporting events.
“It sounds so little — just being in the car with them, listening to music, dancing and laughing — that was like our time, just me and the kids,” she said.
Reagan, 9, was full of joy and laughter and was always bouncing off the walls, Sparks Small said. She was a cheerleader and a gymnast, so she was constantly tumbling, climbing and making people laugh. Sparks Small said she was spunky, sassy and always smiling.
Grant, 8, was a jokester, she said, he loved pulling pranks, but he had a huge heart. He loved sports, he always made his friends feel special, and he just loved with everything he had, she said. While Grant was more of a perfectionist and focused, Reagan was the opposite. She said Grant was the rule follower, loved to study and do it right.
Reagan and Grant were killed in a fire at their Van Alstyne home that was intentionally set by their father, David Lee Small, 46, who was also killed in the fire, on Nov. 1, 2015.
The vigil started with hymns performed by Jarrod and Savannah Woods. Sparks Small and family lit candles and spread the light from person to person.
Trey Williford officiated the ceremony and shared a message focused on the outpouring of love for these the children and how their stories will never be forgotten. He said the theme of “love never ends” was a phrase that spread through the community after the children’s passing and was written on T-shirts different groups made to honor the children.
“The love that we have for them is not over just because we’re separated,” Williford said. “We believe in the Bible; it says we’ll be reunited one day. We can still just sense they’re with us, they’re near us because of Jesus.”
Near the end of the ceremony at the Van Alstyne Cemetery, friends of the children shared fond memories outlining Reagan’s and Grant’s love and compassion. Williford led the gathered group in the children’s favorite Bible verse, which everyone spoke aloud.
Williford said he continues to be impressed by the community and the love and support they have demonstrated to the family. He said when bad things happen, the community really rallies around to help where they can.
“She needs that constant outpouring of love and support to keep moving forward,” Williford said.
Sparks Small said she has felt that love and support, and she wants to pass it on to others.
“This community has been so supportive and wonderful to me, and I want to give that back,” Sparks Small said. “To live out Reagan and Grant’s legacy of those three things (light, love, life). As their mom I hope to do that — to be in these kids’ lives and part of this community that has loved me through this.”