ATLANTA - Hundreds of mourners filled Cascade United Methodist Church on Wednesday morning, celebrating the lives of an influential Atlanta family whose deaths have rocked a community and left many with unanswered questions.
Large photos of Christopher Redding, Marsha Major and Erin Victoria Edwards lined the bottom of the pulpit. The Woodward Academy choir joined in worship, honoring their former classmates, and the focus of remembrances was largely centered around the light of two young people whose futures seemed to be filled with endless potential.
"As we grieve, I'd encourage you not to focus on what we don't know, but to focus on what we do know -- this family is the embodiment of love," said Kamil "Missy" Finister, Marsha Edwards' niece.
The three were found dead in their Vinings townhome last week, in what Cobb County authorities have declared a double murder-suicide. Many of the requested details have not been released by authorities yet, but within a day, police determined Marsha Edwards was the shooter.
The complexities and confusion tied to the case served as undertones to the remembrances, but the focus was on celebrating the lives of a family unit.
Dr. Christopher Edwards, an Atlanta surgeon and chairman of the city's housing board, sat in a front pew as close friends and family honored his ex-wife of nearly a decade and adult children.
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Edwards' spokesperson coordinated media access to the large service, under the condition of no videography or interviews on the property.
Chris II, 24, was a digital specialist in the city's entertainment office, while his sister Erin, a Boston University student, was an aspiring journalist who'd also served as an intern in the city's communications office last year.
Some of Chris and Erin's closest childhood and college friends shared memories of two driven, talented and God-fearing people with wisdom beyond their years.
"There is nothing I can say today that can do Erin justice," said close Boston University friend, Derrick Lottie, Jr.
"Erin was the kind of person who could fill a hole in your heart before you knew you had it," Lottie said.
He added some of her best advice to him when he'd feel frustrated.
"(She said) sometimes God closes the door you're not supposed to go through and you're one step closer to where you're supposed to be."
"I implore you to show love and kindness to everyone you meet on this journey called life, just as Chris did," said Steven Smith, Jr., who described Chris as his first friend and brother, as the two grew up in the same Southwest Atlanta neighborhood.
Marsha Edwards' friend of more than five decades spoke about their upbringing in Louisiana, Southern University adventures and hopes for their children.
"Marsha was hands down one of the best mothers I know," said lifelong friend Terri Porter. "She was always doting on Chris and when Erin arrived, it was a reincarnation of Marsha."
Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms also spoke of watching Chris and Erin grow up in the Regency Trace neighborhood where she and her husband bought their first home.
"There is a village known as Atlanta, " Bottoms began, describing the close-knit community and lifelong ties.
Bottoms shared some advice Chris had recently given to visitors in the city's entertainment office.
"Be kind to others. People will remember how you treated them," she recalled to a response of ‘amens.' "It is just the basic thing you should do."
Bottoms also announced the Chris and Erin Edwards Scholarship through the mayor's scholarship fund. It will support students pursuing journalism, sports and entertainment careers.
One of the final thoughts came from the Rev. Dr. Walter Kimbrough, who emphasized a message of self and family love.
"The most significant organism in all of society is the family," Kimbrough said.
"Don't take your family life for granted," he told the congregation. "Give it all that you have. Don't simply tell the folk in your family you love them. Show them. Love transcends adversity."
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