By Sandra Ecklundsecklund@abcnews4.com
BOONE, N.C. (WCIV) -- Friends and family gathered at the Mount Vernon Baptist Church in Boone, NC Wednesday for the funeral of Dara Lee Watson. A poem, chosen by her mother, graced the inside of the funeral program.
The title: I'm Free. Free and at rest -- the end to a 13-day nightmare for her friends and family in which she was reported missing and her body later found in the Francis Marion National Forest.
Don't grieve for me, for now I'm free. I'm following the path God has laid you see. I took his hand when I heard him call. I turned my back and left it all.
A horse drawn carriage carried the casket as a tearful family observed. The service began with a prayer and a rendition of Amazing Grace. Mandy Southern, a friend of Dara Watson's, spoke of laughter shared and how much she will miss the stories Dara used to tell of her travels.
I could not stay another day to laugh, to love, to work, to play. Tasks left undone must stay that way. I found that peace at the close of day.
The worship center was silent as eulogies were read except for the occasional outburst of a newborn baby. Dara's sister had given birth to a baby boy only a week ago...while police were searching for her older sister. While the family said goodbye to Dara, they hold on to the joy of a new light in the family.
If my parting has left a void, then fill it with remembered joy. A friendship shared, a laugh, a kiss. Oh yes, these things I too will miss.
Vanessa Hensley, a high school friend of Dara's, spoke of memories from years past.
"I was blessed to know her and blessed to call her a friend," Hensley said. "When Dara would come in, her smile would illuminate the room."
Be not burdened with times of sorrow. I wish you the sunshine of tomorrow. My life's been full, I savored much. Good friends, good times, a loved one's touch.
Pastor Reggie Hunt told of a story Dara's mother told him. Dara was a world traveler and her mother would often worry about her little girl's safety. According to Pastor Hunt, Dara spoke these words: I am certain of my salvation. I am certain of my place with God, and I am not afraid to die.
A 25-mile procession left the church for Banner Elk, N.C where Dara Lee Watson was laid to rest in the Watson Family Cemetery.
Perhaps my time seemed all too brief. Don't lengthen it now with undue grief. Lift up your hearts and peace to thee. God wanted me now. He set me free.