Tori’s Celebration of Life – Part One

We asked several of our photographer friends to help us capture Tori’s Celebration of Life on Saturday so that we wouldn’t miss a thing.

Here are some of the photos from the talented Katie Bingaman. We will share some of each photographer’s photos as we receive them.

We awoke on Saturday to snow. In April. Snow.

At first I was discouraged, because I knew that the weather would likely keep some from attending. And, it was cold and snowing in April, so that was annoying. 😉

And then, a text from a new friend who is so incredibly talented with words.

Amy texted me this:

Good morning, friend. I woke with you on my heart and as I looked out of my bedroom window and saw the snow – it confirmed what we all know: that the heavens DO declare the glory (Psalm 19:1).

All of heaven is feeling WITH you today – gut wrenching sorrow yet joy. Sadness mixed with rejoicing. It is ugly, and it is beautiful. Snow and rain, a wintry mix in Spring.

All of heaven is weeping – but weeping beauty. A quiet fall of white in Spring.


There is not a doubt in my mind that this forecast is for Tori. If God held the sun in its place for Elijah (just one man), I’m certain He allows the heavens to share their grief with JUST YOU.

Perfect words. A calm filled my soul and I was ready to proceed with everything that needed to be done.

Last September we realized that we needed to begin thinking through our plan for Tori’s memorial, burial plans, etc. so that it would be on paper and few decisions would need to be made after her passing. If we were able to throw away that paper (if she were healed on earth), great! If not, we would be ready for whenever she decided it was time to go to heaven.

Brennan and I wanted this to be a huge party, celebrating the healing of our daughter and the knowledge that she can now do things she could never do on earth. She is in Heaven, with Jesus, and we are so excited to one day be reunited with her for all eternity.

Every decision we made revolved around that theme: CELEBRATION.

We knew that her giraffes would be present – all 150+ of them – and that bright colors would be prevalent. Every decision we made was focused on the true joy and happiness that we have chosen to embrace, even without her physical presence with us.

The Hotel Hershey – Brennan’s place of employment for thirteen years and counting – offered us a space that could accommodate 250 people plus 50 standing, and we quickly outgrew that space. Thankfully, a local church (LCBC) offered us their building AND staff assistance the day of the Celebration, and it was absolutely perfect!

Lesa put together her “worship dream team” – a group of people with whom she has led worship in different places over the past fifteen years – and the time of worship was powerful. God deserves all the glory for Tori’s life and legacy! Each song was chosen for its message and strong lyrics, and it was wonderful.

We asked a couple of people to speak in addition to Brennan. He spoke first and gave a powerful speech about living life abundantly. “Don’t let life get in the way: get in the way of life.” 

Pastor Jeremy Kerstetter (Central Baptist Church of Millerstown and Brennan’s best friend of 21 years and counting) and Pastor John Weathersby (Transcend Church of Harrisburg – our pastor) then gave powerful messages about the hope of Heaven and the shift in perspective Tori’s life has given to us all.

You can hear the messages here. It’s 36 minutes long and WELL WORTH your time. We will have the audio from the worship sets uploaded soon, as well.

Giraffes, balloons, thousands of photos of Tori’s gorgeous eyes and our adventures with her, cheese balls, dum-dums, and more made this event incredibly festive and joyous.

Over 450 people from at least sixteen states attended and we were so amazed! And, we know of at least one person who came to faith in Christ because of the celebration! Praise the Lord!

We have SO many people to thank, so here is our attempt (I’m sure we are forgetting people!), in no particular order:

  • Our family and friends who set everything up and helped make this be the best party for Tori ever! And for helping us stuff 400 bags of cheeseballs 😉
  • Regina Ramirez for the beautiful memorial ribbons with Tori’s photos on them…
  • LCBC for their amazing facility and their assistance to bring this to fruition…
  • Pastors Jeremy and John for their incredible words…
  • The music team for sharing their time and talent…
  • Katie Bingaman, Sarah Benner, and Michelle Morrison for photographing the event…
  • Micah Byler (and his crew) for the videography…
  • Hetrick-Bitner for their incredible service to us in the wake of Tori’s passing. The bookmarks they had custom-designed just for her, the love and care with which they handled everything…we can’t say enough good things!

We will not fully know the impact that Tori has had on this world this side of eternity, but we know that God has and will continue to use her, as well as Brennan and me, for His purposes. We can’t wait to see what He has in store!

2 thoughts on “Tori’s Celebration of Life – Part One

  1. It was a wonderful celebration of Tori’s life, she’s such a great gift from God. She will forever be in so many hearts and her legency will continue to do good works forever. She and her parents faith in God has inspired so many people. I love you all three, and you three will forever Be in my heart. Much love,

    Liked by 1 person

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