Somber, hopeful 'last party' held for 5-year-old shooting victim Payton Benson -
Published Friday, January 24, 2014 at 12:00 am / Updated at 9:07 am
Somber, hopeful 'last party' held for 5-year-old shooting victim Payton Benson

How do you say goodbye, forever, to a child?

Not with a funeral, said the pastor.

Funerals are for the old. Funerals are for people who get more days on this planet than the 1,915 days that 5-year-old Payton Benson got.

Funerals aren't for children who are just sitting at their kitchen table on a seemingly ordinary day when a bullet, fired from a block away, shatters the morning calm.

And so Omaha bid farewell on Thursday to this girl photographed in polka dots not with a funeral, but with a service called a “Celebration of Life.”

“We want to celebrate the time we had with her,” explained the Rev. Portia Cavitt, pastor of Clair Memorial United Methodist Church, where Payton was remembered.

Tabatha Manning, Payton's mother, called the service “my baby's last party.”

“Thank you for being here,” a tearful Manning told more than 270 people who gathered at the blond brick church on 55th Street and Ames Avenue.

The service drew an array of people, from Mayor Jean Stothert to community activists like Vickey Parks.

Ushers handed out tissues. And plenty were needed.

A framed photograph of Payton stood at the front of the church, and pictures of her short life flashed on a big projection screen.

Here she was: an infant in a sleeper. A chubby baby sucking on a binky. A toddler sitting in a restaurant high chair. A preschooler, feet dangling from a too-big adult chair.

Payton was pictured with her big sister, Viktoria. With her brothers, Isayah, LaTrelle and Xavier. With her mother. With her father, Marvin Benson.

She once sat on a red train. She pushed a red scooter. She clung to the gold pole of a carousel as she rode a white pony.

The images were all too fleeting, like her young life.

Payton died Jan. 15 after a gunbattle near 44th Avenue and Emmet Street sent a bullet flying into what should have been sacred, safe space: her home. Tabatha had been right there. So was little Xavier, age 4.

They were eating breakfast one minute. The next, Tabatha had scooped up her baby girl and rushed her outside.

Her minivan tire was flat. An ambulance rushed Payton to Creighton University Medical Center, where she was pronounced dead.

Yet a day later, Payton's parents appeared at a press conference and called for forgiveness and love and an end to violence.

That message continued Thursday as Payton's father asked for simple kindnesses.

“I would like all this stupid, nonsense violence to quit,” Marvin said. “It just starts by one person doing one thing. Do little things to show people you care.”

To make sense of the senseless, the ministers on the altar drew from faith in God and turned to Scripture.

“Let not your heart be troubled,” the Rev. Lorenzo Fincher read, from the Gospel of John.
“Help us, Lord,” said the Rev. Martin Williams.

“A child shall lead,” said Pastor Portia, quoting the prophet Isaiah.

Then she explained how Payton Benson could lead the city out of its shock and grief.

First, she said, Payton — who was slow to talk but quick to listen — showed an attentiveness. When Payton did start speaking, her voice was soft like a whisper.

“Learn to listen,” the pastor said, “to the still, small voice.”

Second, learn. Payton liked to lug around a backpack even though kindergarten was months away. She practiced her letters and numbers. She was excited at the prospect of school.

“Anybody in here,” Pastor Portia asked those gathered, “want to learn?”

Payton's final lesson was love.

“Love is patient. Love is kind. Love believes all things,” Pastor Portia said. “It's love that will change things in our society.”

Everything you need to know, she said, you can learn from a child.

So what will we learn from this one — from Payton?

Video: More Payton Benson coverage

Contact the writer: Erin Grace    |   402-444-1136    |  

Erin is a columnist who tries to find interesting stories and get them into the paper. She's drawn to the idea that everyday life offers something extraordinary.

It's a pursuit of pastel at Spring Lake Park's Easter egg hunt
Explosive device blows hole in windshield, damages another car
Financial picture improving for city-owned Mid-America Center
19-year-old arrested in connection with March shooting
No injuries after fire at midtown's old Mercer Mansion
17 senators in Nebraska Legislature hit their (term) limits
Keystone XL pipeline backers blast 'political expediency' as foes hail ruling to delay decision
29-year-old Omahan arrested for 22nd time in Lincoln
Nebraska senators to study tax issues over break
Portion of Saddle Creek Road closed after water main break
Teenager arrested after woman's purse is snatched outside Omaha store
Police identify 21-year-old shot in ankle near 30th, W Streets
Cult murderer's death row appeal denied, but execution in limbo
Beau McCoy strikes Obama doll in TV ad; Democrats are not happy
Police: Slaying of woman in Ralston apartment likely over drugs
Interstate construction to cause lane shifts, closings in Omaha area
Kelly: A California university president returns to her Nebraska roots on Ivy Day
Omahan charged in fatal shooting in Benson neighborhood
Friday's attendance dips at Millard West after bathroom threat
High school slam poets don't just recite verses, 'they leave their hearts beating on the stage'
Crack ring's leaders join others in prison as a result of Operation Purple Haze
Haze in area comes from Kansas, Oklahoma
Man taken into custody in domestic dispute
Omaha judge reprimanded for intervening in peer attorney's DUI case
Intoxicated man with pellet gun climbs billboard's scaffold; is arrested
< >
Dickson’s Week in Review, April 13-19
On Twitter some guy tweeted that the spring game isn’t taken as seriously as a regular-season contest. What was your first clue? When the head coach entered waving a cat aloft?
Kelly: A California university president returns to her Nebraska roots on Ivy Day
The main speaker at today's Ivy Day celebration at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln is a college president who grew up roping calves and earned her Ph.D. at the prestigious Oxford University in England.
Breaking Brad: Stuck in a claw machine? You get no Easter candy
I know of one kid in Lincoln who will be receiving a lump of coal from the Easter Bunny, just as soon as he's extricated from that bowling alley claw machine.
Breaking Brad: Mountain lion season's over, but the bunny's fair game!
Thursday was the last day of a Nebraska Legislature session. Before leaving town, legislators passed a bill to hold a lottery to hunt the Easter Bunny.
Breaking Brad: At least my kid never got stuck inside a claw machine
We need a new rule in Lincoln. If your kid is discovered inside the claw machine at a bowling alley, you are forever barred from being nominated for "Mother of the Year."
Deadline Deal thumbnail
The Jaipur in Rockbrook Village
Half Off Fine Indian Cuisine & Drinks! $15 for Dinner, or $7 for Lunch
Buy Now
< >
Omaha World-Herald Contests
Enter for a chance to win great prizes.
OWH Store: Buy photos, books and articles
Buy photos, books and articles
Travel Snaps Photo
Going on Vacation? Take the Omaha World-Herald with you and you could the next Travel Snaps winner.
Click here to donate to Goodfellows
The 2011 Goodfellows fund drive provided holiday meals to nearly 5,000 families and their children, and raised more than $500,000 to help families in crisis year round.
Want to get World-Herald stories sent directly to your home or work computer? Sign up for's News Alerts and you will receive e-mails with the day's top stories.
Can't find what you need? Click here for site map »