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Memorial honors fire victims

ERIC J. SHELTON | THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — LaMiracle Graves, 5, bows her head in prayer Saturday during the memorial service for her deceased brothers, Landon and Jaylyn Graves. The brothers died last year after being trapped in a house fire on East Oak Street in Natchez.

NATCHEZ — Talks with God and visits to a psychiatrist have helped Danielle Graves cope with the loss of two young boys killed in a house fire last year.

Graves attended a memorial service at Macedonia Baptist Church Saturday in remembrance of her sons, Jaylyn, 2, and Landon Graves, 1.

The Graves boys were inside their house at 110 East Oak St., the morning of March 24, 2010, when it caught fire.

Graves was treated for burn injuries in Augusta, Ga., for approximately three months after the fire. Injuries included her face and hands, which were badly burned when she entered the house that day in an attempt to rescue her children.

She currently visits the Jackson Burn Center monthly and will soon undergo plastic surgery for her injuries.

“God is the thing keeping me going,” Graves said.

Her daughter, West Primary School kindergarten student, LaMiracle Graves, 5, who was outside of the house when it went up in flames, also keeps her going.

The loss was confusing for LaMiracle, and both Graves and her daughter both have their bad days, Graves said.

Graves has struggled with her anger with herself and with God for the loss of her sons, she said.

But Graves said God gave her a dream, which answered the question with which Graves had been struggling — why He took her children away from her.

“He said they aren’t your kids, they’re mine; I loaned them to you,” Graves recalled.

The dream gave her wisdom to appreciate the time she had with her boys, rather than constantly mourn them or feel anger.

Graves said she then asked God in the dream to show her children to her, so she could see if they were OK.

Graves saw her boys in the dream, and Jaylyn answered her when she asked if they were OK.

“(Jaylyn) shook his head up and down and told me he was OK,” Graves said.

“They were very outgoing and lovable and always wanted to be around family,” Graves said of her sons. “They were the best; words can’t explain.”

Graves often has to stop herself from thinking of the day of the fire, because she relives the tragedy again each time she does, she said.

But her talks with God help.

“(God) speaks to me since (the fire) happened, and my relationship with God has grown,” Graves said. “I talk to him constantly.”

Graves’ neighbors organized the service to show her she was not alone in her mourning.

One of the organizers, Carolyn R. Smith, said the deaths of Jaylyn and Landon affected the entire Minorville community.

“I wanted (Graves) to know others are sharing grief and we don’t want her to feel alone, especially on the first anniversary of (the children’s) death,” Smith said.

Smith said the memorial, which the Rev. Clifton Marvel officiated, was also an opportunity for the neighbors and loved ones to “pour out” their support to Graves since she was recovering herself immediately after the tragedy, receiving treatment in Augusta.

Following the service, attendees went to the empty lot on East Oak Street where a burning house stood a year ago. They placed two crosses in the ground and prayed together.

Smith, Rose Jones and Henrietta White organized the memorial.

Jones, who also lost two sons in a house fire in 1974, was able to offer empathy and advice of her experience, as well.

Graves said the support of the community whether its shown with phone calls, visits, meals, gifts or cards has been helpful in moving on with her life.

“There’s hope after the pain; you have to put God first and live on,” Graves said.

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