Friends, family and classmates gathered together Saturday afternoon at Loris High School, not for a funeral, but for a memorial and celebration of Levi Moody’s life.
Moody, a 19-year-old from Loris, was shot and killed last Saturday by a man who was firing shots at random on Freemont Road in Longs.
“I don’t want a funeral, we’ve had plenty of those. … This should be what they call a memorial service where we all come together,” said Pastor Andy Anderson, echoing the words of Moody’s mother, Veronica Thompson, originally said at a vigil Wednesday night.
And the service was anything but a funeral. With uplifting music, jokes and stories about Moody, the memorial focused on the life that Moody lived rather than the grief surrounding his death.
“I came to celebrate because Levi lived,” said Bishop Antoine Bellamy, master of ceremony.
Displays of Moody’s football jersey and helmet, a slideshow of photos from his life and an overflowing auditorium not only showed the life that Moody lived but also the impact that he had on others.
“It doesn’t matter how long your life is, it matters what you do when you’re here,” Bellamy said.
“I came to celebrate because Levi lived.”
Moody was always willing to help others whenever he could, Thompson said.
“As everyone said, he touched so many lives,” Thompson said. “He always thought about people, always. Always wanted to do for other people. Always wanted to make people laugh. And this is how I choose to remember my son’s life.”
“If you affect people’s lives positively, your skin color doesn’t matter, your background doesn’t matter,” said Loris football coach Jamie Snider, quoting Thompson from the vigil.
However, Moody, like others, was not devoid of mistakes.
“I want everyone to learn that nobody is perfect. … Don’t look at a person’s flaws. That doesn’t determine a person,” Thompson said.
In February, Moody was arrested for holding a Limestone College student at gunpoint, a crime he said he did not commit. He also was arrested for petty larceny in North Myrtle Beach in July. His mother openly discussed both crimes at the memorial.
“I’m telling you from my mouth what my son did,” she said. “I want everybody to learn a life lesson from this tragic death he had. … There’s so many things with his death and his life that young people can learn from.”
From Moody’s mistakes and his death, Thompson hopes to create a movement that will stop violence and unnecessary deaths.
“I’m so impressed with Levi’s mom, Miss Veronica,” Snider said. “She is turning this into a crusade to stop violence first in the community.”
By reaching out to youth through religion, police and the community, Thompson hopes that as a group they can rid young people of guns, stopping the violence at what seems to be the source of the problem.
“Not only Levi could have died that day,” Thompson said. “We’ve got to be careful with these guns.”
Thompson focused on the fact that many young people do not know how to use the guns, because they do not have training with the weapons.
Horry County Chief of Police Joe Hill warned against the dangers of gun violence and also encouraged young people to turn to police in times of need.
“I’m telling you, I’m begging you, I’m praying that you take the guns out of the community,” he said.
Hill hopes that young people will begin to turn in guns to police stations. Realizing that young people may be afraid to bring the weapons in, he said that they will not be in trouble if they bring the weapons in, and that they do not have to give their names.
“She is turning this into a crusade to stop violence first in the community.”
“I need the young people in this audience to reach out to the officers in your community,” Hill said. “Don’t be afraid of us.”
People from the Longs and Loris communities are tired of the violence and want to see it end.
“We’ve gotta educate our youth,” said Corey Moody, a youth encourager at the event. “We’ve gotta change it to something better. This is not it.”
“It’s not okay that we’re here today,” said Hill. “This is not okay.”
Hill said that programs are being put in place that will help young people find jobs so they are off of the streets.
As for Moody, his death will not be remembered in vain.
“Let’s take this life that was taken, not in vain, let’s not make it in vain, and make it positive,” said Thompson.
Moody’s community will choose to remember him as the bright, funny young man that made an impact on their lives.
“I choose to remember him in the big smile,” said Snider. “I choose to remember him in the way he liked to laugh and have a good time. And he had a great laugh and a great smile, and he was just taken from us too soon.”