So sad. Craig Strickland's widow, Helen Strickland, shared an emotional memory of the couple's first date as she paid tribute to her late husband at his funeral service.
The Backroad Anthem singer was remembered as a kind, loving and religious man by his family and friends who gathered at Cross Church in Rogers, Arkansas, on Tuesday, January 12, after his tragic death alongside friend Chase Morland on a duck hunting trip last month.
During the emotionally charged service, Strickland's wife, mother, father and sister all took turns to pay tribute to the man who was taken from them at just 29 years of age.
Strickland's wife, Helen, who had previously asked fans to pray for her to have the strength to get her through the memorial, admitted she was "just getting started" on her path of grief.
Addressing the gathered crowd in a prerecorded video, the former Miss Arkansas recalled her first date with her late husband.
"For Craig's and my first date, he took me to Mt. Sequoia, that lookout point," she revealed, adding that "for a girl, that made me a little nervous at first."
"He turned and looked at me and said, 'I've come to realize that relationships are the only thing that we take with us to heaven,'" she added.
"I love you, Craig Michael Strickland," she said, as her address came to a close. "And I love each of you, as he did."
Thank you to everyone who watched the memorial service, either physically present or via webcast, tonight. I wish I could thank and hug each of you individually. But for now, all I can do is say thank you and I love you. Because of your love and prayers I know I can get through this. Thank you for loving my husband. He cared so much about all of you. Thank you CrossChurch Staff and Sisco funeral home for the countless hours you put into this service. You paid attention to every detail which allowed our family to not worry about a thing. Thank you to Shiloh Christian School for serving our family and providing food for so many people. Thank you to everyone who sent donations and flowers. Our family feels so loved and blessed. @barrettbaber thank you for the wonderful performance you shared. It was so special. @awmen @nickfloyd8 @davidmckinneyjr and @backroadanthem for putting together the most perfect service to honor Craig. It truly touched so many people. I am already hearing stories of saved lives. I love you Craig Michael, I'm thankful you're with our Heavenly Father and everything is complete. I will do everything I can to carry on your legacy of establishing relationships and loving people. "I have come to realize that relationships are the the only thing we can take with us to heaven." - Craig Strickland ❤️
Strickland's father also recalled a poignant moment — one in which his son took him on the road to watch him open for Lynyrd Skynyrd. The country music star shared a photograph of his dad via social media as they traveled to the gig, captioning the picture to say that making his dad proud was the best thing about his job.
At the end of the funeral, Helen was given space to leave the venue before everyone else, with a request that her privacy be respected at such a difficult time.
Earlier that day, the brave widow shared with fans a copy of the letter she had put in her husband's pocket before he was buried.
Today I buried my husband. This is a picture of the letter I put in his jacket pocket. I love him with every part of my heart, but I love our God more...and I know my God loves Craig and I more than we could ever imagine. Therefore, God has a purpose. He makes everything beautiful in its time. Craig established relationships with each of us so that he could see us again. So let us love one another like Craig did. Let us pray for strangers. And let us establish relationships with one another with the goal of establishing Christ-like relationships so that we can see each other again in heaven. ❤️ "For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven. A time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant and a time to harvest... A time to cry and a time to laugh. A time to grieve and a time to dance... A time to search and a time to quit searching." Ecclesiastes 3:1-2, 4, 6
"I love you with all my heart," she wrote. "You were my person and the one love of my earthly life."
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