BURLEY — The people who loved Tiffani Streling most gathered Jan. 20, to celebrate her life.
“We know she’s not coming back, and it’s time,” Tiffani’s great-aunt, Kim Sandlin, said before the service at the First Baptist Church. “We’ve got to stop and remember Tiffani’s life and celebrate that. There are still so many unanswered questions and a process to go through.”
Streling, 22, disappeared May 16, 2015. Her partial remains were discovered in November in Jerome County.
“I feel like we are really fortunate to have found her,” said Kristina Coltrin, Tiffani’s stepsister.
“Now we can begin to grieve properly have a memorial and start to move on to a degree. You never think you will lose someone this young. It’s like something that happens in a movie, not in your family. Sometimes it just feels unreal and I think she will walk through the door,” Coltrin said glancing at the entrance. “We are all still praying for justice and answers.”
Tiffani’s stepmother, Stephanie Albert, and her father, William Streling, will hold a wake after her remains are returned from lab testing.
“I can’t move on until she’s with us,” Albert said. “We prepared ourselves for her to be passed but not to have only part of her returned.”
Coltrin honored Tiffani by singing “In the Arms of an Angel,” and Sandlin presented her life sketch.
“This is way past due,” Don Belt, Tiffani’s stepfather said. Don and Melissa Belt, Tiffani’s mother said it was a relief to hold the service.
Families sat holding each other as photographs were shown of Tiffani as a small child, with family members during happier times and of her as the mother of a baby girl that died shortly after birth.
“Some people have asked why hold a memorial now,” Sandlin said. “We’ve been suffering for 2½ years. There’s no formula for grief. There’s no right or wrong way to grieve.”
Tiffani loved being around people and her family, she said.
“She would be tickled pink, literally, to be here and know you’re together,” Sandlin said.
Tiffani always surrounded herself with people and if she was found alone she was probably on her phone talking with someone.
“It’s safe to say she would always light up a room,” Sandlin said.
Coltrin shared childhood memories of Tiffani and said in recent years get-togethers during holidays and on birthdays were frequent.
“Tiffani would always be there,” she said. “She was the fun one in the group, and she was always joking and making sarcastic remarks.”
Coltrin said Tiffani also liked to hug everyone.
“That’s something I’d like to carry on in her memory. You never know when that will be goodbye and the last time you speak to them or see them,” Coltrin said.
First Baptist Church Pastor Kevin Devine said he hadn’t met Tiffani but he could see by the emotions crossing the faces of family and friends during the photo presentation that “she was not only loving but well loved.”
He urged the people gathered to celebrate her life and remember that the loss of her was also a reunion of sorts for Tiffani with her daughter, who died in 2013.
He encouraged family and friends to continue to offer support, especially to Tiffani’s parents.
When parents lose a child, Devine said, it is not one final event.
“It’s a loss that unfolds over the course of a lifetime,” he said.