BETHLEHEM -- Rachel D'Avino dedicated her life to helping children, her younger sister told a crowd at her funeral Friday at the Church of the Nativity here.
She was also the sort of older sister you looked up to, Sarah D'Avino said between sniffles. She was a selfless and determined young woman who excelled at everything and always gave her all.
D'Avino, 29, was killed during last week's rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown. A behavioral therapist who had just begun work at Sandy Hook less than a week earlier, D'Avino died while protecting children from the carnage.
Mourners packed the small, rustic Catholic church and a big-screen television was set up in another room to stream the hour-long Mass for those who did not fit inside the worship hall.
The somber mood was echoed by a constant rain battering the church's great skylight overhead.
The slain woman's godmother read a passage from Jeremiah: "A voice is heard in Ramah, mourning and great weeping, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because her children are no more."
D'Avino was recalled as a woman on the rise. She was pursuing her doctorate at the University of St. Joseph in West Hartford, with a goal of specializing in helping autistic children. Her boyfriend, Anthony Cerritelli, was planning to propose on Christmas Eve.
But her sister stressed how much D'Avino had already done in her abbreviated life.
"She had already accomplished so much," Sarah D'Avino said.
As the service ended, the choir sang "Amazing Grace." Then, suddenly, the sun broke through the clouds outside, bathing the mourners in light as they left the church.
Said one, "That's Rachel."