Columbia reverend reflects on the tragedy of children's funerals

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COLUMBIA - It's a title Rev. James Gray never imagined holding: "the city's unofficial children's funeral organizer."

"Who wants to really plan a funeral for their loved ones," he said.

Gray, is a reverend at the Second Missionary Baptist Church. He grew up in Columbia.

Gray took charge during a community tragedy last month, when 4-year-old Gabrielle Curry was struck by a Columbia Police Department car near Battle High School.

“It shook everyone to the core," he said. "That could've been anyone's kid."

That funeral wasn't the result of gunfire. Most of his planned funerals are. Gray says children are killing children.

For Gray, the shootings usually result in a trip to the hospital.

"When I go check with the doctor only to find out their loved one didn't make it, it takes me over the edge," he said.

Gray blames a lack of parenting for the shootings.

"When I see a 14-year-old downtown with a 5 or 6-year-old at 9,10 o'clock at night - where's everybody at?" he asked.

Gray doesn't have to bear the burden completely alone. Glenn Cobbins, a community outreach specialist for the city, helps him out.  Cobbins knows the community well.

"I was a drug dealer, you know. I was into prostitution," he said. "But that past strengthened me today so I can use it to muster up who I am, who I wanna be and how I wanna serve people."

Cobbins has now been out of prison for 20 years, and has made it his primary goal to help people.

"I've been a savior all my natural life and I wanna die being that. I wanna die helping people," he said.

Cobbins and Gray agree many people take life for granted and there are a lot of things in life we cannot fully understand. Gray said, although we don't always have the answers, there are ways we can try to avoid such tragedies.

“Be a part of the solution, not the problem," he said.