Community members hold vigil in remembrance of Nex Benedict

Feb. 26—Community members honored the life and grieved the death of Owasso 16-year-old Nex Benedict with a candlelight vigil Sunday at First Presbyterian in Stillwater.

Benedict, who identified as nonbinary, died Feb. 8 following an altercation at school. While the cause of death has yet to be determined, Benedict's family categorized the altercation as part of a pattern of bullying.

Sunday's vigil was an opportunity for some members of First Presbyterian and others to share in their grief and pray for hope, according to interim pastor Kati Collins.

"...hope for others who identify as nonbinary as well as their support systems, as well as our world as we're question and learning," Collins said.

Lee Miller recited the "Gathering Prayer for Pride Month" written by Slats Toole.

"No word defines You — you live in the space between, in tremor of opposites coming together in unimaginable possibilities," Miller read from a poem that draws comparison between a Creator that cannot be easily identified and how that can be reflected in the Creator's children.

Benedict's obituary was read in they/them pronouns.

Brianna Michelle, of Stillwater PFLAG explained how gender identify is an individual process

"Every nonbinary person will conceptualize their gender differences," she said. "Some will conceptualize as a mixture of male and female and some will be between male and female, some fluid or some beyond the binary altogether and some people don't have a gender at all.

"Nex was nonbinary. They lived as their authentic selves. They were happy and lived life to the fullest. I pray for mercy on them, that they will be allowed into God's heaven."

Brianna then shared what she called 14 special words she normally tells members of the LGTBQ+ community, but meant for all.

"And always remember, you are special, you are loved and you are not alone."

Sunday's speakers made no mention of the political climate, it was instead a solemn and prayerful event right through to the quiet candle lighting.

"We light these candle in honor of Nex," Collins said. "We light these candles in honor of many others that we want to know our loved, loved by us and loved by God."