HIGH POINT, N.C. (WGHP) — The family of 81-year-old Heddie Dawkins is grieving but grateful a little more than 24 hours after they learned the week-long search for their missing loved one ended in a way no one wanted.

Heddie was not just a loving family person. She was a former high school guidance counselor, dedicated church member and friend. She also left a legacy as illustrated by the hundreds of people who gathered at the Gethsemane Baptist Church in High Point Wednesday night to honor and remember her.

The 81-year-old had severe dementia and disappeared last Wednesday from her home in High Point. On Tuesday, search crews found a body that police believe is hers.

Her family members said they’ve learned several lessons through this like loving on each other more often and appreciating our local first responders more.

That’s what tonight’s vigil was all about.

The vigil started with a prayer and a message from Pastor Roy Fitzgerald, who recognized the hundreds involved in the week-long effort to find Heddie Dawkins.

“To our community, to our church family, to our police department, our sheriff’s and the other auxiliaries, your light has shown brightly these past seven days,” he said.

One by one, a few of Heddie’s children and grandchildren went to the podium to share their appreciation in the church where Heddie once worshipped. Her son Bert Dawkins was one of those speakers. He’s still in awe at how his mother brought an entire community together.

“I love the fact that skin color does not matter,” Bert said. “It inspires me to be a better person, a better man.”

This experience has changed him. Bert even said in his message to the congregation that he used to see a missing person on TV and not think twice about it. Now he’s got a different mindset.

“When it hits home, you realize it’s everybody’s problem,” he said. “The next time I see someone like that or see on the news someone is missing, I’m going to be the first out there to support.”

Support is what’s gotten Bert and the rest of the Dawkins family through this tough time. That and the fact that they know Heddie is in a better place and no longer hurting.

“We know she’s with God,” Bert said. “We know the dementia does not exist anymore. She’s got a new mind and a new body. She’s happy. My father’s there. My dad’s there, so she’s happy.”

The praying is not over yet.

As people entered the church for the vigil, they got a sticker with a five-minute time slot on it. Each person is asked to pray for Heddie’s family at their designated time, starting at 6 am. Thursday until midnight. The goal is to have an unbroken chain of prayer for 18 hours collectively.