Editor’s note: Some of the interviews for this story were done in Spanish and have been translated into English.
Maribel Moran and her family gathered at her mother’s house in Overland Park last Saturday morning to build a patio. They had talked about it for a while; to prevent flooding. As they worked, Moran — always the life of family gatherings — began to sing and dance juanitos, a Peruvian dance.
“She was herself that morning, she was happy,” Moran’s younger sister, Narda Lyons, said.
Later that day, Moran, her partner and two young sons caught turbulent waters in their boat while navigating the Neosho River close to the Burlington City Dam. They were thrown from the boat. Moran and her children Ezra Sharp, 5, and Mason Sharp, 2, were killed. Wesley Sharp was taken to the hospital.
“I still don’t fully understand or believe it,” Lyons said. “I was so heartbroken, it was the hardest thing. Personally, I would never want anyone to have to do something like that, to have to tell your mom what’s happened to your sister.”
Moran had always been happy and playful, dating back to when they were kids, her older sister Maria Moran said. She relished being the center of attention, leading her to dance and act in school. She also wrote some 100 poems as a teenager, often reciting them to family, who found it funny.
She was carefree and spontaneous, family said, launching into impromptu photo shoots with her daughter, Andrea Matos. She’d stop by her older sister’s house for typical Peruvian dishes — ceviche and dried potatoes — she would say she was too lazy to cook.
“She just knew how to start a conversation with anybody, she knew how to make people happy, she knew exactly what to tell you and how to cheer you up,” Lyons said. “She was just our biggest cheerleader.”
Her oldest son Ezra picked up her generous spirit and enjoyed helping his teacher at school. Mason, inherited her determination. He wasn’t scared of anything, Matos said of her baby brother. The family was shocked he would not only eat raw onions as a baby, but actually enjoyed them.
Like their mother, the boys enjoyed being outdoors, often asking to go to a park or to ride bikes every chance they got.
“They would always be running around, they’re so energetic,” Matos said. “Oh kids just full of energy running around screaming all the time.”
They were curious and smart children. Ezra liked to start conversations about physics or how motors worked. Mason, wanting to be like his older brother, was always eager to learn as well, the family said.
Mason and Ezra liked to tell their family how much they loved them even if they had said so five minutes ago, Matos, whom they called Icee (she doesn’t know why), said. She got to tell them she loved them too earlier that Saturday morning before they died.
“I was sitting there at the table, my mom was in the kitchen, Mason was sitting in the table, and Ezra was playing with his toys, and all of a sudden he went, ‘huh, I love you Masy, I love you mommy, I love you Icee,’” Matos said. “And then Mason said, ‘I love you Ezra, I love you Mommy, I love you Icee.’ And so I did the same thing too. And my mom did the same thing too that morning.”
Matos, who will start school in the fall, studying aerospace engineering at the University of Kansas, didn’t go with them that day to her grandmother’s house. That is one of her last memories of her brothers and mom. To help with costs of the funeral, Lyons launched a GoFundMe, which has raised almost $17,000.
Since the day of the accident the family has been grieving together. Gathering at Lyon’s house, her mother Carmen Matos, her older sister Maria and herself were dressed in all black. Andrea sat on the couch, consoled by her partner. A candle flickered in the corner of the living room, which was full of toys and portraits of Lyon’s family.
They came together to remember that last Saturday morning they shared: Mason and Ezra goofing around the house, and the others smashing pebbles for the patio while singing “Heigh-Ho” from “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.”
They used to gather nearly every weekend. Being in the house without their energy will be hard to get used to, Lyons said.
“She would want us to be strong, be together, and be happy for her because she was such a happy person, but I know it’s gonna be difficult for all of us,” Lyons said.
“At every family gathering, I’m just going to miss seeing her, she would always be the last one to come in because she was always running late, but she was always there, and that’s probably what I’m just gonna miss most,” she continued. “Just not seeing her, not seeing the kids, not hearing them. But I know she would want us to be happy, and she’s truly not gone. She will always be with us.”