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Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Ashton's Funeral

Last week my cousin took his life after a long battle with depression. He was 21. 
I flew into Arizona Thursday night and spent the night with my sister. We stayed up talking until 5 in the morning. We talked about everything but a lot about Ashton and how we were nervous for the funeral. What do you say to a family who has suffered so much in just a few days? 

But we were so wrong about feeling nervous. Ashton's family was amazing. They were so strong but so real at the same time. They cried. They talked to us about everything. 

This is the talk my uncle, Ashton's Father gave at the funeral:


Tell grandchildren that Grandpa may cry during his talk today. That means that I love Ashton very much. It is a privilege to be his father. Grandpa is OK, even when he's crying. 

Over the past several days, it usually takes me about 15-30 seconds to experience a wave of grief; please be understanding if that happens today. It's also possible that I won't cry at all. That could mean that I'm cried out. That could also mean that I am being strengthened by God to be able to give utterance to the words that He wants you to hear today. He may want you to feel what you will feel today.

Thanks for grieving with us. "A village weeps" is an appropriate statement that was shared with us by a friend. We are mostly cried out, but it's totally appropriate for any of us to cry during today's funeral. That's what we sometimes do when we grieve. It's also totally appropriate to NOT cry. That doesn't mean you are any less sad than those who ARE crying. Everyone has permission to grieve in whatever way works best for you. 

The Book of Mormon teaches us to be willing to bear one another's burdens, that they may be light; be willing to mourn with those that mourn; and comfort those that stand in need of comfort. We are grateful for your individual and collective efforts to bless, serve and lift us during our time of mourning. Your acts of kindness and service have been countless. The power of your prayers has brought nearly tangible arms of support to us. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Several have asked how Jacob is doing on his mission in Spokane, Washington. We talked with him for an hour and a half on the evening of Ashton's death. We all felt that he needed to stay on his mission. We felt that that that was what Ashton would want him to do. This tragedy may make him an even better missionary. It may help him to connect and empathize with more people. This is an important message, worth tremendous sacrifice.

As you know, Ashton's death was by suicide. I won't go into any details about that at this time -- not that I'm unwilling to talk about it in a one-on-one situation, but that it's probably not appropriate in a big group setting like this. We know that "it is wrong to take a life, including one’s own. However, a person who commits suicide may not be responsible for his or her acts. Only God can judge such a matter." I know how much love my son, Ashton. I know that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ love him even more than I do. They knew him before he came to this earth. They know everything that led up to his suicide. They know the thoughts and intents of his heart. I trust them in the mercy that They will certainly show to Ashton at the Judgment Day -- and have probably already shown him since his death.

"Trust in the Lord with all thine heart and lean not unto thine own understanding." Trust Him. The scripture doesn't say trust him with the part of your heart that you understand. We need to trust Him with everything we don't understand, which is a lot for us right now -- and I'm betting there's a lot of that right now for you folks, also.

One of Ashton's favorite scriptures was this one from The Book of Mormon 1 Nephi 11:16–17 – and [the angel] said unto [Nephi]: Knowest thou the condescension of God? And [Nephi] said unto him: I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things.

It's probably natural to second-guess oneself, "I should have (or shouldn't have) said/done this or that."  Two comments here: Number one, Ashton's mind was broken. I feel comfortable saying that everyone that I know of did everything they could to help him see the good in himself. Ashton's broken mind couldn't feel or believe those efforts. Number two, second-guessing doesn't do any good. You and I can't change anything that has happened. All we can do is move forward. We may be able to learn and do better, be a better friend, spouse, neighbor, parent. Maybe Ashton's death has caused us to reflect on things that are truly important in life.

How do you talk to parents of a child who died by suicide? It's only been 4 days, so I certainly don't have all the answers. I also don't pretend to speak for other parents of suicide victims. However, for me, this is what would be helpful -- at least at this point: please don't worry about saying the wrong thing. I appreciate your saying SOMETHING. "I'm so sorry for your loss" is often enough. If you feel like you should visit us or write to us or talk to us -- do it! Don't be afraid to say Ashton's name. Don't be surprised if we cry. That does NOT mean you said the wrong thing; it more likely means that you said the RIGHT thing which has touched our heart with memories of Ashton, someone we love beyond our ability to express.

I'd like to speak to those who might be contemplating suicide or who knows someone who is at risk: Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. Suicide is NEVER the only option left. If you feel like that is your only option, please recognize that that conclusion is not rational and is coming from a "broken mind." Just as you would get help for a broken bone, please get help immediately from competent professionals with your broken mind. Please be completely honest with them so they can help you.

One of the things God does is to help us make lemonade out of the lemons of life. Some of the "lemonade" in this situation that I've observed: first, the establishment of The Ashton Richardson Mayberry Memorial Scholarship, which will help students with the costs of attending college. We invite those who are interested to check Ashton's Facebook page or with the St. David Schools to make your donations (I didn't mention this in my talk, but donations can be made to The Ashton Richardson Mayberry Memorial Scholarship and mailed to St. David Educational Foundation, Attn Susan Pollock, PO Box 456, St. David, AZ 85630). Second is that Ashton is an organ donor. We are grateful that others will be blessed by his healthy body -- for which his sweet mother can take much of the credit. Third is that some hearts have been softened, becoming more open to God's influence.  

Funerals have three main purposes: remember the dead, comfort the living, and teaching and testifying about the plan of salvation, particularly the Savior’s Atonement and Resurrection. Our beliefs bring us comfort during these times of profound sorrow.

When Christ lived upon the earth, he taught His gospel and organized His church. After His death and resurrection, the Church continued under His direction -- through living apostles. Eventually, all of them were killed and the authority to act in Christ's name was taken from the earth. 

In 1820, a 14-year-old boy named Joseph Smith was seeking God's direction in which church he should join. He took this question to God, the ultimate source of truth. He prayed alone in a grove of trees near his home in upstate New York. In his own words, "I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me. When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other -- "This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!" I give my solemn witness that this event did in reality happen. God, the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, did in reality appear to a humble boy in answer to his sincere prayer.

Over a period of years, Christ's original church was restored upon the earth through the Prophet, Joseph Smith. That church is called The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It is in reality led today by Jesus Christ Himself -- through Joseph Smith's successor -- a man who is called as prophet, seer and revelator. The current prophet's name is Thomas S. Monson. There are also 12 living apostles today, just as in Christ's day and for a period of time after His Ascension into heaven.

One of the keys the Savior gave to Peter before His death was the power that "whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven..." The Savior gave Peter the authority to bind relationships in such a way that those bonds would transcend death. Jesus is the only Being who had power over death. He was the only Being able to resurrect Himself. He's also the only being who can approve relationships that can persist beyond death. Jesus Christ has restored the authority to bind relationships on earth that will also be bound after death. Again, he did that through the Prophet, Joseph Smith. In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, that authority is exercised in Holy Temples. When you visit one of these temples, you will see the phrase carved into the structure, "Holiness to the Lord. The House of the Lord." These temples are literally the house of God. Just as God visited the earth in the garden of Eden and Mount Sinai and His ancient temple in Jerusalem, He also visits His temples which are upon the earth today. For those who are interested, please visit the Gilbert Temple, which is having its open house through Feb 15. When you go, please pay attention to how you feel: is it REALLY The House of the Lord? I give my solemn witness that it is indeed The House of the Lord.

When Faye and I were married, we were not only married "till death do us part," but through time and all eternity by someone who was authorized by the living prophet to pronounce this blessing upon our marriage. This is what is called being "sealed," a permanent union between husband and wife that transcends death. Again, only Jesus Christ can authorize that. I bear my solemn witness that He indeed has authorized that sealing. During the sealing ceremony in the temple, we are also told that children born to us will be sealed to us throughout the eternities. Only Jesus Christ can authorize that. I bear my solemn witness that He has. When Ashton was born, he became our son during his time on earth, and is still sealed to us throughout the eternities. How does a parent face the death of a child? I don't know all the answers -- since I'm still new at this -- but I bear my solemn witness that the sealing power is real. Ashton is still our son -- and will be throughout the eternities. I can't tell you what comfort that gives to me.

Where is Ashton now? His body is here and will be buried in the earth from which it was made. His spirit is in another realm called The Spirit World. My parents served a mission in Fiji over 25 years ago. My mother died of Alzheimer's almost 15 years ago. I don't know how things work there, but it gives me tremendous comfort knowing that she is there. I picture her welcoming Ashton's spirit when he entered The Spirit World. I wonder if they are talking about their experiences in Fiji?

How do we get through things like this? Because we know God's perfect love. We know God's perfect plan. It has been revealed through a living prophet. We don't need to guess and wonder. We are not left to ourselves to figure it out on our own. We don't need to rely upon uninspired men, no matter how intelligent they may be or convincing their reasoning may sound. We have a living prophet on the earth today who speaks God's words and God's will. That gives me great comfort.

Our ultimate source of strength is Jesus Christ. A Book of Mormon prophet taught his sons, "Remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil [and I might add life] shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall."

I bear my solemn witness that Jesus Christ is my Savior. He is Ashton's Savior. He is your Savior. 

I bear my solemn witness that broken minds can be healed just the way broken bones and broken hearts are healed. While God is at work, the rest of us (including the one being healed) can help by being merciful, non-judgmental, and kind.

I testify of the holy Resurrection, that unspeakable cornerstone gift in the Atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ! With the Apostle Paul, I testify that that which was sown in corruption will one day be raised in incorruption and that which was sown in weakness will ultimately be raised in power. I bear witness of that day when loved ones whom we knew to have disabilities in mortality will stand before us glorified and grand, breathtakingly perfect in body and mind. What a thrilling moment that will be! I do not know whether we will be happier for ourselves that we have witnessed such a miracle or happier for them that they are fully perfect and finally "free at last." Until that hour when Christ's consummate gift is evident to us all, may we live by faith, hold fast to hope, and show "compassion one of another." 

I testify that what has been taught today is true. I testify that the Holy Ghost has been present today. Some of you have been touched by His influence. I invite you to ask God in the name of Christ if these things are true. I promise that, if you will ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, He will manifest the truth of it unto you by the power of the Holy Ghost. By the power of the Holy Ghost, you may know the truth of all things.

I also invite you to bring all the truths you already have and to see what we can add. Talk to your friends who are LDS. Talk to the missionaries. Read about our beliefs on mormon.org.

To those who have separated themselves from the church, I say, my dear friends, there is yet a place for you here.

Come and add your talents, gifts, and energies to ours. We will all become better as a result.

Some might ask, "But what about my doubts?"

It's natural to have question -- the acorn of honest inquiry has often sprouted and matured into a great oak of understanding. There are few members of the Church who, at one time or another, have not wrestled with serious or sensitive questions. One of the purposes of the Church is to nurture and cultivate the seed of faith -- even in the sometimes sandy soil of doubt and uncertainty. Faith is to hope for things which are seen but which are true.

Therefore, my dear brothers and sister -- my dear friends -- please, first doubt your doubts before you doubt your faith. We must never allow doubt to hold us prisoner and keep us from the divine love, peace and gifts that come through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

I plead with all who hear these words today: Come, join with us. Come heed the call of the gentle Christ. Take up your cross and follow Him.

Come, join with us! For here you will find what is precious beyond price.

I testify that here you will find the words of eternal life, the promise of blessed redemption, and the pathway to peace and happiness.

I earnestly pray that your own search for truth will impress upon your heart the desire to come and join with us. In the sacred name of Jesus Christ. Amen.










Funerals help us reflect on our lives and really see what matters. If anyone has questions or would like to learn more about my church and the Savior I would love to answer any questions. You can also check our mormon.org

1 comment:

  1. Brooke Im so sorry for your loss. But what a pillar of strength your Uncle is! And what a blessing the gospel is to us! Much love to you and your family!

    ReplyDelete