Thursday, July 29, 2010

Times Call

Aaron Lawrence Stones, our kind, loving, gentle and wonderful son, brother, uncle and friend died Monday in his home in Denver. He was 28.

Aaron was born in Prescott , Arizona to Larry and Margaret (Baker) Stones. He was a happy and precocious child. He loved He-Man and wearing capes of all colors.

His family settled in Longmont when he was six. He attended Niwot High School where he excelled in drama and was known for his delightful sense of humor. He received his Eagle Scout award and his Duty to God award. He also graduated from LDS Seminary with four years of perfect attendance.

Aaron always loved music and played the guitar, banjo and kazoo. He was a talented artist and enjoyed painting and drawing whenever he could.

In 2007 he married Kiyoka Tamasue. They lived happily in Denver with their dogs, Petri Dish and Charlotte.
He loved all animals and found great happiness working with them.

He found a second family in his close circle of friends, who will miss his quick wit and tender ways.

Aaron was loved by his family and was adored by his nieces and nephews. Lovingly referred to as “Uncle Geek”, he spent hours coloring with crayons, building sand castles, chasing balls, stacking blocks and toting small children around on his shoulders.

Aaron will be deeply missed by his parents and five brothers and sisters
Andrea Dawson (Ben), San Clemente CA.
Mathew Stones (Andrea), Aurora
Erica Lundgreen (Richard), Aurora
Breanne Newson (Ben), Lafayette
Michael Stones (Taylor ), Longmont
As well as his 9 nieces and nephews

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Andrea Dawson

Effervescent Balderdash

When we get together as a family we like to play games. One game we love is called Balderdash. A word is chosen and then each player must create a possible definition for that word. In one of these game nights “Frilly frothy foam for fancy fair” was created. I have been thinking about those game nights…that game particularly. What if we all had to create a possible definition for Aaron. I asked my family for some single word descriptions of Aaron-words they felt defined him-and I would like to share a few of their ideas with you.

One of my mother’s definition words for Aaron is Precocious. As a small child Aaron was an escape artist. On one particular occasion Mom laid Aaron down in his crib for a nap. He settled right in and seemed to be off to sleep so she tip toed out of the room and went down to the basement to work on the laundry. Aaron had her fooled. As soon as she was gone he climbed out of his crib and made his way out the bedroom door. Mom came up to check on him a few minutes later and found the crib empty. She rushed around the house looking for him without any success. Her panicked searches finally took her to the backyard where she found Aaron dangling by his diaper, from the top of the chain link fence.

As a teenager and even an adult this characteristic changed slightly and became adventuresome. Aaron was an Eagle Scout. He caught fish with his bare hands…in a river. He could start a fire by rubbing two sticks together. He hiked the Front Range with his brothers and loved to go camping.
Whether he was pressing a transformer down into the middle of a wedding cake or luging down the hills of Boulder, Aaron has always had an amazing adventurer inside him.

Michael David had a great word description for Aaron. His word is Fun-loving. Now if you know Aaron at all then you have surely experienced his fantastic sense of humor. To be with Aaron was to be encompassed in his pranks, jokes and witty banter. And he could take a joke just as well. I remember Aaron allowing his sisters to dress him up in dresses and make up, ringlets and bows included, just for laughs. His light hearted nature didn’t only extend to jokes however. My sons recently confessed that when they were 3 and 5 years old Aaron would often sneak them into his room to have “jump on the bed” parties, because regardless of rules, all kids needed to jump on beds. He knew how to change a frown into a smile.
My sweetheart Ben remembers a Casa Bonita scone eating contest between himself, Mathew, Michael and Aaron. They ate until Brea threw up. Aaron was always ready for fun.

One of Breanne’s descriptive words for Aaron is talented. He was so very talented. Aaron was a gifted artist. He found great joy in painting and sketching. His written word was deep and moving. Mathew has spent some time in the last few days going through some of Aaron’s sketchbooks and journals. He expressed a greater appreciation and respect for his talent and called him ‘great.’ Coming from Mathew, that means a lot.

Aaron was also very gifted in music. He sung in his High School’s elite choir and he taught himself to play the guitar and banjo. I have many memories of Aaron and his guitar. Our family had a reunion at Bear Lake, Utah a few years ago. One evening we had a talent show. When it was Aaron’s turn to ‘show off’ he sat quietly on the ground, cradled his guitar and began to play. Soon, he was surrounded by all of his nieces, nephews and cousins. It is an image I won’t soon forget. Another time I was whining to Aaron about how I wanted a song with my name in it. I think this was right after Mambo #5 came out and there was “a little bit of Erica all night long.” Seriously, I’ve wanted my name to be Sara or Beth for years. He promised me that one day he would write a song just for me…and he did. Every time I saw Aaron he played me my song. It was a beautiful, rich and happy piece and while I will miss hearing it, I will never forget it. His talent has been etched into my memory.

My sister and Mathew’s wonderful wife, Andi described Aaron as genuine and accepting. Aaron was real. He was comfortable with who he was. He was quirky and silly and he never tried to change that. Even more endearing, he never tried to change anyone else. Aaron loved diversity and respected differences. He saw past physical appearances and focused on what lie beneath. He could be friends with the roughest looking characters and in the same day embrace the Bishop. I never felt judged or misunderstood by Aaron. Erica said, “Aaron had the ability to look me in the eye and make me feel like I was his soul focus, I could feel with a look that he loved me.”

Speaking of Erica, her descriptive word for Aaron was gentle. She shared an experience with me. A few years ago she and Aaron had a disagreement. They raised their voices and stormed to their separate corners, like sibling do. The fight bothered her and she decided to apologize. As she walked out of her room Aaron was standing there. He had tears in his eyes. Before she could utter a word he apologized for the fight and told her how much she meant to him.

Aaron worked at City Bark and he spent his days caring for dogs. I found a fun face-book post that described his feelings for City Bark. His status read “I just cleaned up the combined 'mess' of 20 dogs. Nearly every color of the rainbow... I still love my job!” Aaron loved working there. He loved the people he worked with and he loved the animals.
I spoke to him a few months ago about his puppy Charlotte and all the dogs he worked with. He spoke of them with love. I asked him how many times he had been bitten and he said, “Like gazillions…but they usually only bite if they are hurt, scared or confused. I don’t hold it against them.” I am telling you that I would hold it against them.
In going through some of Aaron’s things my family came across one of his performance reviews from work. It read, “Aaron has great dog handling skills. I have never seen him raise his voice to any dog for any reason. He has a way with our customers as well and they really like him. They go home knowing that he knows their dog and gives them the best care he can.”

Mat’s descriptive word for Aaron takes a little explaining. When Aaron was 4 years old he created the imaginary world of the Canafantines. I remember the song he would sing to himself, or anyone that would listen, “Canafan-tinafan-canafan-tinafan…” The Canafantines were a race of superheroes. He wore his Superman cape so much that it was ragged playing Canafantines. As Aaron grew he never forgot about his imaginary world and spent time giving the characters names and lives. Recently, Aaron asked Mat and Michael to collaborate on a book about the Canafantines. They created an outline and even added artwork to their ideas. One of the things Aaron had to teach Mat and Michael was how to create a Canafantine name. A Canafantine is named by morphing multiple positive personality traits into a single word. Mat chose his descriptive word for Aaron the same way. Aaron is charmically clevereative: a combination of charm, comical, clever and creative. . Mathew and Michael have vowed to finish Aaron’s book.

Dad’s definitive word for Aaron is effervescent. I love that. Effervescent. To me, effervescent ties all of his other definitive traits together. I imagine Aaron standing on the stage at Niwot High School after winning the Mr. Cougar honor, which was basically a popularity contest. I imagine him throwing Andrew and Mylie into the swimming pool, as they squealed in delight. I imagine his laugh and the way that people were drawn to him. He was the life of the party, even if there wasn’t a party. I imagine his outstanding performance as Dartanian, in the Three Musketeers, which by the way, I found out he only tried out for so that he could play with the swords. I envision his glow as he held his new niece Evelyn for the first time. I remember his welcoming hugs, that always felt like coming home to me. I can hear his laugh in my mind and imagine the twinkle in his eye. Aaron was effervescent.

My oldest son Michael wrote a letter that he has asked me to read.

Dear Uncle Geek,

I miss you already. Grandpa sent me a page from your journal from way back in 1997, when you were my age. I read it. You said to “stay strong or get strong.” I am making this my motto. I want you to know that.
I found a song that I know you would like. It is by Chester Bennington’s new band. The song is called Fire and it goes like this:

No need to hear your voice
Or see your face
To know that you are with me
No need to kiss your lips
Or hold your hand
To know that you can feel me
I know that you can feel me

When I look to the stars
I know just where you are
You're looking down upon me
When I look to the stars
I know just where you are
You're looking down upon me

No need to get locked up
Inside the past
I know that isn't changing
No need to let you go
Or say goodbye
I know that you'll be waiting

When I look to the stars
I know just where you are
You're looking down upon me

Uncle Aaron I love you and I will honor you by “staying strong.”
Michael Dawson, your awesomest nephew

Wow, he’s a humble kid…but seriously Michael is right. We should honor Aaron. We should honor him by incorporating his positive and definitive traits into our lives. We should strive to be gentler. We should strive to be more accepting. We should strive to be more fun-loving. We should strive to make life an adventure. We should be grateful for our talents and use them. We should be charmically clevereative. Aaron was a wonderful example to all of us.

The final definitive trait that I would like to share with you is one that I have chosen. The word I have chosen is loved. Aaron was loved. He is loved. I have been moved by the outpouring of love that my family has received via email and over face-book. I am touched by the kind gestures of friends and extending family. Thank you for loving my family. Thank you all for loving my brother.

Saying good bye is part of our human experience, it is part of our heritage. Our farewells strengthen our faith and bind us together as families. The point of our existence is to live in a way that would bring us back to live with our Heavenly Father and our family who we have left for a time. And the one thing that makes these good byes bearable to me is knowing that they are temporary. I believe I will hear Aaron play my song again. I testify of this. I thank you all again and I say these things in the name of my Savior, Jesus Christ, Amen.

Mathew Stones

I Love Aaron.

Every six months our church has a global conference where the leaders of the church teach and reinforce doctrines that will help us to be happier people. We had one of these conferences this last fall and the church has recorded the messages and put them on the Internet for us to listen to whenever we want. I love to listen to these recordings on my MP3 player while I ride my bike to work.

On Monday morning last week I listened to a talk by an Apostle name David Bednar who spoke about being more diligent and concerned at home, specifically about expressing love to our family members and showing that love by our actions.

On Monday afternoon last week I listened to another talk by an Apostle named Dieter Uchtdorf who talked about The Love of God.

On Tuesday last week I listened to a talk by another Apostle named Dallin Oaks who spoke about the connection between God’s love and his laws.

I also think it was a tender mercy from God that Tuesday night I happen to find yet another talk by another Apostle named Joseph Wirthlin from 2008 who spoke about taking difficulties and loving them.

With these four talks I learned about the love God has for us, the love we can have for Him, the love we can have for each other and the love we can have for experiences.

I have great faith that Heavenly Father was preparing my mind and heart for Aaron’s death by guiding my studies to these talks about love.

I’d like to share a brief description of a plan that Heavenly Father has for us called the plan of happiness and also talk about the highlights of these talks on love and how love is an integral part of God’s plan for us and for Aaron.

We believe in God and that he is our literal Father in Heaven. He is the father of our spirits. And as our father, he loves us. Elder Uchtdorf said, “Think of the purest, most all consuming love you can imagine. Now multiply that love by an infinite amount – that is the measure of God’s love for you.”

It is because of that love that our Heavenly Father created this plan of happiness or the plan of salvation.

The plan had several ingredients including this earth, our bodies, a law and most importantly, the ability to chose whether we would obey that law or not. When we chose to obey this law, we are given all the happiness that God has and we are able to live with him.

However, with even a single sin, we are unable to receive this gift. I actually made Mylie, my daughter, cry when I explained this concept to her a couple years ago. I asked her if she wants to live with God. She said yes. Then I asked her if she has any sins. She said yes. Then I told her that she can’t live with God and she began to cry. But then I told her of a special part of God’s plan of salvation, which includes a Savior who allows mercy. I explained that because of God’s love, he sent his son, Jesus Christ, to pay the penalty for our sins. All we need to do is follow his example and teachings. I asked Mylie if she would follow Jesus’ example and his teachings and she said yes. This made her happy. It makes me happy too.

Now I’d like to share a couple thoughts and quotes from these talks on love:

Elder Uchtdorf said that “God does not look on the outward appearance. I believe that He doesn’t care one bit if we live in a castle or a cottage, if we are handsome or homely, if we are famous of forgotten. Though we are incomplete, God loves us completely. Though we are imperfect, God’s love encompasses us perfectly.”

He goes on to explain that “God loves every one of us even those who are flawed, rejected, awkward, sorrowful or broken. This means that regardless of our current state, there is hope for us. No matter our distress, no matter our sorrow, no matter our mistakes…”

Elder Uchtdorf finished his remarks by saying, “Heavenly Father’s love for His children is the core message of the plan of happiness, which plan is made active through the Atonement of Jesus Christ – the greatest expression of love the world has ever known. How clearly the Savior spoke when He said that every other commandment hangs upon the principle of love.”

I really enjoyed reading the words of Elder David Bednar whose talk about love centered more around the love we share at home. He said, “We can become more diligent and concerned at home by telling the people we love that we love them. Such expressions do not need to be flowery or lengthy. We simply should sincerely and frequently express love.”

He said, “We should remember that saying ‘I love you’ is only a beginning. We need to say it, we need to mean it, and most importantly we need to consistently show it. We need to both express and demonstrate love.”

President Thomas S. Monson recently counseled: “Often we assume that the people around us must know how much we love them. But we should never assume; we should let them know. … We will never regret the kind words spoken or the affection shown. Rather, our regrets will come if such things are omitted from our relationships with those who mean the most to us.”

Elder Bednar finished talking about love by saying, “Feeling the security and constancy of love from a spouse, a parent, or a child is a rich blessing. Such love nurtures and sustains faith in God. Such love is a source of strength and casts out fear. Such love is the desire of every human soul.”

To finish my thoughts on love I want to turn to Joseph B. Wirthlin’s talk from 2008. His talk was about taking tough situations and loving them for the growth they provide.

He said, “in spite of discouragement and adversity, those who are happiest seem to have a way of learning from difficult times, becoming stronger, wiser and happier as a result.”

He said, “Learning to endure times of disappointment, suffering and sorrow is part of our on-the-job training. These experiences while often difficult to bear at the time, are precisely the kinds of experiences that stretch our understanding, build our character and increase our compassion for others”.

I’d like to close with this quote from Elder Wirthlin: “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son.’ The Lord Jesus Christ is our partner, helper and advocate. He wants us to be happy.”

I have a testimony of God’s love. I know he wants us to be happy. I know he wants Aaron to be happy. I have a testimony of His mercy.

Bishop Wheelwright

July 5, 2010

We recognize that there are many of you here today that are not of our faith. To you we say, “Welcome! We are glad you are here. We hope you feel comfortable. From the speakers today, intertwined with our messages of love for Aaron, you will likely hear some of our doctrine. If you have questions about anything you hear, or if there is something that you do not understand, please seek me out after the service. Or, after a period of time, ask the Stones family. Or seek out some of our missionaries whom you may see in their white shirts and ties going two by two. We will be happy to answer your questions and explain our beliefs.

I did not have the opportunity of knowing Aaron. I have no personal stories or anecdotes to share. My assignment in this service is somewhat different than that of the previous speakers. My role is to briefly discuss some topics that may cause us to exclaim, as expressed in the words of one of our beloved hymns, “My God, how great Thou art!”

We have come here today to pay final tribute to a man who loved music and art who loved laughter and humor, a man who loved and is loved by his entire family.

Death came as an intruder last week. We weren’t ready. We feel sorrow that his life ended. And so, today we mourn. Elder Russell M. Nelson said, “Mourning is one of the purest expressions of deep love. It is a perfectly natural response -- in complete accord with the divine commandment (articulated in the Doctrine and Covenants), “Thou shalt live together in love, insomuch that thou shalt weep for the loss of them that die.” (D&C 42:45) The only way to take sorrow out of death is to take love out of life.” [The Gateway We Call Death, p. 22-23]

Though Aaron is not with us physically, we love him just as much today as we did a week ago, or a decade ago, or the day he was born. A family’s love knows no bounds.

Perhaps we may find some comfort in what is called “The parable of the train ride.” Imagine for a moment that you are to take a train ride across the country. The trip will take many days. In order to help the time pass, you strike up a conversation with the person seated next to you. You find that you have much in common and as you share stories throughout the day, you begin to develop a closeness with your new-found friend. At the end of the day, you agree to meet again the following day, and then you each retire to your sleeping cars.
The next day, you rejoin your friend and spend the day relating to each other and experiencing the journey together. Your rapport grows stronger and you find yourself feeling a bit sorry that the day passes so quickly. Once again you agree to meet the following day. You look forward to continuing your conversation.
In the morning, you return to your seat and wait, but your friend does not join you. Someone tells you that he left the train during the night. You wonder, “Why did he get off the train, and where did he go? We had so much more to say.” You have no idea where he is or how to contact him. You find yourself feeling sadness and frustration, and perhaps even some bitterness.
Just then, the porter comes down the aisle and gives you a message. The note tells you where your friend has gone and gives you a phone number so that you may contact him when you arrive at your destination. That simple message from the porter eases your frustration and brings a feeling of peace and understanding.

Life is much like this train ride. We are all on the train together. Some leave the train sooner than we expect. But the sorrow we feel with the loss of a loved one can in some measure be lessened by the knowledge of where he has gone and that we can speak with him again when we arrive at our destination. [Paraphrased from The Birth That We Call Death, p. 31 – 33]

Aaron’s sudden passing may bring some questions into our hearts. May we take a few moments to consider a few of these questions to see if we can develop a greater understanding.

Could the outcome have been different?
When my wife’s brother passed away about six weeks ago at the age of 42, some of those closest to him wondered if they could have done anything differently. If they had recognized his symptoms earlier, if they had taken him to the doctor sooner, could his death have been prevented?

Perhaps some of you have similar questions today. “Is there something I could have done to prevent this loss?

May I gently suggest that to such questions, there are no answers. Such “what-if” questions are counterproductive and only serve as heavy weights which burden the soul. We can . . . we must . . . let these questions go.

Richard M. Eyre wrote, “When death occurs unexpectedly, we can become discouraged and bitter. We know that part of life’s test is to overcome discouragement and bitterness. We know the importance of sometimes forcing a smile and holding our head erect, even as the tears roll down our cheeks. We know that Christ endured the ultimate pain and sorrow without ever exhibiting bitterness and discouragement, and we know that our eternal goal is to be like Him.” [The Birth We Call Death, 1976, p. 71]

Where will we end up after this life?
We know that all men are judged according to their works. But do we fully understand what that means?

We must understand that no one, no one has the ability or the authority to determine Aaron’s or anyone’s reward other than the Savior Himself.

Elder Bruce R. McConkie wrote, “Judgement is the Lord’s. He knows the thoughts, intents, and abilities of men, and He, in His infinite wisdom will make things right in due course.” [Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed, 1966, p. 771]

Elder M. Russell Ballard stated, “Only the Lord [can] administer fair judgment. He alone has all the facts, and only He [knows] the intent of the heart. [Ensign, October 1987.]

And finally, the Prophet Joseph Smith taught, “While one portion of the human race is judging and condemning the other without mercy, the Great Parent of the universe looks upon the whole of the human family with a fatherly care and paternal regard. [Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith, Deseret Book Company, Salt Lake City, 1976, p. 218]

The reality of the resurrection.
May I conclude by testifying of the reality of the resurrection. Today, it is difficult to say goodbye to Aaron. We wish things could be different. But, whether death comes early or late in life, it is always difficult to say goodbye to a loved one.

The truth is that “the only length of life that seems to satisfy the longings of the human heart is life everlasting.” [The Gateway We Call Death, p. 55] This great blessing was made possible by the sacrifice of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Job asked the question, “If a man die, shall he live again?” (Job 14:14) The answer is a resounding, “Yes!” Through the gift of the resurrection, we know that though our separation from Aaron is painful, it will be followed by a glorious reunion at a future day.

The reality of the resurrection was clearly and cleverly expressed by the statesman, Benjamin Franklin, who wrote his own epitaph. Said he, “The body of Benjamin Franklin (like the cover of an old book, its contents torn out, and stript of its lettering and gilding) lies here. Yet the work itself shall not be lost, for it will (as he believed) appear once more, in a more beautiful edition, corrected and amended by the Author.” [The Birth That We Call Death, p. 65]

I testify that Aaron Lawrence Stones will appear once more in a new and more beautiful edition, corrected and amended by the Author, the Father of us all.

In the sacred name of Jesus Christ, amen.