Saturday, June 6, 2015
Shad's Funeral - 6/6/2015
I have a really good talk written, but I probably won’t say anything that’s in my talk, so if you’d like to read it later I’d be happy to share it with you. I have a hard time making up my mind what I want to say. It’s hard to take five wonderful years and condense them down into fifteen minutes, but I’m gonna do my best. Shad had no time for tears. If you cried around him he got really upset. He’d tell us we were faking a lot, that we didn’t really feel sad, but being around him always made it easier to see the bright side and the happy times and so I’m grateful to him for that and I know he’s here today so I can look on the bright side.
Shadrach Tadai Smith was born to Trevor James and Jessica Lynn Johnson Smith on October 9th, 2009 in Mesa, Arizona. He was the first grandchild of both Sterling and Paula Smith and Gardell and Dianne Johnson and he immediately stole the hearts of each one of them, as well as the hearts of his uncles Jaron, Brendan, Jayce and Jordan and his aunts Janaya and Kevra. I think that Jayce said that this was the first experience he ever had with truly loving someone and it was wonderful to watch that bond develop over the years, as well as the bond that developed with so many other of our family members.
When Shad was born, his mom was teaching school and his dad was working and going to school so mom would leave in the morning and it was hard for her to go, but dad would take over, do all the important stuff like change the diapers and feed the breakfast and then when dad went to school I had the blessing of having Shad come to my house. So Shad and I got to spend a lot of one on one time together and develop a relationship and that has been a great blessing in my life.
Shad thought life was an adventure. He was born with a curious look in his eye and he wanted to learn and to grow and I soon discovered he was much happier out among the masses than he was at home with just me so we’d do a lot of “field trips”. He slept pretty well at night, pretty early, but didn't really like to sleep at grandma’s house and the only place he would sleep was in my arms. So I decided it was easier to take him out places than to sit in a chair all day and rock him so we went a lot of places. When he was very small one of his first words was go and go we went. He didn’t care what the activity was. He was equally happy at a store, a park, the library, a museum, the Desert Botanical garden, the zoo, flying in an airplane with his dad, at a baseball game, at the temple grounds, in the alley behind my house, or at the cafeteria at Grandpa's work. No matter where he went, immediately people were charmed by his infectious smile and he made friends where ever he went. He had a great smile, I’m sure he still has a great smile.
As much as Shad would have liked to be out and about all the time, he realized that wasn’t always a possibility so he developed another hobby and he started watching movies. It started out with “Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed”, “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star”, and “The Eensy, Wensy Spider” on You Tube. We watched those over and over and over again, but then he broadened his horizons. He went to Disney World with his mom and dad and uncle Jayce and discovered Disney and all things Disney, so his repertoire increased to “Toy Story”, “Cars”, and “Monsters Inc.”. Now watching movies with Shad was an adventure because he'd kind of get stuck on one movie and he want to watch it over and over again. He’d kind of get stuck on one part of a movie. He soon found, at a very young age, the rewind button on the DVD player, and he would rewind to his favorite part and play it again and again and again. The first 3 minutes of Toy Story 2 are engraved in all of our minds. He loved his movies, or his moo-fees, as he called them and “Duh”, Buzz, was his favorite character. The very favorite part of movies to Shad though was the music at the closing credits and heaven forbid if you turned the movie off before the music played. He had to hear the music at the end.
Shad was born with a love of music and he was singing as soon as he could talk, in fact he probably was singing before he could talk. His mom and dad taught primary when he was pretty young and so he was introduced to primary songs at a young age and he loved to be sung to sleep to “I Lived in Heaven a Long Time Ago” and “I Know that My Savior Loves Me”. Then his repertoire broadened also and he did a very enthusiastic "If You're Happy and You Know It Clap Your Hands", and we all danced a lot to the Hot Dog Song from Mickey Mouse, he loved being sung “You've Got a Friend in Me” sung by his Uncle Jayce and he enjoyed “My friend Andy has a Toy Box”, which was a creative version of “Old McDonald Had a Farm” that I created for him. It’s really good. You should hear it sometime.
Shad's life was very happy. He thought it was very happy, but his first big challenge came in April of 2011 when his father joined the Navy and left to go to basic training. Shad really missed his dad and Skypeng with him was fun, but it wasn’t quite the same. Shad had taken a lot of vacations in his first year. He’d gone to Utah, California, and Florida and he added a couple of trips to Chicago to see dad that summer and he was so excited when daddy finally came home the end of August. We had taken a couple of trips to Disneyland, his first birthday and then when his dad came home we celebrated his homecoming with another trip to Disneyland and house hunting in San Diego. And soon after that Jessica, Trevor and Shad moved to San Diego when Shad wasn’t quite two. That was really hard on Grandma who had seen Shad every day of his life until that time, or when he was in Chicago or Florida, but he would frequently call, every day, and ask me when I was gonna come home. He would say "One more night-night? You'se coming in one more night-night?” and it would always break my heart to say, "No, lots of night-nights". So I decided that was a good excuse to visit California a lot and I came up with a lot of reasons to visit California. Shad got a calendar and he loved to mark the dates on his calendar when family members were coming to visit. He knew that family members were going to come and that was the best part of life for him.
Life went on pretty well. We had a fun summer. His dad got to spend the summer in Hawaii. That was hard again but Shad took a vacation to Washington, and some vacations to Arizona and life went on. Then in October of 20I2, actually on another trip to Disneyland, Shad started complaining that his leg hurt. Then October was filled with a lot of pain, and doctor’s appointments, losing of mobility and tests and no answers. It was a really, really hard time and then on November 8th, 2012 Shad’s mom decided she’d had enough and she took Shad to the emergency room at Rady's children's hospital. In the next week he had run the gamut of tests, pokes and procedures. He got to ride in an ambulance as he was transferred to the Balboa Naval hospital, he would have several major surgeries, one where he bleed out on the operating table and almost died, and he became the proud owner of a semi-permanent catheter and his own personal port, that’s being buried with him. He got fitted for a brace from his neck to his crouch which he was required to wear at all times, if he was sitting up or out of bed, he learned how to use a wheelchair, and he was diagnosed with stage 4 germ cell cancer or a yolk sac tumor – which is about a one in 9 million chance of a child getting – so he was one in 9 million, not one in a million.
When I first learned that Shad had cancer. I was understandably upset, but I was drawn to the story in Daniel Chapter 3 of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, which is where Shad got his name from. I’m sure we’re all familiar with that story, Daniel and his three friends, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, were taken into Babylon by King Nebuchadnezzar. They found favor in his eyes, and they actually became his friends and his best helpers, but then it was decided that there should be a golden statue built, that everyone should worship, and Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego didn’t want to worship the golden statue. They wanted to worship the one and only living God and so they told the king that they wouldn’t do it and so they were thrown into a fiery furnace. They said that they would do what they had to do and they knew that their God could save them but if not, they would go and still worship their God. As I read that story after Shad’s diagnosis, I was drawn to the thought that this was going to be Shadrach and our fiery furnace and I had great faith in God that He would save us, that things would be well, and that all would be wonderful and it was a time of testing and of faith. We all developed a lot of faith through a lot of testing and refining by fire.
Last Sunday at church this story was brought up and there was a part brought up that I had never really thought about before. It was actually given in a youth fireside that Elder David A. Bednar gave recently. He was talking about how after Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego were thrown into the fire, and I didn’t finish the story, but we do know that there was a fourth person in the flames with them and it appeared to be the Son of God to the king, and it was the Son of God, it was Jesus Christ. So after Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego came out of the fiery furnace one of the things that the king noticed was that there was no smell of smoke on them and not a hair of their heads was singed and in this conversation by Elder Bednar he said, We’ve all seen campfires. We’ve all been around them. How hard is it to get rid of that smell on our body and on our skin when we’ve been around a fire. They had been in the fire and there was no smell of smoke whatsoever. The stink didn’t stick and as I think about Shad’s life, that’s what I think about. He went through so many things. So many hard things. But the stink never stuck. He was so happy. He just did what he needed to do. He moved forward. He laughed. My son would say, “I never knew a children’s hospital ward could be the happiest place on earth.” But it was because Shad made it that way. We had so many fun times and fun memories being in the hospital with Shad and the nurses would come in, that first week there was a nurse who said to us he’s like a little ray of sunshine and he loved the nurses. They said all the other kids were terrified of them and would cry whenever they saw them but Shad loved them to death. He loved them to come in. He didn’t always love what they did, but he loved the nurses and he loved the attention that he got. When we were with Shad everything was o.k.. During his time in the hospital he experienced a lot of hard things, but he did it with a smile on his face and with faith that it needed to be done.
That’s one of the things that we’ll always remember about Shad is that he just lived life, and if you had to do it in a hospital room you did it and it was fun there too. Last summer we spent pretty much from Memorial Day to Labor Day either in the hospital or at home getting ready for the hospital as he underwent his three stem cell transplants, and there were some really hard times, but there were also some really sweet times. I attended church at a ward that was close to the hospital and someone asked me, because when you live in Arizona and go to San Diego for the summer everybody thinks you’re going to have a really good time, and they were like “Oh, are you here for fun?” and I wanted to say no but I couldn’t because even as bad as it was, it was still fun too. There were lots of wonderful memories made.
The last month of Shad’s life was hard. He was in tremendous pain. As the tumor grew it crushed his back and his vertebraes. He experienced extensive pain, but he still found reasons to smile. We were taking a picture and his mom asked him if he wanted to smile and she said you don’t have to if you don’t want to and he shot out a big smile. Even when he was so medicated that he couldn’t really do much, he would smile and let us know that things were going to be O.K.
Some of us may ask why Shad wasn’t given a miracle, but I think he was given lots of miracles and we saw them a lot in our lives. You know Shad thought his life was pretty good but one of the things he really, really wanted was a brother and mom and dad had been trying for a really long time to give Shad a brother but it wasn’t really happening so Shad decided to take things into his own hands and he started praying for a brother and lo and behold that brother’s 9 months old now. I don’t think when Shad prayed for a brother that he realized what a brother really entailed, and that all the attention that he was getting would have to be divided with a brother but when Shad was in the hospital when Cole was born. Jessica and Trevor were at one hospital while Shad and I were at the other hospital and Cole ended up in the NICU for a few hours. It was actually a blessing to us because they had a webcam that would sit on him all the time and so Shad and I watched Cole on the webcam and when Shad had to go for physical therapy the computer with the webcam and all it entailed came with us so Cole could watch Shad bowl because that was really important to him.
Family was the most important thing to Shad. He learned to use Skype really well and his family members sometimes would pretend they weren’t home when Skype would ring, but he would Skype you and then he would lay the I-pad down and you’d watch the ceiling fan go around while he played, but if you hung up he would immediately call you back and say “Why did you hang up?” I’d sit on the computer and do whatever while he and I Skyped. He loved family. He loved all people, but especially his family and we were grateful when he would Skype us. One of the best Skype stories – I was lying in bed one morning at his house and he came in with his I-pad and said, “Here grandma. Do you want to meet Emily’s dad” and his aunt’s dad was on the other end of the computer. So we met. It was nice. But everyone was a friend to Shad, he accepted everyone and I think because of that we all rose to the occasion.
I don’t think Shad came to earth for Shad. I think Shad came to earth for us. We know now that he’s gone to Heaven and that he’s been promised celestial glory. He’s done it. I think he came here to help us, because I think all of us are better people now than we were before we knew Shad. I asked our family members some of the things that Shad had taught them. These are some of the answers. They said Shad taught me never to give up. Shad taught me that many things in life take a great deal of courage. The most courageous person may not be the biggest, smartest, or strongest, they simply meet their challenges head on. Shad taught me what it means to be strong. He went through more things in his short life than a lot of people do in their longer lives. Throughout his whole illness he never gave up and he was such a hero to all of us. I used to love to go to church with Shad because it was like going with a rock star. He walked down the hall and everybody would give him high fives and it was like “Oh. You’re Shad’s grandma.” And I was like “Ya, I’m Shad’s grandma.” Even at the end when people told him it was ok to go to heaven it took him a really, really, really long time to give up. He had been ingrained not to give up. He’s an inspiration to all of us.
His grandpa said “because of Shad I acquired the strength to change some things in my life so that I could lose weight. Because of him I have lost 25 pounds and hope to lose more”. I also lost 50 pounds, but I found them again. Ronald McDonald house food is good, but not un-fattening. “Shad had a greater and more powerful impact on my life than any other person has.” This is what Janaya said, “He’s changed who I am, how I think, and how I treat people. I ALWAYS knew that he loved me, and that made me feel significant in a way that I cannot describe, because in my mind, if that little boy loved you, you must be extremely special, because he was the best person on this planet” and I think that we’re all better people for knowing him.
At the start of 2009, Jessica and Trevor were hiking on South Mountain, and they were excited to see a roadrunner. Jessica was teaching school at the Salt River elementary school and the next week during culture class the teacher told the students that seeing a roadrunner, (or a Tadai - the name for roadrunner in the Pima language), meant that you were going to receive a great blessing. Jessica and Trevor wondered what their great blessing was going to be and soon they found out that they were expecting Shad. I think, little did they know, what a great blessing he was going to be in their lives and what a great blessing he was going to be to each one of us.
I’m going to end with this quote, “I have learned through the trials that have been ours that we often look for a miracle in the form of a particular outcome. If we do, we may miss the real miracle that comes as we are refined by the spirit in the process of enduring the very trial itself. Christ always provides a miracle, but not always the one we are looking for." Steve Peterson I’m so grateful to be Shad’s grandma. He was probably the best thing that ever happened to me and will continue to bless my life, I know, in the future and I know that I am a better person because of him. I’m sorry that he had to go through what he had to go through to make me a better person, but I’m grateful that he did it. I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
On the night you were born, the moon smiled with such wonder that the stars peeked in to see you and the night wind whispered, “Life will never be the same.” Because there had never been anyone like you…ever in the world. So enchanted with you were the wind and the rain, that they whispered the sound of your wonderful name. Heaven blew every trumpet and played every horn on the wonderful, marvelous night you were born. –Nancy Tillman
I’ve thought a lot about what I would say about Shad today. I’ve asked everyone in our family if they had things they would like me to share. Hopefully I will include all of them. In January of 2014, Shad was to have surgery to remove, what we hoped, the rest of his cancer. For some reason, I felt strongly that I should be there. So, I took a few days off work and Brendon went with me. I remember standing with Jessica as they wheeled him into the picu after 8 hours of surgery. He was crying softly and shivering, a result of the anesthesia wearing off. I fought the urge to cry, I wanted to be strong. Over the next several days, he improved rapidly. It was truly amazing how fast he recovered. I will refer to this surgery again in a few minutes. I have pondered many times since then why I felt like I needed to be there. T&J clearly had this down and Shad, he was incredible. I finally came to the conclusion that I needed to learn something from it. I learned so many things from Shad in his short but meaningful 5 years on this earth. I have narrowed it to 4 lessons taught to a silly grandma by her sweet grandson.
#1 get up early to get a good start on the day.
D&C 88:124 “arise early, that your bodies and your minds may be invigorated.”
Shad was up at the crack of dawn, sometimes before the crack of dawn. His parents told him he was not to get up before in was light out. So, whenever we were together either at their house or ours, he would come in our room, get right in front of my face and say, “grandma! Are you awake? It’s light out, let’s get up” I was not the only one, grandpa too. I’ve been told Kevra would get a good poke on the forehead to help her get up. Well, anyone who knows me knows I am not a morning person. I would tell him to give me a minute while I woke up. He would leave and come back 30 seconds later to make sure I have made progress.
One morning, we were at their house and Shad woke me up. The kids were asleep down stairs and Janaya in his room, so I told him to go get a toy and bring it back here and we could play with it. I heard this loud wooshing noise. I could see the doorway for his room from the bed. He was trying to push his Lego table into my room! Not exactly what I had in mind, but okay, we’ll run with it. I helped him get it in, we got him a chair and we settled in to build. He loved lego. Jordon was the true lego master at our house and the two of them loved to build and play with them together. We would head downstairs to play games: memory, operation, head bandz,… Do puzzles, play cars. I would get him some Lucky charms and he would eventually settle in to some Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. How grateful I and grandpa are for dragging ourselves out of bed to spend some special one on one time with him.
#2 spend time with those you love and be sure to tell them you love them.
Mosiah 3:19 “putteth off the natural man and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love.”
Shad loved to do anything with you. Being the only grandchild on both sides for many years, he was accustomed to going on hikes, going camping, to ballgames, flying with his dad, anything you would do, he was game. We skyped or face timed with him too, which was always interesting. Many times we would be dragged up the stairs on his ipad to his room and we would watch the ceiling fan as he chatted and played with his Legos. He would have Brendon and Emily pretend to be whatever animal he chose. He frequently caught Kevra in class, wanting to chat a minute. She found out he was supposed to be ‘resting’. When Kevra got her braces, he asked her why she had necklaces on her teeth.
Sterling and I were chopped liver, though. Whenever we were together, he would say hello and then the very next words out of his mouth would be “where is Jordon, where is Kevra, where is Brendon.” Looking at pictures this week, I had forgotten how much he played with them when he was little. Once when he was building lego with Jordon, he did something and Jordon got a little impatient. Shad was quiet for a moment then said, “Jordon, I love you.” He was quick with an I Iove you at unexpected moments. When I was there for the surgery, they were getting ready to pull the tube out of his lung. The doctor had explained that it would be painful, but quick. We were all lined up along the side of his bed, reassuring him that he could do this and that he was so brave. He was scared and crying softly as he told us he didn’t want to do it. Jessica lovingly, patiently told him he could do it. At that moment, he stopped crying for a second, looked at her and said. ‘ I love you mommy.” It was the sweetest thing ever. He was so grateful she and Trevor were there with him to help him thru.
I can’t talk about time with those he loved without mentioning giraffe, his constant companion. He has been thru it all with Shad, ready to do his part to calm, comfort and love. I will never look at a giraffe again without having memories of Shad rush over me. Thank you to a small stuffed animal for always being there.
#3 I can be brave and courageous and do hard things.
Joshua 1:9 “be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed; for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.”
Shad swam at our house every summer. The first summer, he was very afraid. We coaxed him into the water and would hold him tight until he stopped crying. Little by little, as the summer progressed, he started to be able to peel away from us. He had his floaties on and learned that swimming was actually fun. By the end, of the summer he was jumping off the board to Trevor and the kids. He was a brave little fellow. Over the last almost 3 years, his little body has gone thru so much and thru it all he has been brave and courageous in the face of terrible things. When they pulled the tube from his lung, he let out a little yelp, but that was it. Cried a little and giggled a little that it was out. The doctor was amazed, “I have never seen anyone react like that. He is one tough kid.” Yes, he was.
Lastly, #4 Find Joy in the journey, no matter what it is.
Alma 26:1 “behold, my joy is full, yea, my heart is brim with joy,”
For anyone who knew Shad, he was full of life. He had the most infectious smile. From the time he got up to the time he went to bed, he was a bundle of energy. He wanted to do it all. At our house, it was light saber battles, Mario cart, running around the house with the boys shooting nerf guns at each other. Playing on the computer with Kevra, fireworks sparkles and poppers on the patio, playing Perry with me. He loved the dogs Meg and Allie. Sterling and I will forever be grandma and grandpa doggie. Meg adored him, but Allie was not so enamored. It was interesting to watch though, as they lived at our house this last month and Shad was on the couch hurting and not feeling well, it was Allie who would come sit in front of him. She was concerned and wanted to protect him. At the hospice on Sunday the 24th, we thought he was going that evening. But, he was not done yet. It should not have surprised me that he lived 3 more days. He was a fighter, a warrior. A student of mine told me God sends his strongest warriors to fight the toughest battles. I think he would have liked the image of a warrior with sword and shield… maybe a light saber and Taser gun?
I would be remiss to not thank everyone for your flowers, food, cards, calls, texts, donations & emails, kind words of encouragement and sympathy. We are so blessed.
I want to close with my testimony that I know God lives. I know Jesus is my Savior and Shad’s Savior. I know they sorrow with us. We miss Shad and will always, but I know he is with God and others that love him. He is safe and perfect. I am so grateful for this knowledge that brings peace as we struggle to figure out what to do with this hole in our hearts. I am so blessed to have gotten to be Shad’s grandma for a little while on this earth and thank him for the many lessons he taught me and all of us. Love you Shad.
I decided I could bear my testimony because if I cry it will be a short thing and it won’t matter that it's a long time. I had a lot of things I want to say until you get up here and it all goes away, but I just want to share that I know that Heavenly Father loves us and that He knows us and He knows our trials and He knows exactly how we feel at any point in our lives and He’s always there to be able to comfort us or help us get through whatever it is.
I know that families are eternal and that we will be together again with Shad in our family. You know, I always thought I had an understanding of what the gospel teaches, what the plan of salvation means, and then after we lost Shad I started to have more questions, like how is this going to work and how’s that going to work and then one day I just realized it doesn’t matter, it doesn’t matter how it’s going to work because I know that it is and I know, without a doubt in my mind, that it is going to work out and that we will be a family again and that we will be together forever.
Shad was such a joy to us in our lives. He taught us so much and I think as I raised him I learned so much and he helped to strengthen my testimony of this gospel. As my mom mentioned, from the time he was very little, primary songs were his favorite and that’s what he wanted to listen to in the car and that’s what he wanted to sing and as I’d sing those songs I started to realize all of the important principles and truths that they teach us. That I did live in Heaven a long time ago and that Jesus does love me and that I am a child of God.
It was hard for me, one of his favorite songs more recently was “Heavenly Father are you really there and do you hear and answer every child’s prayer?” and you know, it’s hard because I knew that so many people were praying that he could get better and we were praying that he could get better and he was praying that he could get better, but I started to realize, you know, we can pray for these things and sometimes miracles do happen and sometimes it’s a different miracle that we didn’t expect. Prayers are answered and sometimes they’re not answered the way we think they should be, or the way we want them to be, but they’re still answered and Heavenly Father does have a plan for each one of us and although sometimes in the moment it might be hard to see the reason why something happens or whatever there is a plan, there is a purpose.
When, as Paula said, we thought Shad was going to go on Sunday night. He was doing really poorly and we were just and we kind of said good-bye. We did it and then nope he decided that wasn’t time and then we watched him suffer for three more days. His dad and I were pretty much at his bedside constantly and I found myself asking, you know, “Why? Why does he have to go through this for so much longer?” I knew without a doubt that he was going to be so much happier in Heaven. That he would be perfect and that he would be whole and we kept telling him, “It’s O.K. bud. Heaven’s a great place. You’ll be happy there. Go ahead.” I couldn’t understand why it took so long, but after he died I realized that it was for us. Because he loved us, but also because after we watched him suffer like that how could we not be happy for him. How could we not be happy that he was finally whole and finally happy again. So, I think sometimes when we’re in the midst of our trials we question a lot, “Why do I have to do this? Why is this how it’s happening?” But I think afterwards we’re always able to look back and see the blessings throughout and gain a little bit more understanding of why things happen and sometimes we don’t know the answers. I don’t know why Shad was only here for five years, but I do know the time that he was here was amazing and that he lived life and that he taught us all so much. I’m so grateful for the plan of salvation. I’m grateful for a Savior that knows me and loves me and for the support and strength that we receive from our families and our beliefs and from our friends. I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
That was my song. That was my song that I used to sing Shad to go to sleep and I seemed to be the only one that could sing it. Jessica would try but Shad would demand that dad come in and sing it. Especially toward the end that was one of the few songs that would calm him. He loved to have his back tickled. I loved to snuggle with him on the bed and gently rub his back and as soon as I would think he was asleep I would stop singing and start to leave and he would turn around and say, “Dad. Come back and sing more.”
Since Shad was young, he was stubborn. Jessica was in labor for three days, but he didn’t want to come out. He didn’t want to come into this world and he didn’t want to leave. And grandmas, even though it might not seem like we needed you there, we always loved you there. Jessica and I were strong for Shad because we knew that if he had faith and that we could be that support that he would, he could make it through.
Shad was clearly ready to come to this earth. Alma says that "this life is a probationary state, a time to prepare to meet God" and Shad prepared us all. Shad had been prepared and he made sure to keep us on the straight and narrow. I knew there was a special spirit about him. He always wanted to see the temple and do family home evening. It was like he knew, he did know, that family time was important to all of us. He loved to play games and he loved to spend time together.
I have a testimony that the Lord does have a plan for all of us. To just about everyone else, and myself, it may sound weird that in 2011 I decided to drop out of ASU with only three semesters left and to join the military. Even when I was in the process of signing my enlistment papers, I wasn’t getting the job that I wanted, but even talking on the phone with Jessica there was something that felt right about it and we knew that it was something we should be doing although we didn’t really know why. About a year and a half later we found out. When Shad was diagnosed with cancer the umbrella of blessings that the Lord had provided were something that I will be eternally grateful for. The support that that job provided our family, not only financially, but emotionally, and some of the best places were the navy facilities that took care of Shad. They were all far better than any of the civilian hospitals that we visited. The nurses seemed, maybe because it wasn't a children’s hospital, they loved Shad and Shad loved to flirt with the nurses. He was a lady’s man. He could pick out a cute girl from far off.
Shad had faith in us so much that he knew it might be hard but that mom and dad were always going to be there. He never lost hope. There was always a way for him to get better. Even in the end he had hope for life and he didn’t want to die. His heart was really strong and he didn’t want to give up. Elder Uchtdorf says “Hope is like a beam of sunlight rising up above the horizon of our present circumstances.” Shad never lost hope.
Last year some time I wondered what it would be like to tell Shad that he wasn’t going to make it. About Christmas last year they had done everything, all of the chemo and all of the radiation and all of the tests that his little body could take and he couldn't take anymore. I thought to myself what it would be like to tell your son that he is going to die. And then I thought what it was like for God the Father to tell His Son that He was going to die. I imagined that it was going to be a very tearful conversation, full of fear and angst. The actual conversation was different. There was lots of tears and we had to tell him that the pain that he was feeling was not going to get better and that they were going to give him medicine but it wasn't going to get better. Although it was tearful, it was full of hope. Just like when we were all excited to come to this earth to grow and to learn. Death is a stepping stone for our eternal life. Sharing this with a five year old is not easy, but he had faith in his parents to prepare him. What an example for us. How many times does Heavenly Father let us know that everything will be all right and for us to trust Him and how many times do we doubt. Shad never doubted. President Monson has said that "death is not what some people imagine. It is like going into another room and in that room we shall find the dear women and men and sweet children that we have loved and lost".
The very first time I went to the temple for my endowments I had this type of experience. At the very end of the temple you walk into the celestial room. You’re kind of alone before you get there and I’m walking into the celestial room I remember seeing my parents and my uncles, grandparents standing around talking. As soon as I walked in they all turned around and smiled and gave me hugs. I know that when Shad passed that was exactly what happened. There were so many ancestors, parents and grandparents and cousins waiting for him. They were giving him hugs and showing him what to do.
In the final moments of Shad’s life Jessica and I were right by his bedside. I had my hand on his chest and that fighter heart struggled to beat. Then in a moment I didn’t feel his heart stop but I felt a lightning bolt shoot through my body as his spirit left his body. Joseph Smith has said "The Lord takes many away, even in infancy, that they may escape the envy of men and the sorrows and evils of this present world. They were too pure, too lovely, to live on earth."
I want to bear my testimony and say thank you for your prayers. When we were first in the hospital, we didn’t want to tell a lot of people. Me and Jessica are kind of low key and don’t like to really be center of attention. Shad kind of changed that for us. When we first got in the hospital we didn’t really want to have everyone calling, asking questions, and so forth because we didn’t really have a lot of answers at that time. But I have a testimony of the power of prayer because we were feeling a lot of angst, a lot of fear, but as soon as we started telling people, and those blessings from those prayers started pouring in. There was a physical difference, not only with us, but in the room and Shad, and we knew that people were praying for us. We knew it. We could feel it. Day by day there was that hope that came into our hearts.
I know I'll see my son again and I'm sure he'll have lots of things for me to do. I'll have to get up bright and early. I love you Shad. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
Bishop Crowder's talk
Each one of us in this room is a son or daughter of an incredibly loving Heavenly Father. Shad is one of those very special sons, who our Heavenly Father sent to this earth, to bless the lives of those that he came in contact with in a very short period of time. Our Heavenly Father loves us. He knows each one of us by name, individually, and because he loves us He gave us a plan and that's been spoken of. It is called the plan of salvation, but also called the plan of happiness or the plan of love. Heavenly Father wants each one of us to return and be with Him as families and He's given us this plan to make that possible. We're not just here on the earth to live our lives in many different ways. To do the things that yes will bring us temporary happiness. No. We are here on this earth to prepare ourselves to return to live with our Heavenly Father.
One of the other ways that our Heavenly Father loves us is he sends us to families. The family is a central, very central part, of that plan of our Heavenly Father and it is through our families that we find most of the greatest joys that we will experience in our lifetime. I know that Shad is incredibly blessed to have been sent to a wonderful mother and father, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and other extended family who would strengthen him, who would love him, who would truly carry him during his short time here on earth. But what I also know is that Heavenly Father loves the Smith and Johnson family so much that he sent one of His angels, that in five short years, impacted a group of people's lives in a way that most people do not accomplish in decades of a life. I know that this boy was sent from God and I know that he has returned to his home in heaven.
Lastly, our Heavenly Father loves us and because He loves us so greatly, we are told in John 3:16, probably the most well advertised scripture, if you ever watch baseball, "For God so loved the world that He gave His Only Begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him, shall not perish, but have everlasting life." We know from another scripture in Moses 1:39 "For behold, this is my work and my glory to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man." And this was only made possible through a Savior, who came here and sacrificed, so that we cannot only be worthy to return to live with our Heavenly Father but that we may return home, we can feel at home.
I know that Jesus Christ lives. I know that each one of us has a loving Heavenly Father. I wish I had gotten to know Shad. I didn't because he lived in San Diego most of his life and we lived here until a while ago, I only got to meet him a couple of times but I know he is truly one of the special sons of our Heavenly Father. I know that as each one of us strive in our lives to do the things that our Heavenly Father teaches us through the commandments and through living prophets and the scriptures, I know that we will return to live with our Heavenly Father as families. And I say this in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.