Saturday, April 28, 2012

Joe Wood

This is the wonderful talk that Joe gave at the services:

Good afternoon.  When Keri asked me to speak today, she mentioned that she would like me to say something about the things CJ loved most.  Trying to describe what anybody loves most in a few short words is difficult.  Trying to do so with CJ, however, is an almost herculean challenge.  He loved so much.

CJ loved sports.  He was a talented golfer, a devoted fan of the Utah Jazz, and a fierce competitor.  If any of you have doubts, I’ll show you the scar in my shoulder where CJ broke off his front tooth during a one-on-one basketball game.  CJ loved to travel.  In recent years he has canvassed Europe and the United States for historical sites, museums, sporting venues, and beautiful scenery.  CJ loved his job at Fidelity.  He loved to study finance and economics.  He loved reading classic American literature.  He loved to eat really good food.  He loved movies and Broadway shows.  He had an unusual affinity for clean sheets.  He loved to laugh.  He just loved so much.

As I have thought about CJ over the past two weeks, though, I am convinced there are five things he loved more than the rest.  CJ loved missionary work and the Temple; he loved his friends and family; and, above all, he loved the Gospel of Jesus Christ.    

First, CJ loved missionary work.
The two years he spent as a full-time missionary in Leeds, England meant the world to him.  He spoke of the lessons he learned, his companions, his two mission presidents, and the people he served so frequently that many of us began to feel like we had served in the England, Leeds Mission, too.
But, CJ’s love of missionary work did not end when he returned from Leeds.  While serving on the Institute Council at UVU, for example, CJ frequently went out with the missionaries to teach their investigators.  While we were on trips together, somehow CJ always ended up having profound spiritual conversations with total strangers, and several of those conversations led to baptism.  He was always looking for opportunities to invite others to come unto Christ, especially his friends and family.  And one of the things I loved most about him was that when he made those often informal invitations, he expressed so much confidence in us that we found him hard to refuse.  He just made us all want to be better.    

Second, CJ loved the Temple.
After he received his endowment, CJ returned to the Temple often and encouraged others to do so as well.  He especially loved the Salt Lake Temple, where he spent countless hours performing sacred ordinances, studying the Book of Mormon, and even volunteering to clean the building with Keri.  It was no accident that he eventually bought a condo just up the street from the Temple on First Avenue in Salt Lake City and that his Facebook profile picture shows him heading toward the Temple.  The Temple was a source of strength and revelation for CJ, a refuge from the world.

Whenever we went on trips, CJ would insist on visiting the Temple.  One of these trips seems particularly significant to me now.  While we were in Copenhagen, CJ planned for us to read the Book of Mormon on the steps of the Temple every night since we hadn’t brought our clothes and therefore couldn’t do a session.  While we were reading, the front door opened, and a man stuck his head out and invited us in.  Since we hadn’t brought our Temple clothes, the Temple President invited us to do initiatories the next morning.  When we returned to the Temple, a room full of Temple workers was waiting for us as we came through the front doors.  They all knew our names, and they were so excited to welcome us to the House of the Lord.  Since then, CJ and I have talked many times about how that experience gave us a flavor for what it will be like to return to our Eternal Home.  It was pure joy.  Thanks to CJ, many of us have had similar sacred experiences in the Temple.        

Of course, one of the primary reasons that CJ loved the Temple was because he loved his Temple covenants, especially his sealing to Keri.  During their sealing, the sealer promised CJ and Keri that their marriage would sustain them through this mortal life and in their eternal lives hereafter.  Keri, I hope that you will always remember the scripture found in Ecclesiastes 3:14, which reads “I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever.”  Because you and CJ were sealed by the Holy Priesthood in the House of the Lord, your marriage is eternal.

Third, CJ loved his friends.  And he had many of them.
CJ was able to relate to many different types of people, and he had an extraordinary ability to make others feel good about themselves.  Although he was always a busy guy, he made time for people.  As a group of us were preparing for our missions, CJ would organize a full day each week to keep us on track.  First he would take us to the Temple to do a session.  Then, he’d plan breakfast, a round of golf, lunch, a movie, dinner, and finally, a mission prep class at institute.  After his mission, he played a lot of golf with his neighborhood buddies and took some memorable trips.  He visited people when they needed him, and he took the time to call friends who were struggling to tell them that he was proud of their progress.  No wonder there are so many people here today to celebrate his life.  We all loved him too.    

Fourth, CJ loved his family.
He loved being with his siblings and their children, whether they were playing games outside, watching the Jazz, or just hanging out.  He often told me that he would do whatever it took to be the favorite uncle—it was obviously a matter of pride.  

As the youngest, CJ had a special relationship with his mother, Jean.  For a few years, it was just the two of them, and Jean really was everything to CJ.  He frequently boasted that he had the world’s best mom, and he always looked for souvenir spoons to add to her collection.  I know their trip through England together after his mission was one of the highlights of both of their lives.

Most of all, though, CJ loved Keri.  Ever since they started dating, these two have lived for one another.  One of my favorite CJ and Keri memories was a night at Gurus we spent together singing Karaoke when they were dating.  After anxiously flipping through the song book, Keri eventually settled on an Alicia Keys song with a huge opening note.  Undaunted, she got up there and belted out as much as she could through her laughter as CJ shouted “that’s the future mother of my children, everybody!”  Then, CJ got up and serenaded Keri with his favorite Boys II Men classic.  It was like they were the only two people in the universe.  That night, I changed Keri’s name in my phone from Keri Miller to Keri Rhineer.  It was just so obviously the perfect fit.    

Of course, Keri and the Rhineer and Miller families will always feel CJ’s absence.  But, as Elder Worthlin taught, “The Lord compensates the faithful for every loss. That which is taken away from those who love the Lord will be added unto them in His own way. While it may not come at the time we desire, the faithful will know that every tear today will eventually be returned a hundredfold with tears of rejoicing and gratitude. One of the blessings of the gospel is the knowledge that when the curtain of death signals the end of our mortal lives, life will continue on the other side of the veil. There we will be given new opportunities. Not even death can take from us the eternal blessings promised by a loving Heavenly Father.”  

Fifth, CJ loved the Gospel of Jesus Christ. 
To really know CJ, you have to understand how he felt about the Savior.  CJ hungered and thirsted after righteousness.  He treasured the words of the Book of Mormon and pondered the teachings of modern day prophets.  And as all of you know, the gospel was so much more to him than academic or cultural; it was the foundation of his character, and it permeated all of his relationships. CJ loved the Lord, and because he loved the Lord, he kept His commandments.  It has been an enormous source of peace for me to know that CJ had a testimony of the Restored Gospel, and that he did everything he could to live it.  I know that CJ knew that Christ is the resurrection and the life.  I know that CJ knew that everything that is heartbreaking in this world can be made right through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.  We just need to do our part, and I’m so grateful that CJ has done his.

For all of us, so many of the things that we love most will never be the same without CJ.  And that’s okay.  As Elder Nelson has taught: “Mourning is one of the deepest expressions of pure love. It is a natural response in complete accord with divine commandment: “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.”  As I have thought about what CJ would want us to take away from his passing, however, I know he would want to be an enriching, motivating influence for good in our lives rather than a source of continual sorrow.  I think CJ would want each of us to identify the things we love most and to commit ourselves to love them with an intensity that cannot be misunderstood.

As many of you know, CJ’s father, John, passed away unexpectedly while CJ was on his mission.  Shortly after he learned about his father, CJ sent me a letter that illustrates just who he was.  He wrote: “It's been a bit rough for me emotionally lately. . . .  Satan is working hard on me.  But I feel so much help from my Father in Heaven.  The veil is thin at times, and the heavens are close.  I know how much the Lord needs my mission.  How much I need it.  Not just working.  But giving my whole soul.  It's hard, but it feels so good.  I love it here.  Elder Rhineer”  It is my prayer that we will each follow CJ’s example by giving our whole souls to the relationships, principles, and experiences that define our mortal missions.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Chris Hill

It is not very often in life that we get to meet our heroes. I was lucky enough to meet one of my heroes and be around him everyday for almost 3 years. Christian loved life and I think the only thing he loved more was you. He always lived life by doing and standing up for what was right. As many people would say "they don't make 'em any better than Christian Rhineer". His smile was infectious and I think one of his best qualities. The other quality I admired was he never said a single bad thing about anyone or thing. He truly loved the gospel and understood the big picture. I know for a fact he understood the plan of salvation and the eternal covenant of marriage that he entered into with you. This mortal world may have lost one of the biggest giants among men but I know for a fact you will see him again and he will watch over you the rest of your life.

Just like our savior, Jesus Christ, Christian lived a "model of excellence" life.

Christian Rhineer truly was a gift from God. In the past 3 plus years I was able to associate with him I learned what an amazing person he truly was. His zest and love for life and others mainly the love he had for his Keri was out of this world. Every Friday at work group of us would always go to lunch and we ate at some great places like: Red Iguana, Siegfried's Deli, Granados, Mooches, Greek Slovakia, Lucky 13, and Bruges for the delicious waffles. During these lunch dates as we joked they were, or as Christian would call them, "The Men's Hour" we had amazing conversations. One of the favorite parts was every time I begun to talk about marriage or life, he would joke and say out loud "here comes another Chris-ism or Chirs words of wisdom". He would often say we should write a book and get rich off terrible advice. It was always fun to joke around and get a funny reaction out of Christian. Even after he moved to Irvine, when I would ping him via same time the inter office chat system, his first response was always here comes a Chris-ism. That man knew how to put a smile on my face. We loved to talk sports and he would often ask about my 12 year old son who plays baseball and football. Living in Utah county we had connections because that is where he grew up. We spent hours talking about Utah Valley Football League and he would tell me he was the 8th grade QB and they won it all. They ran two plays and that was QB keep left and right. He loved the game of golf and the Utah Jazz. I spent two years working for the Jazz part time and every Jazz game Christian would come find me and say hi. The first time I met Keri was after a Jazz game when the weather was terrible and they were running through the Gateway back to their car with no coats and were soaking wet. I had a couple of long sleeve shirts that they gave away that night I gave them to put on. The next day Christian thanked me 10 times saying it was the nicest thing ever. I was like dude they were a couple of cheap shirts. He was always so thankful for things people did. Christian's passing has made me realize that it is the simple things in life that matter. Be grateful for what we have and love life as he did. He will always have a place in my heart.

I love you Christian.

Chris Hill

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

McKay Thomas

This is from McKay's blog:

“Cowards die many times before their deaths;
The valiant never taste of death but once.
Of all the wonders that I yet have heard,
It seems to me most strange that men should fear;
Seeing that death, a necessary end,
Will come when it will come.”

I remember reading that in high school as my teacher explained to me something so self-evident and obvious that my mind and heart very suddenly tangled: my death will come and the only thing within my control is how I complete the next minute.

The most interesting part of that memory is that I can’t recall what I did the next minute. Nor can I recall most minutes of my life. In fact humans have baked this knowledge in to their daily jargon through phrases like “I think I remember,” and “I’m pretty sure I…” Such statements beg to be disputed upon completion, but we still hear them and use them everyday. Humans just weren’t built for memories.

That is until death. Not our own, which is not something I can personally speak to, but of those we are close to. It is in these moments, the moments following the death of a friend or family member, that our memories of them come flooding to mind, and subsequently well up in the corners of our eyes. Memories are very precious in those moments. Particularly the moment where it hits you that you will never create another memory with them again. That’s the moment when your mind grabs hold of every memory available and holds on for dear life.

But then time passes.

It always does. And the memories that we held onto so dearly yesterday begin to float away. Can we really forget? Could we really allow ourselves to forget that one Monday morning and the pancakes she made? Or that late, late saturday night when we stayed up talking about tax policy (true story)? Or that time in the car when we laughed so hard we could barely calm ourselves down to continue working? These are all memories I have with friends who have passed away. I still have these with me.

We will forget, in most cases, nearly every memory we have of a person. We will forget most of what we knew of a particular person. Memories float away the same way spirits do, suddenly and without much warning at all. Until one day you’ll find yourself looking upwards at the sky and you’ll utter your loved one’s name and wonder if they’re still listening.

Most of our life will have gone unrecorded, by pen or memory, by the time we pass. But who we are in life, our character, will stay. Character requires very little memory. We can quickly say what a certain person would or wouldn’t do. How they would have acted in a situation even if they had never been in that situation before because character isn’t a photo, or a conversation, or an opinion, or an argument, or a gift. Character is the guiding light of one’s soul. And, said light, does not extinguish with death. It can, if heeded, guide all those who came in contact with it forever. That’s how character works. And that’s what we need to watch out for. The guiding light of those we love, both living and dead.

A friend of mine, Christian Rhineer, recently passed away and ever since I’ve been puzzling about how I should feel and how I should move forward. The most interesting part of my reaction to his death is that I haven’t really spent much time with him, particularly in that last few years. And yet I have been greatly affected by his passing. I have found myself writing down my memories with him and going through old photos, and thinking about all the things I could have said and all the time I could have spent. Life is full of these types of reactions. But deep inside I know that it isn’t my memories of him that make him important in my life. It’s who he was. I’ve known lots of people and have lots of memories. Memories aren’t what make someone great. Greatness is found in the smallest of details within one’s character and a well built character will stand longer than one’s tomb stone. And that is why I’m mourning Christian.

He had a warm character that was constantly engaged in other people. A builder. It’s the knowledge of who he was, his guiding light, that makes his death so particularly hard. And to his bride, Keri, the whole earth is yours for the taking and CJ’s light will guide you where you should go, and more importantly, who you should become.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Corbin Mercer

I have always loved to ride in a golf cart with CJ while we enjoyed a round of golf. Well, only if he wasn’t trying to control my golf game and every shot I took. Whenever I got the opportunity to ride with CJ in that golf cart it would become a non-stop laugh fest. Thinking of CJ brings me to a constant image of the two of us laughing. We could go months without seeing each other and our relationship would not be phased, we could pick up right where we left off, laughing. And regardless, I think that CJ laughed at every wisecrack I made because I think he knew it made me feel good. But I also think he genuinely enjoyed his life.

I had the opportunity to grow up with CJ with our families living in basically the same neighborhood. From a very young age CJ was the one I wanted to be around, and I constantly sought his approval. He was good at everything he did, sports, video games, being funny, being smart, you name it and chances are he was masterful at it. CJ was the cool kid, and not because he thought he was so cool, but because the rest of us thought cool. If we got the opportunity to play at his house, I remember having the feeling of success or reward, like CJ WANTED to play with me that day.

That feeling for me continued through out high school. I was constantly seeking his approval. We spent a lot of time together on the basketball team, along with Joe Wood, Craig Stringham, Travis Eggleston, the Wesleys’ and many others, and we developed our love of laughing there. We traveled a number of places in high school for basketball trips and what not, and I will hold some of those memories extremely close for the rest of my life.

In high school CJ matured emotionally and spiritually a lot sooner than a lot of us. I like to think of it as though CJ caught a glimpse of what was good and real at a time that I was more concerned with my social agenda, and trying to be cooler than everyone else. Around this time of high school I happened to skip out on class one day and head into the basketball locker room to use the restroom. Inside the locker room, sitting on a bench, was CJ deep into his Book of Mormon. He was a senior in high school at the time, and I can’t even begin to explain to you how mind boggling that experience was for me. CJ got me hooked on reading classic literature, the likes of The Catcher and the Rye, and The Great Gatsby, and others, and I enjoyed conversing with him about literature, and trying to be smart like him. But seeing him not only reading, but also studying the Book of Mormon, and at that time in our lives, completely altered my perception of CJ. He no longer was on my emotional, and psychological level. He had figured something out that I hadn’t yet; he had figured out that the meaning of this life was different than what I had perceived it to be. So I had to jump on board and try to figure it out, because CJ was doing so.

CJ and I used to write letters back and forth while we were on our church missions, and the letters I would get from him, at the time, would make me feel somewhat mediocre because I knew how much better of a missionary than me he was. He served a great mission, and he was so proud to serve his Lord.

Later in life I spent a lot of time with CJ and Ted, but I could never dance as good as them, so I decided to get married. CJ was always so proud of the fact that he foretold and predicted the marriage between Lindey and myself. He was always so loving toward Lindey, or Lindel-Ted as he would call her for some weird reason. He once even made it known to me that he was the one that was envious of me for finding my wife so early, and that he couldn’t wait for the day he would eventually marry Keri, although Keri was just a thought at that point.

I have been married to Lindey for five years now, and I can really say that I love her so much more today than ever before, and we have such a strong relationship and a beautiful little girl named Nora., and our life together is incredible. But I would be hard-pressed not to admit that I was envious of the relationship between Keri and CJ. They fit, they worked, and they worked better than a lot of lovebirds. Being around them made you feel little, which obviously was ok. CJ is an incredible spirit, and Keri is an incredible spirit, so no wonder they fit. And the two of them will not cease being together, and that makes me happy.

A few things will always remind me of Christian, and they are as follows: Root beer, Braces, short shorts, competitive fire, Jeffery R. Holland, Christopher Ted, and El Azteca and Jumping Johnny’s tab, but those are just a few, and I know that there will be many more in the coming years. Christian played a very vital role in my life, and I am so grateful for the opportunity that I had to view him as somebody I wanted to be like, and for him to let me be his friend. And, oddly enough, the last few months he has taught me a ton about what is actually important in this life, for a second time. In a text message that I have saved in my phone he congratulated me on the day Nora was born, and he said “ you are going to be a good dad, and I mean that! ”, and it makes me cry. We love him, we love Keri, we love his sweet mother, and his incredible family. He was an incredible, and inspiring individual. I was extremely blessed to have him in my life.


Corbin Mercer

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Natalie Moore

Dear CJ,

I remember the first time I heard Keri talk about you. I was several months pregnant, and she had agreed to meet me at the Rumbi's in Orem for lunch to see my ever growing belly. I hated that such time had passed, so I did the most obvious thing and spent an adequate amount of time looking into her life on Facebook prior to our lunch. I had seen her and a handsome man in paradise. You were both tan, and beautiful. You were clearly more than fond of each other. I just had to know more of this man I had never heard of. When I inquired about the mysterious man in Keri's pictures, I remember how her face lit up. I remember that she became giddy. I remember that she told me you were a real man, with a real job, and a real house. It was clear that Keri was infatuated, and it was obvious, even though that early in the relationship she was not quick to admit it, I knew that you would marry my sweet Keri.

I remember the first time I met you. Jon and I had driven to Provo for your Utah Reception. Upon arriving, I stole your bride away from a crowd of friends for a moment to get the inside scoop on life. She jabbered about you. I don't think I had ever seen her glow like that before, not in the 20+ years of friendship. It was clear you were a special part of her life. An integral, vital, eternally important part of her life. She pointed to you from across the yard, and you must have sensed it, or you were just constantly keeping your eye out for her, because immediately both yours and Keri's eyes met and you came right over, without a single word. You didn't say much during our first encounter, but when you did, Keri always laughed. I love that you made Keri laugh.

CJ, I love that you were Keri's Prince Charming, and I know that you always will be. I can't thank you enough for taking care of my sweet Keri and loving her the way that you did. You made the lives of those around you better, even in just an encounter or in passing.

Your friend,
Straight Haired Natalie

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Kaci Bronson

This is what my sister Kaci posted on her blog:

On Tuesday, February 14th, my family suffered a tremendous loss--my brother-in-law CJ died in a terrible accident. Ever since that horrible moment, my brain and heart have been trying to come to terms with it. My brain has been on non stop mode just thinking about the words that I would write, but every time I start to write something it just seems so incomplete or the words don't seem to convey exactly what I'm thinking. Today is the day that I stop waiting and just write--that's what CJ would have done!

I'm pretty sure that I'm still in the denial stage of this horrible process because I just don't want to admit that it really happened. We all have said at some point during the last month, "Stuff like this isn't supposed to happen to our family, " or, "This is the kind of thing that only happens in movies." But it did happen to us and most significantly, to my little sister Keri.

On the ride up to the hospital I begged, cried, and pleaded the entire way for just this one thing--to please save him. I have never done or felt that in all my life; I have felt lots of things that I have never experienced these past few weeks. I feel as if my heart is broken for CJ, but even more for my sister. She is too young to have to go through this; it has felt like this is more pain than one can bear. When we went to see CJ in the hospital one more time before we left that night, I told Keri that I would fight with her and for her and that together we would get through this. We are fighters! I spoke those words, but they felt vacant. Being the big sister, I wanted to help my little sister--that's what big sisters do! I knew that I had to be strong for her, but I didn't know how I was going to do that.

I was in the depths of sorrow and despair and at times it was all-consuming. There were fleeting moments of happiness and laughter while we were surrounded by our amazing family and wonderful friends, but then we would remember. I remember the Saturday after, I was talking to Sam. I told her that I didn't think there could ever be enough good that would come from this accident to out weigh the pain and sorrow that my sister and family had to experience. I was angry that this happened. I didn't like that feeling and I didn't know what I could do to get rid of it. I knew that CJ was in a happier place; I knew that Keri and CJ would be together again someday; I knew that we would not be given more than we can bear; I knew that families are forever, but none of that made me feel any better. I wanted to help my sister, to take away even just a tiny bit of her pain, but I didn't know how.

Over the next week and a half we went through the motions. We tried to do anything that we thought might bring some comfort to Keri. We worked on details and got everything ready to head up to Utah. It was not a fun drive, knowing that our end point was what it was. We were there for Keri, ready at any moment to whisk her away and let her be. She is much stronger than I am. She has done things that I know I never could do, but she did them. She did it all--the viewings, the hand shakes, the hugging, the crying--and she did them all so bravely!

CJ's funeral was truly amazing. There were some beautiful words that were spoken that touched my heart and brought me a glimmer of hope. One of his best friends, Joe Woods, gave the most amazing talk. When I get a copy of it I will write some of it down to share. One of the overwhelming messages of the service was what an amazing man CJ is and a lot of that is due to what he believed. CJ didn't just believe, he lived his beliefs. You could see it just by looking at him that there was something different about him and that's what made all of us what to be around him. He was an example to everyone he met.

When we left Provo on Sunday, we left Keri there with CJ's family. Aside from dealing with all of this, that was one of the hardest things I've had to do. I did not want to leave her side. I wanted to be with her to help her in any possible way, but I know that CJ's family and her friends are taking good care of her. When we finally got home on Monday night, my body, heart, and mind were exhausted. I robotically went through the rest of that week, not really knowing what I was doing. I had some good days at school where my mind could be distracted and not focus on the sadness, but when I would come home it would all come back. I felt bad for not being sad all day like Keri was. Not that being sad was helping her at all, but I felt like that's all I could do for her. Saturday finally came, but that was filled with field hockey--still no time for rest. At last Sunday was here.

I had planned to go to the beach before church to let the girls play, enjoy a beautiful day outside, and hopefully, feel some peace. Those plans didn't turn out because of two crazy kids and even crazier nap schedules. I went to church feeling mad, but hoping for something. Church didn't turn out any better as I mostly roamed the halls with Brooklynn because she was so tired and cranky. I kept thinking, "What a waste being at church when I'm just walking around with this crazy baby!" But all day long I kept thinking back to that conversation I had with Sam about the amount of good vs the amount of pain. The thought kept nagging at my brain all day, until I went back to the mother's lounge at church.

I realized that I was right, there would never be enough good to come from this tragedy to out weigh the pain...unless I made it happen. It was up to me to make sure that there would eventually be more good than bad to come from this. That's what CJ would have done--taken some action. And somehow that thought brought me some peace. That does not mean that I have not been sad since then or that I won't ever have a bad day again, but it has changed my outlook. If I don't change my life, then CJ would have died for nothing. That thought angers me! It is my job to look for the good, or more importantly, to make the good things happen. I'm a planner and a doer; I often think on a bigger scale than I need to. But I now know, that when I told Keri back in the hospital that I was going to help her fight, that I'm going to fight to find the good. It needs to start with me--I need to become a better person like CJ was. It's not going to be a miraculous overnight change, but one thing at a time. I want to continue CJ's legacy and example through everything that I do and eventually, someday, I do know that I will be able to say that the good finally does out weigh the bad from this event in our lives.

So here are some lessons that I've learned from CJ:

1. Smile--he always did. I don't have a memory of CJ when he's not smiling. I can kind of be a "Debby Downer" sometimes, but it's hard to do that when you're smiling. His smile radiated happiness, love, and hope. It made everyone around him smile, so in turn we ended up happy too. It was contagious, but a good kind of contagious.

This is a picture of Brooklynn smiling at CJ on Christmas morning. He was bouncing a balloon and making crazy faces at her. It wasn't anything huge, but it made her happy. It's an example of his contagious smile!

Here's Bailey smiling so big because CJ built her a huge hole and then buried her. Keri and CJ came to visit us one weekend in the fall, so of course we went to the beach. The rest of us were tired, lazy, and just relaxing in the sun, but CJ never rested. He quickly gave in to Bailey's requests and he got up and played with her. When I think of CJ I think of my kids smiling. As a mother, that is the one thing that makes us the happiest--happy kids.

2. Take the best things from life! Every time we went out to eat, CJ would always ask the waiter, "What's the best thing you have here?" Now even though that's with food, I feel like CJ did that with everything in life. He always found the best things to do, play, buy, see, and experience. Why settle for something less than that?

3. Live life to its fullest! I've always thought of that as just a saying, but CJ really truly lived it. For CJ there was no down time. He worked hard and played even harder. So lately instead of just turning on the tv when I get home from school, I sit on the floor and play with the girls. Keri and CJ didn't have TV and I always thought they were crazy, but instead of zoning out they were always enjoying their time together. I know it's something little, but I do it and think of CJ.

Here's CJ at our family reunion this year. While the rest of us sat and watched the kids play, he got up and played with them. Get out there and do it!

4. Live the gospel, just don't believe it. I know that CJ knew the gospel of Jesus Christ is true. He believed it with his entire being.

This picture truly exemplifies what CJ was about. Here's he's facing his goal and purpose in life--the temple--and driving toward it with 100% focus. In his hands is a picture of the temple for their house. We need to keep our eyes on the temple and focus on what's truly important in life.

5. Love your family! I've always loved my family, but the one thing that has always impressed me about CJ is what a family guy he is. The very first time I met him, before Keri and CJ were a thing, he came to our house with a ton of his friends. They stopped by just for dinner on their way to some crazy adventure. Out of all the guys, CJ was one of them who took the time to stop and talk to Bailey. She was little, but he took a moment to notice her. When they got married, I told him, "Welcome to our crazy family!" He fit right in and loved all of us! We can be a lot to handle sometimes, but if CJ ever thought we were too crazy or intense, he never let us know. In fact, his intensity just pumped our intensity up even more!! We had many late, late night volleyball games and Dance Dance competitions and CJ would usually put us all to shame, but in a loving way!

CJ loved Keri with all of his heart! You could see it in the way they looked at each other and how they always wanted to do something together. They inspire me with how happy they are! I know that they will be together again because they were sealed in the temple for all eternity.

One of my favorite memories of CJ, is the hardest one for me to write. I am so grateful that I have this memory, but it also makes it so hard. The night before the accident, Brian and I drove up to meet Toni, Keri, and CJ for dinner. Keri and Toni had had a auntie slumber party with my girls on Sunday night and then played with them all day on Monday. We met at Cafe Rio for dinner. I remember walking in and there was CJ just chillin in his sweats smiling at my tiny Brooklynn as she sat on the table. Bailey was also by his side telling him something trying to get more of his attention. Little Brooklynn smiled and flirted with him the entire night and she loved it! I loved watching the two of them smile at each other across the table. As we were walking out to the car, I handed Brooklynn to CJ to hold while we got the car ready. He held her and played with her and made her smile. He gave her a hug and handed her back to me when we were all packed up. I sent Bailey over to give Uncle a CJ a big hug before we left. She ran over and said, "Thanks CJ (although she pronounced it "she jay") I love you!" I told all of them thanks and then we drove off. As we were driving back home, I just kept thinking about what good guy CJ was and how lucky my girls were to have him as their uncle. I still do think that and I always will!

I will live my life a little better each day than the day before. I will make my girls smile and help them to remember Uncle CJ and what an amazing man he was. I will love my family with all of my heart. I will love and help my little sister, like CJ would want me to. I will make sure that there will be some good--because that's what CJ would do. I know that I am changed forever because of CJ and I hope that I can spread this change on to others. I'm going to fight to find the good and to make a difference! I love CJ and I love my sister Keri!! I will be here for her for whatever she needs. Not a day will go by without thinking of him, but I will be asking myself, "What would CJ do?" and then go and do it!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Becca Maughan

Keri Mae,

When you asked us to write a memory down of CJ, I started making a mental list of all the things I remembered about CJ. My list was endless. I started thinking about all the times we spent together and my memories were not of CJ, but of you and CJ and the special bond the two of you shared. I thought of weddings we attended and how the two of you stole the show on the dance floor. I remember the way you guys would look and smile at each other and dance towards one another. I thought of the Saturdays where I would meet you down at the Farmer’s Market and the two of you would lock up your bikes while we walked around and shared bratwursts. I remember lunches at your house where the two of you would come home from work and make me lunch. All visitors welcome in your home, and CJ always made me feel that way.
I remember fun activities like bowling, movies, Este pizza, pizookies and my favorite, Mario Cart. I loved watching the two of you on your competitive streak, sharing that little love seat so sweetly but determined and angry at whoever won! I remember everyday life with the two of you. Picking the two of you up from the airport after your fun East Coast trip, watching CJ try to assemble that bookshelf of yours, getting Route 44’s in the sonic drive-thru or getting our groove on to “Just Dance.” I loved how CJ would sit back on the couch cheering me on yelling, “Get it girl.”
I remember my birthday last summer and how the two of you locked yourselves out of your house and how you went to Home Depot and thought you could buy your own tools and unlock the door yourselves. I’m just laughing thinking about it because it took the two of you a little while to get over to the Richards because you ran in to some trouble along the way but I was so glad when you guys finally made it. I remember my birthday like it was yesterday. Swimming and playing basketball with the boys and our famous trip to Dover that night where you had to entertain Toni and Aaron the next day off of no sleep. I can still hear CJ’s laugh at the blackjack table after you lost the $50 so fast and then when we switched casinos and you were striking it big on the royal match. I remember the drive there and back with you guys in the back seat and JR driving. I remember us laughing while listening to rap music because we’re all ghetto… especially CJ. He was the best dancer although he thought we looked unattractive when we’d do our thiz/stank face. Haha. I remember him encouraging us not to do that face if we liked a boy.
I remember Naughty Capitol Hill last summer where we missed the whole movie but made it for the real show starring that couple next to us!! I remember all of us staring at them, especially you and I. Remember the moonlight flickering because of them?!
I have so many memories Keri of the two of you but when I think of CJ what I think about most was how he looked and laughed at you… especially when you were being stinker :) I remember him laughing at you when you wanted to take that swing home to California with you and you were upset because you didn’t want CJ to leave it behind but it wouldn’t fit in the moving truck. I can still hear him laughing. I loved watching him watch you because I could see it in his face how much he loved you and thought the world of you. However, for some reason this one memory keeps sticking out the most to me. It was a drive back to Utah from being home in California. I can’t remember the circumstances, whether you were engaged or just dating at the time or why we were even home in California but CJ was driving the Foci back to Utah and Richelle and I were in the backseat. You started to lose it because we had been driving for so long and you started to go crazy in the front seat. I remember watching you and my favorite part was that the two of you started to go crazy together. You were both feeding off each other and making the other one laugh and go even crazier. I remember watching the two of you and thinking how lucky you both were to have found each other and how I couldn’t wait to find my other half someday. I can still see that moment so vividly. The windows were rolled down and we were in some barren part of Utah and I remember how I just loved watching the two of you together. I knew in that moment how much CJ adored and cared for you and I couldn’t wait to meet someone who felt the same way about me one day.
I’m sorry for writing a novel but I couldn’t narrow it down to just one memory. I have so many. I love you Keri and I love CJ. I miss him and I especially miss him for you. He was such a special person and I’m so glad I had the privilege of knowing him and watching your marriage flourish. We all have been inspired to be a better person because of CJ and I cherish the memories I have of him and the two of you together. Memories can never be taken away from us and I’m grateful for that. Love you so much Keri Mae.

Love Becca

Brittany Fish

I was thinking about all the fun times we all had together this morning when I was in the shower. Different little memories kept popping in my brain and I found myself smiling as I thought about them. There are so many things I loved about CJ, One of my favorite things about him is how much he loves you. It may sound generic, but it's really not. I don't think every couple has a love like you guys have. The way he looked at you and smiled at you and laughed with you was my favorite. CJ was always so open and welcoming. I remember when Brady and I were in Salt Lake with my family one night and I called you last minute to see if you wanted to hang out. You and CJ had just ordered a pizza from The Pie and I remember hearing CJ in the background telling you to order another one so we can come over and eat and have fun together. I loved it! Everything between all 4 of us was just so natural and easy. It was the best. I remember when you guys were engaged and we were hanging out in Provo. We had all initially wanted to go to El Azteca, but they were closed for a Mexican wedding and had put a little sign in the door. We decided to go to Guru's and CJ's friend Joe met us there. It happened to be the karaoke night and it was a blast. I sang "Man I feel like a Woman" by Shania Twain. You sang "Fallin" by Alicia Keys. And CJ's was the best. "I'll Make Love to You" by Boys II Men. He had you sit on a bar stool right across from the stage, while he got down on one knee and belted that song with confidence to you. You were so proud, and so was he. It was so fun. I remember sleeping over at your cute condo in SLC for conference weekend. We went to Red Iguana and ordered so much food. Another time we went to Red Rock and he ordered the best thing again and encouraged me to finish off the bruchetta haha. CJ really knew how to order the best thing on the menu. Every place we went he would always let everyone have a taste of what he ordered. When we went to Stoneground, I practically shared his pork with him. And when we went to The Park Cafe, I had to finish my taste on his yummy meal. He was the best at sharing. He wanted everyone to have a good time and to be happy. So selfless. I remember when we went bowling together one time and Brady and I got there late, so CJ just paid for our bowling and wouldn't let us pay him back. I remember your wedding day and how proud CJ was to have you as his wife. I remember being in the sealing room and how calm CJ was with a huge smile on his face and you were squeezing his hand so tight. I loved it. Your reception was the biggest party and you and CJ were so so happy. And we were so happy for you guys. I remember when you first started falling in love with CJ and you would tell me all the stories in class. I remember how sweet CJ was. The last Halloween party we had at Heidi and Jeff's, CJ came in late. You told me he was in the car crying because he felt so bad about not telling his brother about his promotion and the move. It was so sweet and just really showed how much he loved his family. I remember the night I enlisted you to highlight my hair and CJ was totally against it because he thought you were going to ruin my hair. Brady and CJ just sat in the living room watching a movie (I think it was Black Swan? haha). I loved how they were great friends. I remember staying up late one night together and all of us playing Mario Kart on the Wii. I thought I was finally doing awesome one round and when CJ looked at my screen he saw my car just crashing into a barrier over and over again. I then realized I had been looking at his screen the whole time. We laughed so hard about it. It was so fun.

My general memory of CJ was just all 4 of us having a fun time together. We were always laughing, always smiling and enjoying each others company. I miss CJ. And I miss the two of you being together. I love you both so much.