For the past year and half, a big part of our hearts, thoughts and prayers have been in Minnesota. Our ten-year-old nephew and cousin,Wyatt, has been battling leukemia and he passed away at the end of May. It has been a heart-wrenching experience to watch him suffering. And to imagine what Angie and Forrest, Ethan, Elise and Jonas must be going through.
I learned so much from Wyatt as he fought leukemia. Even in his darkest times, he was looking out for others. When he found out his leukemia had relapsed, he took his mom's face in his hands and bravely told her, "It will be OK." When he was showered with more gifts than he could handle, he donated many to a homeless shelter that serves families. When he was unable to take his Make-a-Wish trip because his health declined, he donated the funds to his children's hospital to help fund a program for tweens. He is an amazing young man.
I have also learned from and admired the way that Angie and Forrest have strengthened their faith and relied on each other through this whole nightmare. Angie is a beautiful and descriptive writer. She recorded Wyatt's journey through a CaringBridge website. She was so good at sharing both the ups and downs, the joys and the tears that they've gone through during this experience. I'm grateful for their examples.
Here is Wyatt's obituary:
In Memory of
Wyatt Dean Hallstrom
January 21, 2007 - May 22, 2017
Of Woodbury, Minnesota
Departed this life on Monday, May 22, 2017, surrounded by his loving family. Wyatt will be deeply missed by his parents, Forrest and Angela; siblings, Ethan, Elise, and Jonas; paternal grandmother, Barbara Hallstrom; maternal grandparents, Dennis and Barbara Sweat; great-grandparents, Richard and Shirley Hiatt; aunts and uncles, Nina (Phil) Hallstrom Archuletta, Mindy (Peter) Hallstrom Colasurdo, Andrew (Andrea) Sweat, Anthony (Cindy) Sweat, Amy (David) Sweat Huish, and Darrin (Katie) Wilkey; 22 cousins; and many loving friends and extended family members. He was preceded in death by his paternal grandfather, Stephen Hallstrom. Wyatt was born in Salt Lake City and lived the first three years of his life in Utah. After moving to Minnesota, the state quickly became his new home as he found love and belonging among friends, neighbors, classmates, teachers, and church members. Wyatt loved funny Youtube videos, Nerf wars, board and video games, the color orange, books by Rick Riordan, music, backyard basketball, math, Zupas chicken enchilada chili, and his cat Kodiak. He was happiest when he was surrounded by friends and family, his three older siblings in particular. For 15 months, Wyatt fought Acute Myeloid Leukemia with courage, patience, and strength. Although he spent over 200 days as a hospital inpatient and endured scores of tests, procedures, symptoms, and side effects, he showed all of us how to face difficult trials with grace. His open, compassionate heart, infectious sense of humor, and wisdom beyond his years made an indelible impression on many who knew him. Wyatt was a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. His faith sustained him throughout his treatment and inspired his loved ones. During his final months, he spoke often about the role of the Holy Ghost as our comforter, and some of his last words were a family prayer he offered a few days before passing away. Our hearts are broken and we will never stop missing him, but we take comfort in knowing that he continues to learn, grow, and watch over his family with his Savior by his side. We look forward to the glorious day when we will all be reunited. Visitation will be Friday, May 26 from 4-7 pm at The Church of Jesus Christ Latter-day Saints-Cottage Grove. Funeral service will be Saturday, May 27 at 10 am with a brief visitation time from 9-9:30 at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints-Cottage Grove, 11900 Manning Ave S, Hastings. Interment at Cottage Grove Cemetery. The family would like to offer special thanks to the doctors and staff members of Children's Hospital of Minnesota and the University of Minnesota Masonic Children's Hospital; the students, parents, and staff members of Liberty Ridge Elementary; and the members of the Woodbury Ward of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for their incredible care and support.
Wyatt's funeral was in Minnesota over Memorial Day weekend. Andrew flew there from a work trip. The kids and I left after a half day of school on Thurs and drove to Indiana, where we stayed the night. We got up early the next day and made it to Angie and Forrest's just in time to get changed for the viewing.
Oh my gosh. I wasn't prepared for how incredibly heart breaking that would be. I don't think I've cried that much in my whole life. It all felt so final. And just too early to say goodbye to him. And we were closing the door on so many unfulfilled hopes and wishes for Wyatt.
But it was also somehow cathartic to get all those tears out. And to be able to mourn with our family. All of Andrew's siblings and our nieces and nephews were able to be there, which meant so much.
Angie and Forrest's ward family has been amazing. They have offered so much service over the past fifteen months. That has been one of the other good learning experiences for me. There are so many good people in the world! Wyatt's classmates and teachers were so thoughtful. They made videos for Wyatt, did fundraisers, decorated the whole school in his favorite color: orange. They made sure that Wyatt new he was loved and missed at school. And their ward family was also very generous with their time and means. Different families from the ward volunteered to host all of us siblings who drove in from out of state. They let us stay in their homes and fed us breakfast over the weekend. So sweet.
On the evening of the viewing, they had a special room set up with tables and chairs where we could hang out when we needed a break. And they fed us dinner that night, too.
These are a couple of pics from that evening:
Saturday was the funeral. It was a wonderful service. Each member of the family participated. Jonas read the eulogy. Elise performed a beautiful, heart-felt song that she wrote for Wyatt. Ethan, Forrest, and Angie all shared remarks. They did a great job of highlighting Wyatt's amazing personality, sharing their mourning, and still making us laugh. The primary kids from their ward sang a musical number. And all of the cousins sang "I Feel My Savior's Love." Many, many tears were shed. But I'm thankful that we know about Heavenly Father's plan of salvation and that life goes on after death. I know that we'll see Wyatt again and that he's part of our eternal family.
Even though it was incredibly difficult to say good-bye to
Wyatt, I'm happy that we could all be together.
Look at all of these family members who will
be excited to see Wyatt when we get to other side.
Among all the heartache and tears,
there were moments of laughter and fun, too.
Like when Reagan french-braided B's hair.
After the funeral, a bunch of us went to the Mall of America.
We had all the cute little girls in our van.
Our rowdy bunch.
It's hard to picture how big this place is until you're there.
Our kids were all hanging out with cousins or grandma,
so Andrew and I had a little time for a date.
We rode Fly Over America, similar to Soarin' at Disney.
I loved it. It was a little too life-like for Andrew.
His fear of heights kicked in.
While we were off playing by ourselves,
our kids got picked up by the mall cop.
Apparently they have rules in the mall that
teenagers aren't allowed to wander by themselves.
Even though they had Elise and Lauren with them,
who are both over 18.
Truman loves his Uncle Andrew.
He got some cuddle time.
So did Caroline and I.
Grandma got all of us a ticket for one of the
amusement park rides.
I took C and Cal on the ferris wheel.
We loved it.
The bigger kids did more intense rides.
But I didn't get any pics of them.
With all of the generosity shown to Wyatt over the last year, he was inundated with blankets and gifts. Too many for his family to keep. So, after Angie sorted through and kept some of his favorites, she was so thoughtful and wanted to share some of the others with us.
Each of the kids got to pick out a blanket. My kids love theirs and continue to use them. And then the families got to pick a game. And the younger kids got to pick a toy or stuffed animal. What a wonderful way to help us to remember Wyatt at home.
I'm thankful for our extended family members.
Even though we live in four different states,
I'm happy that we can be there for each other
in the hard times.