In Loving Memory of Cory Paul Swapp (originally published July 2015)
There is no possible way for me to express the gratitude for the OVERWHELMING outpouring of love that our family has felt since our Cory’s death. Every comment, and message is a virtual HUG, and very literally strengthened us. THANK YOU my friends. Thank you so much for the prayers – as I know that because of the sustaining power of those prayers, we were able to do what we needed to do… both in working with the Donor team to allow them time to find matches for Cory’s strong and healthy organs, as well as making burial and funeral arrangements. Without the tremendous support of our family and close friends, I don’t know what we would have done. There is no way to adequately thank everyone, so please know that we are SO monumentally grateful. This has been a defining time in our lives. Here is a link to Cory’s obituatry. This is a LONG post, but I didn’t want to break it up over several posts, so be warned!
As I sat in the hospital, the realization that this is now my story, settled in. I didn’t like this story at all. It’s not the story that I imagined for Cory, or my family.
However, I am a storyteller. I am a memory keeper, and I am a person who believes that GOOD comes from even the worst situation, if you look for it. This is our story. Today I would like to share this very personal and sweet conclusion to Cory’s journey here on Earth. I hope that in sharing this, you will be touched by how IMPORTANT memories are, and how critical the photos are to facilitating the memories. A sweet friend of mine offered to come and take photos, and I actually told her no- I didn’t want her to come all this way (from AZ), I didn’t want her to be put out. I figured I could take a few photos, and that would be fine… but she came anyway. I am so deeply thankful for these photos, even though right now they are hard for me to look at, I couldn’t be more grateful I have these to remember. I will be so thankful forever Elizabeth.
Soon after Cory passed away, the news started to travel very quickly. We were amazed as his friends shared this tragic information lovingly via Twitter and other social media channels. I couldn’t even text the words, let alone say them out loud- so I was actually grateful for this process of distributing the information.
Very soon, classmates, friends, teammates were planning a “candle light celebration” of Cory’s life that night in a nearby park. I was AMAZED the way this came together – the location and times even changed, but somehow (thank you, Twitter) – everyone knew where, and when to gather. I knew that I wasn’t ready to face anyone at all, but my oldest son, Colton went along with my brother Cameron, BIL Clark and my cousin Taylor. I received a text that over 200 kids were there, I couldn’t believe it. I wish I could have been there- Colton addressed the crowd, and then asked my brother to say a few words.
Everyone lit candles and stood in a huge circle. Soon, smaller groups were formed, as people shared stories about Cory. My brother was sending me texts as fast as he could, sharing these stories, stories I had never heard. It was then that I got my first glimpse of how deeply Cory had impacted so many – how loved he was. I am so grateful for those amazing kids- who without prompting, would gather themselves to honor Cory. I will confess, we drove by… it was the most beautiful sight. All the candles lit. I will never forget that.
I wanted Cory’s funeral to be a tribute and a celebration of his life. As soon as I arrived at the hospital with the ambulance, I knew that we would need to plan a funeral. The weight and despair of this notion was so heavy on my mind and heart for the 3 days we were there; I prayed about who could speak and what songs to sing… but it was so hard to think clearly. Going to the mortuary was probably the worst part. I totally hated learning about all the different things you have to think about. I felt like I was just checking the boxes – just going through the motions. I had the worst headache from crying… but in that room, I realized that a funeral can be anything – doesn’t have to be done in a certain way. There are no RULES for funerals. There is no reason that we couldn’t make this our own! I started to make it about CORY, and not about death.
I had this idea that everyone could write on the casket!
Cory would love that!
We decided to bury his body in his favorite “animal” shirt, and his Sk8-hi vans instead of a suit or tie. (above are my children in their new-in-honor-of-Cory-sk8hi’s.
We invited his friends to wear “animal shirts” and Vans with crazy socks to the viewing.
I wanted people to SMILE. Cory made everyone smile. I didn’t want us to dwell on how his life ended, but rather what his life was full of!
The “animal shirt” was Cory’s thing the last couple years.
He found them at a gas station in Cedar City… and every time we went past on our way to AZ, NV or CA, he would pick out a new shirt. He was known for them. He LOVED their quirkiness, and unique weirdness. Before the funeral, we had people stopping off in Cedar City buying shirts. His best bud even drove down to Cedar City and back (an 8 hour round trip) on the day of the viewing, to get more shirts!
I wanted to line the halls of the church with photos of Cory… my sweet friend Chari, owner of Persnickety Prints, practically read my mind.
I uploaded hundreds of pics via instagram and their app. She also blew up some of my favorites and mounted them so I could put them on display.
I gathered up all Cory’s “animal shirts” and used them to create a garland. It didn’t take me long to gather some scrapbook pages, and load up some other keepsakes like rugby balls, and his hockey jersey to place on display.
(the above photo was from the lunch afterwards, my friends gathered all the photos and memorabilia up and decorated in the Cultural Hall, and fed us after the graveside service). I had no idea how many people would come – I didn’t know how hard it would be to greet our friends, family, neighbors, community, work friends, Cory’s friends and their families.
Greeting each person individually was one of the hardest thing I have ever done. It was sad. Both Eric and I cried as we embraced everyone along the way.
But everyone told me how much they loved seeing the photos lining the walls. SO many people were wearing their animal shirts! It was AWESOME – afterwards, we absolutely loved reading the messages to Cory on his casket.
They were the most heartfelt and precious notes of love and faith and hope.
My sweet friend Becky Higgins made sure that we had 4×4 cards that could be signed with messages, and stories to compile later.
Our hearts were so touched as HUNDREDS of these cards were filled and gathered…
It was amazing. I opted to design the program myself rather than something pre-designed. This is what the program looked like – I wanted it to be simple, and ‘Cory’.
I had felt a strong feeling that I needed to speak at the funeral. Eric and Quincy also wanted to speak –(as I was working on my presentation, I was seriously regretting following the prompting!)
Again we were completely overwhelmed with the number of friends and loved ones who came to say goodbye to Cory. And Ooh, the flowers…
The FLOWERS were amazing.
The love I felt, we felt, through the flowers was indescribable. I was so thankful, but also felt a little guilty for being given so many beautiful flowers. I was so touched as I read each note, and stunned by who some of the senders were. It was SO HUMBLING to receive such love, genuine concern and support.
The morning of the funeral we had an hour to greet more friends. Again, so humbled by many who came such great distances to support.
The funeral was beautiful, and sweet. Quincy shared an excerpt from one of Corys English assignments – about his animal shirts, in lieu of a eulogy. Eric spoke, and started by encouraging everyone to dedicate 2 hours a day to turning OFF your phone and making real life connections, with real people! He continued by sharing some funny Cory stories. I had also invited several of his close friends to share their favorite Cory memories. My brother then spoke, and I asked him to share his thoughts from the candlelight vigil. He talked about LIGHT, and being a light to others; as well as seeking LIGHT, sharing LIGHT… and that CHRIST is the light of the world. It was so perfect. We invited a few girls to sing “I am a Child of God”… and I was up next.
I prepared some photos to share and spoke from my heart about what it means to be a Child of God – unique and special. And how hard it is for moms to let kids grow up, and learn hard things!
Cory and I had been in a counseling session just hours before he took his own life – and while it was one of the best sessions we have ever had- certainly a gift to me… he told us that he didn’t want any help. He wanted to be able to do things on his own. He liked to take care of himself, and deal with his problems himself. Figure it out himself. And while I admired his independence, and responsibility for his choices, as a mom I KNOW, we can’t do this by ourselves. NO ONE CAN. In my talk, I likened life to RUGBY – we are a rugby family, and as I have learned more and more about the game, the over-arching truth in Rugby is “SUPPORT”. It’s such a team-sport. The most successful teams are full of the most UNSELFISH players. Players that put their team’s goals higher than their own. It’s what we love the most about rugby. NONE of us can do this life alone. We are not meant to. This is why we have family, friends, teachers, leaders, mentors, counselors, soul mates, and this is why we have a SAVIOR. Our good friend Pres. Presbury then shared his testimony of Jesus Christ, and the great plan of happiness and of Forever Families. One thing he said that has been echoing in my mind: Cory’s not gone, he’s just gone AHEAD. This I know to be true.
My heart will never be the same. I miss him. I love that kid so much. He didn’t want us to know how sad he was. I am constantly wishing I could have said or done something different. I thought we were making progress- I tried to understand. The fact is that DEPRESSION is real. And it’s horrible. It’s mean, and ugly. It distorts the truth, and it can be so silent. It can be hidden behind beautiful smiles, handsome faces and disguised as normal ups and downs. I am not sure how, but it must be recognized as MORE than it is. It needs to be taken seriously – talked about, and HELP MUST BE GIVEN, and accepted. It’s not a simple fix. And it’s deeply personal.
I have accepted that I won’t understand the WHY’s.
I will accept the promise of peace that comes from a loving Heavenly Father, and trust that there is a plan, and that my heart, and my family is KNOWN to Him..
We will keep going.
I will hold this boy in my heart forever. The photos, stories, memories are what I have left now, and I could not be more thankful. I wish I had more! I wish I had more photos.
Life is not supposed to be easy. I am ok with that. I do believe it is supposed to be BEAUTIFUL. It’s a journey. Along it’s path we learn and grow. That which we learn can be used to bless those around us. I am so thankful for the compassion and empathy shown to our family. And I am thankful for the empathy I have gained. Such great love and service has been shown to our family- it’s most certainly God’s love, giving us what we need to keep going.
If you thought I was passionate about ‘memory keeping’ before, man… you aint see nothing yet! (insert laughter and smiles).
My special thanks to those who were Cory’s best friends… the ones who knew him best! Who loved him and supported him… These young men carried Cory for the last time, as they did during his life… at the Skatepark, at school… playing Rugby, hockey… WE LOVE YOU. They were each so honored to be asked to be “pall buriers” (as Connor called it).
I know so many of you have seen my children grow up, and in that sense you have known Cory. This is why I felt that I needed to share so much. Even though we might not KNOW each other personally, we know each other.
We mourn with those that mourn. We feel this wonderful bond that is undeniable. It’s real. I’m partly SO sorry you all have to suffer this with us, and partly SO grateful to have such amazing love and support. I know this is such a long post (and i could go on and on), but I wanted to share my heart. It’s my story.