Russ, Shalae, & Kids

Monday, March 30, 2015

Remembering Riggs

Our sweet nephew and cousin passed away February 9th. He got sick on Sunday, was taken to the ER that night, and died shortly after getting there. He died of septic shock. It was sudden and shocking to all of us. The night before this happened, he was hanging out with tons of friends, playing 007 in his neighborhood and having the time of his life. Here are some pictures people gave us from that night:

Almost 2 months later, it still doesn't feel real that he is gone because we didn't see him every single day. We have however missed his presence at our family get-togethers. There are so many things we want to remember about the few weeks we spent celebrating Riggs's life and watching his Eagle project be finished. Although it was a tough few weeks, there are also some sweet memories.

Riggs died on a Sunday night. The official time of death was 12:08am (meaning Monday) but Auburn says she knows he was gone before that because the doctors had been doing chest compressions on him for awhile, and she could also feel before that time that his spirit was not present. It felt like Sunday night. My sisters and I got to the hospital around 1am or so and stayed awhile with Auburn, Bryan, my parents, Brad & Danielle, Bryan's dad, and the Gibbons' bishopric. It was a hard thing to walk away from Riggs's body that night. We all went to the Gibbons' home afterward to support them as they woke up Jaxen and Roxy to tell them what happened. That was such a sad thing to witness, but the spirit was very strong as each member of the Gibbons family received a blessing from grandpas and bishopric members that night.When we left the Gibbons home around 5am, there was breakfast items and water bottles sitting on their porch. When we went back a few hours later... within no time, the Gibbons home was filled with people coming in to mourn with their family. My favorite thing that day was watching all these teenage boys file in, one after another. They were all tearful and so sweet to Auburn, Bryan, and Jax. A few things we learned that week were how supportive their community is, and how many people love Riggs.

Looking back at that week is somewhat of a blur. It opened my eyes to how difficult it is to plan a funeral. Not only are you overwhelmed with sadness, but there is such a time crunch on so many things that need done. The Gibbons had SO MANY people stopping in that they weren't available to do a lot of the prep for the funeral. We as their family, and many close friends were happy to help do whatever we could, and we really wanted to make sure Riggs was honored the very best way possible at his funeral. We ended up putting an obituary together, and Alisse set up a Go-Fund-Me page to help raise money for his funeral costs. 

This is what his obituary said: 
Riggs Bryan Gibbons, 16, passed away on February 9, 2015 in Phoenix, Arizona. He was born to Bryan and Auburn (Sherwood) Gibbons in Phoenix, Arizona on January 14, 1999. Riggs was a loving older brother to siblings Jaxen and Roxy. Riggs is survived by grandparents Sam and Vicki Sherwood, Duane and Janette Gibbons, and Valorie and David Haussman. Having been born with a congenital heart defect, Riggs spent 16 years defying medical odds, building faith, and bringing hope to his family and doctors. Riggs contracted an infection in his blood and because he was born without a spleen, he was unable to fight it. He will always be remembered as a young man with a contagious smile who loved life. Riggs was a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and he had a burning testimony of the gospel and his Savior. He wasn’t afraid to share his testimony and touched many lives by doing so. We are confident that Riggs was called home to his Heavenly Father to serve the mission he had spent his earthly life preparing for. Our beloved son, brother, grandson, nephew, cousin, and friend will be dearly missed.  A visitation will be held from 6:00 – 8:00 pm, Friday, February 13th with Funeral Services held at 10: 00 am, with a visitation 1 hour prior, Saturday, February 14, 2015 at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1865 S. Higley Rd. in Gilbert, Arizona.
The best memories of that week were hearing and remembering stories about Riggs. So many of his friends told stories about funny and sweet things he did. Students from his high school wrote letters to the Gibbons family. Auburn pulled out her journal and read stories about things he did when he was young. We were surprised to find ourselves laughing really hard a few times that week as we remembered things he did as a little boy. As time ticked on throughout the week, it was obvious that Auburn and Bryan were not going to be able to have the time to write the life sketch for the funeral. I kept thinking about how we couldn't throw something together at the last minute because we would never again have that chance to share with everyone, how awesome Riggs really was. I prayed about his life sketch a lot that week and I did have a special experience that I won't write about on my blog... but I will say that I know Riggs was close to us that week, and somehow we were given the energy to get so much done in a short amount of time. 
Riggs's death affected so many people. He was so loved! There were many news stations that did stories on how the community had come together to support the Gibbons because of the love they had for Riggs and his family. It was mentioned early in the week that Friday should be a day that everyone wore ASU clothes to remember Riggs. He was the biggest Sun Devils fan. Our family wore our ASU gear and many people at his school did also. We visited the school that Friday...

Riggs's viewing was held that Friday night. It was more crowded than any viewing I've ever witnessed, and everything was set up so beautifully. 


Driving home from the viewing to the Gibbons' home was amazing. Their neighbors had lined the streets with luminaries and people who were singing "I am a Child of God" over and over and over again. It was the sweetest sight to see and even sweeter to hear! Somebody mentioned that night, how it was probably like that for Riggs as he entered the spirit world. Angels might have lined the way for him and welcomed him home with such joy. I like to picture it happening that way for him.

Even the Gibbons' front porch was decorated with chalk art. I think they definitely felt the love people have for them that night!

The night was just young when we got back from the viewing! The life sketch was not written but we were prepared to make it good and finish it that night, no matter how long it took. Alisse, Brad, and I were all writing parts of it on separate computers and then copying and pasting to put it all together. Russ would stand up and practice until we would say "oh that needs edited" or "we need to add something right there". Finally he gave up on us and said he would practice it in the morning :) The kids were crashed out on the floor and I think I got home that night somewhere between 3:30 and 4am. 

The funeral the next morning was perfect. The music was the most beautiful music, perfect songs, etc. Russ did a great job reading the life sketch. The other speaker also did a wonderful job. Even Bryan, Auburn, Jax, and Roxy stood up and shared their thoughts about Riggs, and did a great job. I had to sneak a few pictures during the musical numbers because it was the coolest sight to see Riggs's friends up there in their green ties.

After the funeral was over, the casket bearers handled Riggs's casket very carefully. It was emotional for me to see all these boys & men that love Riggs so much, and who Riggs loved a lot, help take his body to it's final resting place. Also as a side note, I love Jaxen's arm around Auburn in these pictures too. He is the sweetest boy!

The cemetery was a pretty place and Riggs was buried in the most perfect spot. We were able to keep a rose from the bouquet that laid on top of his casket.

His funeral was held on February 14th (Valentines Day) and this was the most perfect flower arrangement my mom ordered for that day!

The luncheon afterward was amazing... I'm sad that I don't have any pictures of it, but Auburn's friends and 3 different wards' relief societies put it on and made it so special. It looked like a wedding reception and the food was yummy too.
One week after the funeral, was the date that Riggs had scheduled for completing his Eagle project that he had been working on. His friends and family wanted to complete it for him, so it was held at the same place and same time as Riggs had planned. There was a great turnout. I think I remember hearing that there were 145 cars washed and over $4000 raised, along with many MANY toys being donated. I am sure that Riggs was watching his family and friends that day, with a huge smile on his face.

A week after the funeral, I took my kids back to the cemetery to visit Riggs's grave. It made me sad to see how fresh his place looked compared to the other graves around his. There were still flowers from the funeral laying on top. Although it was sad, it was a very peaceful feeling to be there. The weather was perfect and we had a little picnic as we talked about Riggs and what he might be doing now.

I love and miss this boy so much. He is the baby I was obsessed with, who made me an aunt. He is the hilarious kid that would do anything to make people laugh, up until his last days. He is the handsome young man that I know was prepared to graduate from this life. It stinks how early he was taken, but I know he was worthy and ready! I know that I will start to notice his absence even more in the coming months and years. Our family will never be the same without him here. However, it is comforting to know that his spirit lives on, and I know that he will be helping us do the things we need to until we are reunited with him someday. I think about the last time I saw him here on earth. It was a few weeks before he passed, when we celebrated the January birthdays at my parents' house. The nice thing about that... is that he has a January birthday. I can remember him giving me a hug after he opened up our card to him. At the time it didn't seem too significant, but I love that I got a hug from him on the last day I saw him. The next time I am able to hug him will be so great and I'll be sure to appreciate it more!