Parkites gather to honor boy who lived ‘to the fullest’
September 20, 2016
It was a serene late-summer morning and the family members of Grant Seaver approached the flickering candle. They formed a circle around the flame and embraced one another.
Before the ceremony, they had scribbled letters to the boy on folded pieces of paper. He was gone now, but there were still so many things they wanted to say. One by one, they tucked their letters near the candle, whose flame represented the light of Seaver's life. They hoped that, somewhere, he would hear them.
But on this day, it wasn't just Seaver's family who had come to mourn the loss of his life. The boy's death was the first in a series of tragedies that shook Park City last week, and hundreds gathered to share their grief. They looked on, some sobbing, as one speaker after another shared stories of Seaver's life and what it had meant to them.
Emotions were especially raw in light of the uncertainty around his death, which police are still investigating. Seaver, a 13-year-old Treasure Mountain Junior High student died unexpectedly Sept. 11. Two days later, his best friend, Ryan Ainsworth, 13, was also discovered dead. Police, who have not determined how the boys died, are looking into whether drugs played a role.
News of the deaths sent shockwaves throughout Park City and police and school officials warned about the dangers of synthetic drugs. Then, after a 15-year-old friend of the boys attempted suicide Wednesday, school leaders declared the situation a crisis, taking swift action to monitor other students who may be at risk of self-harm.
On Saturday, though, those gathered tried to forget the calamity of the week and remember the boy Seaver had been. The memorial, said his aunt Lisa Sippel in a statement to media, was a celebration of his life. By the time the ceremony was over, those who knew him had painted a clear picture: His life had been a beautiful one.
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Negin Smith, a Spanish teacher at Treasure Mountain, said it did not take long see what was special about Seaver.
She had been apprehensive when he contacted her in May to inquire about going on the school's summer trip to Costa Rica because she didn't normally take students so young. But when she got to know him, his bright spirit shone through. It was clear he would be a valuable addition to the trip.
He soon proved Smith right. It wasn't long before the other students on the trip gave him an affectionate nickname: "Snack Mix" because of his propensity to share his food. In Costa Rica, he formed fast bonds with his host family, which was impressed with his manners, positive attitude and how fluently he spoke Spanish.
Spending that trip with Seaver, Smith said, was something she'll never forget.
"Grant was a young man who lived his short 13 years to the fullest," she said. "… Our duty is to remember Grant in our actions and in our relationships. Let us carry his spirit forward in all of our lives."
Seaver was also an avid skier, and his coaches with Team Park City United remembered him as someone who made an impact on everyone he met. Jason Stinsmen called him the type of kid you want to have around all the time. He compared Seaver's personality to his skiing style: graceful and fluid.
"It's been my privilege and my pleasure to coach him," Stinsmen said.
For Manuel Clayton, who taught Seaver in fourth grade, the boy's death was a lesson. It showed Parkites that they can count on one another, that when one of them is hurting, all of them are hurt. It was a reminder that life is precious and that each moment spent making memories with loved ones should be savored.
And there was hope: After a storm, Clayton said, a rainbow and happier days always follow.
Of all those who spoke, though, perhaps no one knew Seaver like his friends did. Francesca Galeano was one of his closest, and she lovingly described a boy who always made her feel special.
Life wouldn't be the same without him. They fought like an old married couple, she said, but loved each other like siblings. Choking back tears, she shared a simple memory she'll never forget. Whenever they were walking and saw trash near the sidewalk, she would point. "Look," she would say. "It's me, an actual piece of trash."
"Oh no," he would respond. "You're my beautiful sky."
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