HIGHLAND — Three-year-old Paxton Edward Norton was remembered Monday afternoon for always having a smile on his face, for consistently showing his love for his family and for the everlasting imprint he made on so many in his short time on earth.
After struggling since birth with a rare genetic condition, his fight against 7-q deletion came to an end last Wednesday, only a few days after his third birthday.
During the funeral service, parents Shannon and David Norton of Highland, Utah, reflected on some of their favorite memories of their son, along with Paxton's grandparents, including Elder Ronald A. Rasband of the Presidency of the Seventy for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve was also in attendance with his wife, along with Elder Donald L. Hallstrom and Elder Ulisses Soares of the Presidency of the Seventy and their wives.
Paxton’s mother, Shannon Norton, addressed the congregation first, after a life sketch was given by Paxton’s grandmother Melanie Rasband, and a musical number was performed by Paxton’s great aunt, Michelle Farnsworth.
Shannon Norton began by expressing her gratitude for the opportunity she was given to be Paxton's mother.
“It has been the greatest blessing in my life, thus far, to be your mother,” she said. “To have the blessing of caring for you each day and hold you in my arms has been my greatest joy. You have been my best friend.”
Although Shannon Norton and her son were unable to verbally communicate, she described the special connection she was able to make with her son and will forever cherish.
“Our spirits have communicated without the use of words, one look and we knew just what the other felt and needed,” she said.
Although it took extra work, having her son with her was always Shannon’s primary concern.
“(I will miss) having you with me, wherever I was, and constantly checking the monitors for moments I was not with you making sure you were OK. And the pride and joy I felt, showing up anywhere with you at my side, taking care of you. I always cherished caring for you wherever we went.”
In just three short years, Shannon Norton said, Paxton was a great example to her and her family through his everyday actions.
“You have taught us so personally about our Savior by emulating his humility, acceptance of God’s will and enduring to the end. Now it is our time to follow in your footsteps.”
While his earthly life was filled with difficult challenges, Shannon described her happiness in knowing that he is freed from his limitations and has reached his heavenly destination.
“You were our perfectly imperfect angel, and now you are our perfectly perfect angel,” she said. “I’m so happy for you Paxton. I relish in the thought that you are running, jumping, dancing, swimming, singing, talking, sharing all that your heart has held dear. You are in the big leagues now, bud, and you are free.”
Following a musical number performed by Paxton’s cousins, David Norton, Paxton’s father, expressed his gratitude for family and friends and especially for his wife.
“Paxton is a stripling warrior,” David Norton said. “Paxton’s mother, my dear wife, taught Paxton every day, and he never doubted her. Every day, Shannon gave her life for Paxton, whispering sweet tender words of inspiration at every moment. You and Paxton are the epitome of courage, selflessness, sacrifice and pure love. You are both my heroes.”
David Norton also expressed the honor he felt in being Paxton’s dad as he continually pondered why he had been so blessed to have Paxton in his life and in his family.
“For me, there is no greater calling in this life than that of father,” he said. “I’m going to miss holding Paxton’s hand and his little hand perfectly squeezing my finger. I hope I can always remember the emotions of my heart as I held his hand. I will miss looking at his eyes and when our eyes would connect.”
Paxton’s father continued to list the many simple things he will miss that his son did to bring him joy, such as playing catch, rolling his ball back and forth, sitting him on his chest in order to see his face close to his.
He expressed how he will miss Paxton’s tender rocking back and forth, his constant smile, his presence during family home evening as his brothers fought over who got to hold him, kisses goodnight, T-ball games, bike rides and his excitement to learn and explore new things.
David Norton expressed that he had compiled a list of all the things he wanted to do with Paxton during his time on earth, saying that “through the mercy and love of our Heavenly Father, every one on that list was accomplished.”
“I will always remember sharing my testimony of the restored gospel with Paxton, in the middle of the night in the NICU at Primary Children’s Hospital, during family nights and again on his last night here on earth. I wanted my son to know how much I love him and how much I love the Lord and this restored gospel.”
As he closed his remarks, Paxton’s dad described the effect his son’s short life had on him.
“His spirit will always continue to make me feel like the luckiest father in the world. Thank you, Paxton, for letting me be your dad,” David Norton said. “I want desperately to be a better father, husband, friend, priesthood holder, brother and son. I want to live a life like you, Paxton.”
Following David Norton, another musical number was performed, and Bishop James Bullington shared some remarks. Elder Rasband, Paxton’s grandfather, then addressed the congregation.
“I’m grateful today to be listed in the program as Paxton’s ‘Pa,’ ” Elder Rasband first stated. “And to all of our grandchildren here today, I want them to know that 'Pa' is one of my most cherished titles."
Elder Rasband continued to express the deep connection he was able to make with his grandson.
“I have been blessed to have many wonderful spiritual connections with Paxton. Through priesthood blessings, talks, messages given all around the world, the spirit of the Lord has let me know of Paxton’s special mission during his earthly life.”
One such connection came last year before an LDS general conference. Elder Rasband was assigned to speak, and felt prompted to speak of his young grandson Paxton. Elder Rasband expressed that the impact he has since felt has been overwhelming. He held up a book, filled with letters from around the world, sent to him regarding Paxton. He pointed one out specifically, sharing that it was addressed to Paxton at the office of the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“Wherever Melanie and I have traveled on assignment throughout the world, we’ve been asked about Paxton,” Elder Rasband said.
Elder Rasband concluded by expressing his appreciation for the opportunity to have Paxton in his life.
“Thank you, dear, precious grandson Paxton for the privilege of sharing three miraculous years with you,” Elder Rasband said.
“I pray that the Lord will bless your family, you Dave, you Shannon, you Camden and you Mackay, with a perfect knowledge that as a result of Dave and Shannon’s temple sealing, Paxton is yours and you are Paxton’s forever.”
Taking the stand, Elder Holland then addressed the congregation, expressing his gratitude for the opportunity to be in attendance.
Before sharing the message written to the family from the First Presidency, Elder Holland expressed that nothing more needed to be added to what he described as a "picture perfect service."
Elder Holland then read the letter, sharing that each member of the First Presidency had wished they could be in attendance as well.
“We extend our heartfelt sorrow and sympathy to you and your family. As parents and grandparents, we understand the sorrow you feel at this tender time of parting with a beloved child,” Elder Holland read. “The Savior loved children, and you can be certain that Paxton is now a recipient of the Lord’s love in that sphere where he will await a happy reunion with those he left here on earth.
“Although there is no substitute for the physical presence and affection of one so loving and so young, we pray that you will receive the blessed assurance that Paxton is perfectly happy and once again with our Father in Heaven.”
Elder Holland then said he would address his remarks to the living, to those who still struggle in this earthly life.
“(Paxton’s) probably the one thing we’re really sure about,” Elder Holland expressed. “The jury is still out on all of the rest of us.”
Elder Holland continued to counsel the members of the congregation to learn from what they had felt during the funeral service, expressing that such services bring a special spirit. He continued to remind the congregation that "this world is not our home. It is a reminder that we are not all going to stay here.”
Elder Holland described the importance of preparing now, counseling that it would be wise to prepare for that day the moment we arrive on this earth, just as Paxton had done.
“This is a sad day of parting, but it is not a tragic day of death,” Elder Holland said as he rejoiced in the knowledge of Jesus Christ’s atonement and resurrection. “I testify that Paxton Norton is this very moment rejoicing in the spirit world, a paradise prepared for just such a pure, beautiful and innocent spirit.”