Family, friends and complete strangers have reacted to the death of Elder Josh Burton, 23, who died while serving in Guatemala as a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Elder Burton's family was first notified on Saturday, July 20, after Elder Burton was injured in an vehicle accident while on his way to help a family move to a safer location. Other LDS missionaries also were injured and have since recovered or are now listed in stable condition.
It was just two days later on Monday, July 22, that Elder Burton's family learned he had died due to heart and lung failure. Elder Burton was the second oldest of the nine children of Heather and Allan Burton.
Funeral services took place Monday, July 29, in Cardston, Alberta, Canada. Elder Burton's mother posted a short statement on Facebook after the service.
"I don't think anything could have been more perfect today as we thought about Josh's beautiful life. And it was a beautiful life — so much good in such a short 23 years," Heather Burton posted online. "Thank you to each person who came to honor Josh and to support our family. The outpouring of love leaves us humbled."
A photo of Elder Burton on his mission was also posted to Heather Burton's Facebook account in memory of her son.
"Today is July 29, 2013, the day of Josh's farewell service," Heather Burton wrote. "Josh was miraculously healed enough that we could know the incredible power of a loving Creator; then, he was mercifully taken Home.
"I love this photo because of the coming light washing over Josh. I am fully convinced that he is surrounded by light, and love, and the joy of having embarked on the next phase in this marvellous adventure of life."
Through Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites, the musically talented elder has been remembered for more than his ability to compose and perform. Memories of his ability to live every day to the fullest have been shared, along with condolences to the family.
"Thank you Heather for sharing Josh with all of us. It was a beautiful service yesterday. We love you and your wonderful family and will continue to pray for you all," Kay Cahoon posted online. "Josh has touched lives all of his life, and it is comforting to know that he continues to touch lives all over the world. Yes even people he never met have been touched to seek the truth, change their lives and open their hearts."
Jawn Daquish, although a stranger, expressed her love for the family.
"Our prayers are with you and the family, and know that although we do not know each other — as a sister in Christ you are family. We love you and will continue to pray for peace and comfort for you."
Messages from members of the LDS Church across the United States, Canada and South and Central America have flooded Elder Burton's Facebook page, including messages from church members in Guatemala, where he was serving.
"May the Lord give them needed strength, we loved Elder Josh from the first minute and he will always be in our Guatemalan hearts, the Kennedy Ward watched him become a missionary, until we meet again, our son Elder Burton," wrote Edwin Amilcar Estrada Bran.
A friend of Elder Burton also posted online expressing his deep sorrow yet gratitude for having worked alongside the young man. In a portion of his post, Milo Holthe described the worldwide impact that Elder Burton has had.
"It is amazing to me to see how much impact one person can have. Over the past few days I've shed tears of sorrow and tears of joy as I have reflected on the life of my friend Josh Burton and his sudden passing. Just tonight we received an email from a friend who lives in Australia. She has never met Josh yet as she has followed our Facebook posts. She has since started listening to his music," Holthe wrote.
"Josh even though you have left us for a time, your missionary spirit and influence live on. You my friend are touching the hearts of people all over the world. What a great tribute to your mom and dad. What a great example you are to us all."
Some family members have also shared their memories and thoughts about the influences they felt from Elder Burton.
He always had so much love and was amazing at sharing it," Elder Burton's cousin Talia Jade Pitcher wrote. "He made everybody feel like they were his best friend and like they were the only one in his world when he would look into their eyes and talk to them."
A close family friend also recently blogged about the experience. She described the pain she felt after first learning of the news, as well as the comfort the Burton family has continued to feel.3 comments on this story
"As we knelt in prayer with this incredible family Josh’s father tenderly related, 'When we told the kids, we gathered like this. We sang 'Families Can Be Together Forever' and said a prayer,’” Naomi Pedersen wrote. "With tears he looked at us all and my heart nearly burst with sadness when he simply stated, 'I am so grateful that singing and praying together is something that is familiar to us.' Gently reminding me that it is those small and simple daily things that you do with your family that binds them to you in times of distress."