WEST JORDAN — As a Sandy mother and her young son killed in a deadly attack were laid to rest Tuesday, family and friends focused on gratitude in the wake of their grief.
Speaking at a memorial service in West Jordan, Dustin Rackley — the husband of Memorez Rackley, 39, and father of 6-year-old Jase Rackley — said anyone who met his wife knew right away "there was something special about her."
And his cheerful blue-eyed son, Rackley said, was unfailingly sweet and kind, making new friends wherever he went and filling his family's home with laughter and cuddles.
Rackley shared a message of appreciation Tuesday on behalf of himself and his surviving two sons, Baelyn and Myles, for the bystanders and an unidentified "good Samaritan" who rushed to help during the deadly June 6 attack; law enforcement and emergency personnel who responded to the scene; doctors and medical staff who cared for Myles at Primary Children's Hospital; and neighbors, friends and strangers who reached out to the family in the days that followed.
As the family moves forward in "our path of uncertainty and healing," Rackley shared the advice his mother gave him.
"Learning how to accept help will not only help heal us, but it will help heal others as well," he said.
Memorez and Jase Rackley died June 6 after being gunned down on a street in their quiet Sandy neighborhood by a man who Memorez Rackley had been dating during the time she was separated from her husband.
The gunman, Jeremy Patterson, 32, tracked the mother down as she was walking her two youngest sons home from school, chasing them in his large pickup truck after they got into the vehicle of the good Samaritan who stopped to help them. Patterson crashed his truck into the small SUV before opening fire, killing Memorez and Jase Rackley, gravely wounding 11-year-old Myles and shooting the daughter of the driver through the leg. He then turned the gun on himself.
Myles, who is recovering from a single gunshot through the neck, attended the service Tuesday.
The mother and son were laid to rest in a single casket Tuesday, a child's soccer ball placed atop it amid roses and lilies. At the conclusion of the service, balloons and bubbles floated up from the spot in the Memorial Redwood Cemetery, representing love and personal messages being sent skyward for the two.
Rackley told those gathered in the overflowing mortuary Tuesday that with his encouraging, compassionate and motivated wife at his side, he had never been afraid to face any challenge. Now, he promised she will always remain a part of him.
"Memorez, my life's journey with you is one that will last a lifetime in my heart," Rackley said. "Given the chance I would do it all over again. I never stopped loving you, and I know you never stopped loving me. You taught me how to love and how to be loved.
Emotion overcame Rackley as he spoke of the loss of the couple's youngest son, nicknamed Jasey Boo. The boy died before what would have been his last day of kindergarten.
"I sit and wonder how something so perfect and beautiful in every way can just be taken away," Rackley said. "Although our time was short, I know your spirit was needed elsewhere, and you will continue to share that love and joy."
The service Tuesday also included a tearful musical number from neighborhood friends of Jase and Myles who sang the LDS children's song "I am a Child of God," and words from Memorez Rackley's brother, mother and friends. Baelyn, 14, read an obituary for his mother and younger brother.
Travis Clark, Memorez Rackley's brother, said he had always counted on his sister to give him honest advice and encourage him through difficult moments. Meanwhile his young nephew, he said, was fun-loving, boisterous and happy.
"Everyone here knows what the world has lost, two of the greatest souls," Travis Clark said. "Words can't express what we've lost, and if they can, I don't know which ones they are."
Lisa McCleery, a longtime friend of Dustin and Memorez Rackley, spoke of the pain of trying to say goodbye.
"How do you say goodbye to someone who would walk into a room and make everyone smile? How do you say goodbye to someone who loved everyone around her so fiercely and so completely that she sometimes forgot to love herself? How do you say goodbye to someone who loved her sons so much that she never went a day without bragging about one of them or sharing a funny story or picture?" McCleery said.
She went on to say that someone who has impacted as many people as Memorez Rackley has is never truly gone.
"I won't say goodbye, because my beautiful friend will always be with each of us," she said.
Sarah Weaver, who has been a visitor in the Rackley home for more than a decade through their LDS congregation, described Memorez Rackley's immediate enthusiasm to prepare and serve a home-cooked meal to families at Primary Childrens' Ronald McDonald House. After Myles had been hospitalized with a life-threatening aneurysm a year earlier, Memorez Rackley was eager to support other parents who found themselves in the same position hers had endured.
"The facility and kitchen up there was such a saving grace for us and what sanity we were trying to keep," Weaver said Rackley had told her in a text message. "I am so excited to give back."
Together, they served an estimated 80 families that night, Weaver said, an experience Rackley had revelled in.
Weaver, editor of the LDS Church News, also spoke of the children's song sung at the beginning of the service, one that the Rackley family told her became special to them as they often sang it together at bedtime.
"Even though the world is filled with sadness and struggle, the Lord will walk beside us through this journey," Weaver said.
Then, speaking to the family, she said, "Through the Savior all healing is possible. Jesus will walk beside you in coming months and years, and I know you will also feel the presence of your mother and Jase."