Ashley's service this past Saturday was as beautiful as it was heartbreaking. Within the limits of Covid restrictions and technology, it was amazing to see how many joined in virtually, but disappointing to hear that parts of the service were difficult to understand. We wanted to share the reflections offered by Will (Ashley's cousin) and Eric (Ashley's dear friend) here so that everyone could get the full experience.
Hi Everyone, I’m Will, one of Ashley’s many cousins. I first just want to say thank you to everyone in Ashley’s community for all the love and support given to her and her family for these last few years. It speaks volumes about Ashley’s character that so many people loved her and wanted to step up to help, and it made a huge difference in her life. She was an amazing girl.
I’ve been lucky enough to be close with Ashley for my whole life. Growing up here in the Skagit Valley was an amazing childhood, and Ashley was constantly surrounded by her many cousins. The collective memories of that time are very idyllic. All summer long spending days at our grandparents pool, running around the tulip farm, climbing trees, getting pops from the soda machine in the lunch room, jumping into the back of a car or truck to go have a play-date at someone’s house, playing in freshly combined wheat in the back of a truck. Every time a cousin had a birthday party we would all get together, and it would be chaos. Ashley loved being part of a big family.
She loved to imagine the day when she would have her own family. She always wanted to play “house” in the playhouse in our backyard with my brother Taylor. She would play barbies with my sister Meaghan. I would go to her house to play with her brother Tyler and Ashley would be in her room with her dollhouse, setting everything just so, changing her dolls outfits. She always wanted to be a mom.
Ashley’s parents and my parents were very close, and our two families spent a lot of time together. Some of Ashley’s best childhood memories were coming to this church on Sundays, after which we would go out to breakfast, and then we would go to our house where our parents would play cards while the kids would play games. In the summer we’d play in our backyard, games like tag, hide-and-go-seek, kick the can, capture the flag. We’d play all day and into the evening as the sun slowly set over the farm fields. Arguments would break out and Ashley would always help mediate. She hated controversy. We would go to coach’s cabin together in Eastern Washington. In the winter we’d go sledding, in the summer we’d go swimming. We all went to Washington school together. Ashley always had a group of friends around her. This never changed throughout her life.
Along with our family she had several other families who were very close. She spent a lot of time with the Cunningham’s. She would go swimming on Lake McMurray with Tara. They would paddle around in the pedal boat. They would go school shopping and go to the Nutcracker together. Ashley loved to shop, and she loved to dress up. She would go to Lake Chelan with the Mendoza’s. She would jump in the cold water early in the morning with Breonna. She loved this and would always tell people about hard-coring.
We got older. Ashley went to middle school, became a teenager. She was pretty, she was popular, she was dramatic. She loved quirky funny movies. I’ll never forget watching Austin Powers with her and listening to her iconic laugh the whole movie. She loved match making. She would always ask me what girl I had a crush on. She would always tell me about her friends she had and how I’d like them. She would always talk to me about boys. Had I met any cool boys in High School? Did I think they were good guys? Did I hear that so-and-so were dating? They were perfect for each other. She came to high school, and she made new friends. No surprise there. Ashley could make friends easily, but never lost sight of the friends she already had.
She started keeping score for the basketball team with Molly. They sat behind the team on the wooden bleachers of the Mount Vernon High School gym, gossiping all game. Sometimes I would drive Ashley home from school. Somehow she was a freshman but knew more people in the school than I did. She wanted to know how I was 17 and had never had a girlfriend. She made it her personal mission to fix this. We had fun in high school. She wanted to TP a boys house, we dressed all in black, snuck out and got there at 2am. She actually didn’t want to do it because it would be mean. She set me up with some of her friends, and she dated some of mine. We all broke up. Ashley would set up new double dates for us. No surprise there.
She was a hopeless romantic. She loved sappy movies like “The Wedding Singer”. She especially loved sappy holiday movies like “Love Actually”. She made me watch it with her. We went to parties together. Ashley was friends with everyone. Everyone has friends growing up, but the friendships Ashley had were different. The friendships Ashley had were strong and heartfelt and everlasting and have continued until today. When you became friends with Ashley, you became friends for life. I feel so lucky that I got to have Ashley as a friend.
I went to college. Ashley came to visit me. I came home for the summer. My younger brothers would have parties, Ashley would come. Had I met any girls in college? What were the boys like at WSU? Where should she go to college? She went to Chapman in California. Come visit me she said! I road-tripped down to visit with some friends. I saw the doll-house where she lived. She took me to a party. She tried to set me up with her girlfriends. We went to Disneyland. Come back again she said! I did. We went to the beach and the bars. She tried to set me up with her girlfriends. She was consistent with that. On that trip I met Miguel. What a stud. Ashley did the same thing in college that she did in High School. She made friends, really really good friends who she loved and who loved her. Friends like Danielle and Jen who have stood by her side through everything.
Ashley was one of my first friends to get married. No surprise there. This was Ashley’s dream. She had a beautiful wedding just down the street from where she grew up, from where she swam in her grandparents pool, from the farm where she ran around as a child, among the flowers that she loved so much. She married the man of her dreams. She got to invite her lifelong friends who loved her so much. Her college friends got to meet her high school friends and the multitude of other friends she had made since. It was a really fun and special wedding. You could feel the love between Ashley and Miggy, you could feel the excitement of all Ashley’s friends in the crowd who felt over the moon excited for this girl who her whole life wanted a fairy tale romance more than anything, and who had found it, and who was living it.
Ashley cried during her dad’s speech. I think everyone cried during that speech. It was beautiful. In that speech Richard said, “And now Miguel, I ask you, please take care of my daughter.” Miguel has never waivered on this commitment. Through it all he has been her rock, her nurse, her nanny, at times her punching bag, and always her soulmate. Ashley could not have chosen better. Miguel you are an amazing person. The love, support, and strength of character you’ve shown over the past few years is beyond belief. We are so happy you are a part of our family and are forever grateful for you.
They were going to wait to have kids though. It was the smart thing to do. Miggy was still working through his apprenticeship, it wasn’t the right time yet. This is what they told themselves anyway. They moved to Portland where Miguel worked. Ashley made new friends, no surprise there. It became winter. I called her and told her I was having a baby and moving back to Washington. “That’s it, I’m getting pregnant tonight!!” she said. The restraint was gone. We went to our cousin Wim Roach’s wedding, and Allison and Ashley bumped bellies. Alli and Ashley became best friends. No surprise there.
On December 8th, 2015, Ashley’s 28th birthday, she got the best gift of her life. She got the gift she’d always wanted, she had a baby daughter named Evelyn Jayne. She got what she always wanted, and it was a lot of work. She sent lengthy text messages back and forth with my wife Allison. They helped each other with the transition into parenting. We went on many family trips. We went to the Oregon Coast, we stayed at their house in Portland, we went to the San Juan’s. My daughter Audrey and Evelyn became best friends. They’d realize this once they grew up anyway, said Ashley. Ashley got pregnant again, she had a hard pregnancy and felt sick. She had another beautiful daughter, Bernadette Carmen. She kept feeling sick even after the pregnancy was over.
On July 22, 2018, Ashley and Miguel received the sacrament of marriage here in this church. The same church she was baptized in, had first communion, and confirmation. The same church both her girls were baptized in. This was important to Ashley. She loved this church. She knew she was sick, and this church helped give her peace.
Ashley fought cancer with almost super-human strength for over 2 years. You never really know how tough someone is until you see them meet a challenge. Ashley was tough. She loved her family fiercely and wanted to be with them for as long as possible. When it became clear the cancer was winning, she didn’t complain, she didn’t waiver in her faith, she still laughed and joked just like she always had. She showed us all what true courage is.
I used to come to this church every Sunday with Ashley growing up. I remember reminding her to ring the bells during the transformation of the bread into the Eucharist. I haven’t been back here much, except for the baptism of Ashley’s two girls. Being here, surrounded by the imagery of angels, it’s hard to imagine Ashley like that now. But deep down I know that Ashley is an angel.
Angels are entities that come to us and help us through hard times, who make us better people. We don’t know where they come from or where they go, but we see the results of their work. Ashley has already been an angel for me a few times. When I start losing patience with my kids, something creeps into my mind: you still get to be with your kids. Thanks Ash. She can be an angel for me whenever I need a little help, as long I let her. She can be an angel for all of us if we let her.
Ashley was a beautiful person who came to this community from a birth-mother in Pasco Washington, and she became a part of this community and made it better. She came into each one of our lives and enriched it. We are all better for having known Ashley. She was a living angel for us for the last 32 years. Now she is physically gone, but she is still our angel. She can be someone who we talk to and she will always listen, she can give us advice and guide us through hard times, she can make us laugh, and she can make us grateful for every day that we get to spend here in this world with each other.
It is such an honour to be here to share a few stories and thoughts about our dear Ashley. Or, as Tara called her: Sparkie; Molly called her: Cheeks; Miggy called her: Babe; and her mom called her: Dolly.
I’d like to first say to Miguel, Evie and Bernie, and her parents: She Loved you all so much, (like, capital L, Loved you) and she knew how much you Loved her.
I’m Eric, and Ashley and I have been friends for the last 18 years. We met in high school Spanish class. The last time I gave a speech and Ashley was in the room was English class -- 10th grade. As I remember it, while I stood in the front of the class, she whispered she could see my bellybutton and I started laughing so hard, I lost my train of thought and had to end my whole presentation.
Ashley always had a way of making you laugh and feel cared for. She knew how to bring light and laughter into the room. She taught us how to cry it out and laugh it off. To not take ourselves and life too seriously, because yes, of course, there is tragedy and hardship, but let’s not compare or dwell, because we don’t know what others are going through, and there’s also joy and silliness and lessons in life that remind us to be humble and kind, and always listen to others with a loving presence.
The threads of Ashley's life have made their way into the tapestries of our lives. And we’re so much better for it.
I’ve been privileged to read some of the threads Ashley left in the lives of her friends and cousins, and would like to share some of them with you today:
Some of the recurring themes of Ashley’s character are that:
She was the most polite and kind person
Ashley was a person of the moment
Ashley was wise
She was loyal
But, first and foremost, a wife, mother, and daughter -- and she loved her people
Her cousin Helena said, I feel like she is looking down on us, with that classic Ash smile, shaking her finger and tilting her head saying “now keep on trucking and be strong”, she would want us to feel happy and energized by our memories of her.
“she was never afraid to laugh at herself. She always found a way to make situations a little lighter, sillier and just plain ridiculous.”
Her laugh was infectious. Andrea said, I actually can't not laugh just thinking about it!
Ashley was there for others
She knew that people deserved to feel celebrated and she always made you feel that way
It was the little things she did so well: dropping off a treat to make you smile, sending out a text to pump you up, or getting you out of the house to get your mind off things.
Ash was such a perfect combination of tough and sensitive. She had a strength about her even in her most vulnerable moments, which always made it feel like such an honor to be her confidant or to be the shoulder she felt safe to cry on
She wore her feelings on her sleeve in every way. I think that is why people around Ash are so fiercely loving and protective because she let them see her and they loved her for that.
She brought the realness and made people feel like they could be real as well.
Ashley was a person of the moment
She always left you happy...
For Molly, her memories with ashley are some of the funniest – giving unsuspecting victims surprise ooglies, eating their way across Mount Vernon, prank phone calling everyone they knew, and turning everyday situations into something hilarious.
While to others, she was a solid margarita drinking buddy
Tara noted one of the coolest things about Ash was her love and extensive knowledge of music: Everything from oldies to rock to Lady Gaga, she would know, play, sing, and dance to it all.
In fact, Tara and her had a semi-choreographed dance to Prince’s “Kiss” -- anytime that came on, it was a for sure dance-party.
Ashley was spontaneous
When Danielle met her at Chapman University, Ashley was wearing a tie dye shirt with sweat pants, and Danielle knew they’d be best friends. In fact, they were each other’s maid/matron of honor. One night while Danielle was studying for an Organic Chemistry exam. Ashley asked her to go to Disneyland instead of studying that night because it would be good for her mind, body and soul.
Danny and her tried out and made the best boat on the Chapman crew team. They ran multiple half marathons. Encouraging each other to keep running: “We were each other’s biggest cheerleaders,” Danny said. “Those were some of our best times together, we didn’t have to talk, we just ran on the boardwalk along the Pacific Ocean…she believed in me and I therefore believed in myself.”
Ashley was convincing -- particularly with shopping
“This sense of adventure, charisma, and persuasive ability could be a dangerous combination and got us all into a fair amount of mischief,” Breona said.
Every year with Tara and their moms, they’d go back-to-school clothes shopping and Christmas shopping in Seattle. These were more than “shopping trips”, it was a time they spent laughing with their moms, when they got their ears pierced once they hit double digits, and later had their first creamsicle martini one winter during a snow storm.
During said shopping trips, Ash was great at urging you to ‘make the purchase—quality is worth it!”
That the Christmas after her diagnosis, Tara and her still made the trip happen, they both wore her wigs out shopping and laughed about their alter egos.
One important shopping trip was to get Bernie an American Girl Doll in Houston just last month.
After Allison and Ashley’s trip to Houston -- Allison was sent a new credit card because there had been so many more charges than usual, that they assumed it was fraud.
Ashley was wise
She wanted to let you know that your experience is unique to you. And nobody can make you feel guilty or ashamed if it's an experience that is different than the "normal". Ashley allowed you to feel what you felt.
It didn't matter what struggles she was facing, she always listened to others’ hardships and gave a shoulder to lean on.
She was against the idea that we “should” do something -- And often said “don’t should on yourself” and don’t should on others.”
Ashley was loyal
Breona said, “One of the things I respect most about ash is how incredibly loyal and steadfast she was.... to her family, her friends and also to her community”
Ashley had a way of bringing people together. She knew the power of having a loving community. She wanted to raise her girls with the same kind of love and support she had growing up. She worked so hard to surround them with the best people she knew.
Ashley was a wife, mother, sister, and daughter
Through all of these life milestones, she taught us how to be patient, how to be a better listener, and that in this life, you have to work hard, but sometimes working hard doesn’t mean going to a job every day from 9-5…it means staying home and taking care of your babies.
She told me once, “One of my most important roles in life is as a mom”
She LOVED Miggy with her whole heart, along with her sweet baby girls. Ashley told Danielle once in college that she didn’t really care about her Health Science degree, she didn’t want a fancy career…all she really wanted in life was to be a wife and mother.
And she built a beautiful family.
She loved her parents, Richard and Jaynie, she loved going on hikes with them, Miggy, and the girls. She loved hiking Crystal Cove, whale watching on the Puget Sound. She cried watching the whales on the last trip because they were in her words, “The most beautiful creatures on this earth.”
Before she passed, Ashley shared with Jaynie that she regretted not having the privilege to take care of her parents as they aged.
Ashley said, “Mom, I’m so sorry I won’t be there to take care of you and dad. It would’ve been an honour and privilege to take care of you. And I would’ve been really good at it.”
Don’t worry, Richard and Jaynie, we’ll all take care of you.
When I visited her a couple days before she passed, she was a bit tired. She seemed to drift to sleep. Miguel came into the room and her eyes lit up. He sang this song Happy Ending by Mika and hit all the high notes just to make her laugh. It was the most beautiful moment.
Just as she entrusted us to take care of her. Now she is entrusting us to take care of her girls, her parents, Miguel, and of each other.
She knew the power of her love and used it for good. She, with her mastermind of ways, brought us all back together so that we can hold each other up.
As Molly said, for us, being around you was always a special kind of magic.
Ashley we love you. Thank you for teaching us that life is short and to live it well every day. Thank you for making us better, for showing us how to love and how to honour others more than ourselves. You were an extraordinary person and we are privileged to have lived next to you.