Ali was probably wearing one of her over sized sweatshirts (as we all did in those days:), with her beautiful straight blond hair flowing behind her, that first time I met her. We were going into 6th grade, I think, and I remember liking her from the start. She was happy, had a fun laugh that made you laugh right along with her, and beautiful eyes that always seemed to be smiling while they sparkled. Throughout the years, we sang in choirs together, went to church together, took math, English and history together, ran together, and laughed and talked together about funny things at school, our friends, and yes, even boys. Everyone who knew Ali, liked being around her. She, in turn, seemed to like everyone too.
The summer before our senior year at Rogers High School, Craig let Ali and I work at American Linen, where he had a senior position. Since we often worked different shifts, we'd leave each other love notes on yellow lined paper before or after most shifts. It was such a fun time and I treasure all our funny notes to each other. She seemed to always be full of so much happiness, love and good times. Though I kept it to myself, I often felt that I wanted to be like her.
Ali's sealing to Jeremy Van Gieson in the Seattle, Washington Temple was the first that I ever attended. While there, I had a powerful witness that what she was doing was not only beautiful, but wonderfully right and the goal I should always maintain. Since my mission, I have seen Ali off and on as her family increased from two to five. As a mother, Ali always impressed me, especially because she seemed to continue to maintain that happy laugh and smile despite craziness :) and ups and downs. Yes, I'm aware she wasn't perfect, but she was so good.
Ali and I attended our high school reunion a few months ago. On our way home, we both had parents ask us to pick something up from the store, so what did we do? We caravaned to good ol' Top Foods, and ran through the store looking for the goods. It was a simple thing, but I am now so grateful for the mercy given to me; one more fun time with her, talking and laughing about the many adventures we've experienced.
Craig is Ali's dad. In many ways, he represents what a good father and husband should be like. Since I first met the Walther family, I remember Craig referring to his wife, Kathy, in church or in conversation, as his better half, as the reason he was who he was at that point. Throughout the years, he continued to praise Kathy and as I listened to him, I made a silent promise to myself that I wanted to find someone who respected women and would view me in that way too.
The Walther house is visible from the windows in the Castleton house :). On many afternoons, I would look out and see Craig and Ali practicing volleyball hits and serves on their lawn. Ali told me once that she knew she could talk to her dad about anything and that she felt he always loved her. Once again, I hoped I would find someone who would be that way for my girls someday.
I still remember coming to my family ward for church one Sunday while I was studying at Pacific Lutheran University. As I ran into Craig and stuck out my hand to give him a shake, he said something like, "Ah, Becky, you don't have to keep giving me handshakes - you're like my daughter. You have to give me hugs from now on!" And, I always did. Everytime I came home, I looked forward to running into Craig, giving him a hug and catching up on life for a moment. It was always very obvious to me how much he cared about me and about all of us "kids"...friends of his kids.
As I have thought about honoring Ali and Craig, I have decided to try and reach out a little more, be a better friend, smile a little more, and laugh a little truer. Ali and Craig did that for me; they lifted me and their memory continues to lift me still. I miss them both, but because they loved me and because I love them, I will be a better person to the rest of my siblings on this earth. Thank you to both of you.