By Lane Stilson
SALEM ? Nearly 800 people gathered at a memorial service Saturday morning to pay tribute to missing 12-year-old Garrett Bardsley.
At the service, Kevin Bardsley, Garrett?s father, said his family has been praying for a miracle since his son?s disappearance in the Uinta Mountains three months ago. Though Garrett hasn?t been found, Bardsley said the family?s prayer for a miracle has been answered.
?Finding Garrett ? that?s what we thought was the miracle,? Bardsley said. ?But the miracle was really the lives that have been touched, the people who have been healed and the things that have changed people?s lives. We oftentimes go searching for the big miracles and we miss the little ones.?
Garrett went missing while on a Boy Scout campout last August. He left his father and scout troop to return to camp to change his wet socks, but he was never seen again. Garrett?s disappearance prompted a massive search and rescue effort that lasted nine days, but inclement weather forced an end to the search.
Even after the search had ended, family and friends showed their love and support for the family in many ways. Community members tied blue ribbons ? Garrett?s favorite color ? in their front yards. Spanish Fork Junior High School students raised nearly $17,000 for a school in Ecuador that will be named in honor of Garrett. A local young women?s group even gave the family a thousand paper crane origamis, which can make wishes come true, according to a Japanese belief.
Dean Egbert, president of The Church of Jesus Christ?s Salem Stake, said the tragedy changed many people for the better.
?Garrett has literally touched the hearts of thousands,? he said. ?We?re a little kinder, a little more empathetic, a little less preoccupied with ourselves and a little more concerned about each other. We?re closer to being the people we should be. Remarkable that one young boy should have such an effect on us all.?
Elder Richard H. Winkel, member of the Second Quorum of the Seventy and Elder Charles W. Dahlquist, general president of the Young Men?s organization, also participated in the service, speaking on behalf of the church. Elder Winkel read a letter from the First Presidency of the church, which expressed sympathy for the family?s loss and reassurance that Garrett has returned to his father in heaven.
?It meant a lot that so many people would take time to remember Garrett,? said Heidi Bardsley, Garrett?s mother. ?It didn?t bring closure, but it brought a lot of peace to us to hear the words from Kevin and the Prophet and also the music. It just meant a lot to bring that peace to us.?
Occasional search efforts will be carried out during the winter months by search and rescue teams, but the Bardsley family will resume the volunteer search in full force next spring.
?We know where Garrett is,? Kevin said. ?He?s with his Heavenly Father. All we?re looking for is his remains so we can have complete closure.?