Chayson Colley may have only been 2 years old, but he knew love, says his family, and had actually learned how to say “Love you” in the last weeks of his life. And he would say it all the time.
Earlier this month, Chayson’s light was extinguished much too soon.
At a funeral service in Elma last Sunday, his mother’s side of his family came together to pay tribute to the boy that had lit up their hearts. More than 300 were in attendance to honor his memory and show support for grandparents Cathy and Troy Colley of McCleary and the boy’s mother, Laura Colley, along with the rest of the family.
Laura’s boyfriend Jake Joseph Musga, 19, has been charged with first degree murder in the boy’s death, which happened early Saturday, March 30, at an apartment complex in Tacoma. He was arraigned and pleaded not guilty in Pierce County last week. Bail was set at $2 million. Prosecutor Mark Lindquist calls the situation “horrifying” and pledged to prosecute the crime.
Musga was not the father of the young boy. Chayson’s parents were Laura Colley and Brannon Jones. Other grandparents include Ron and Bobbye Jones and Darlene Linville. There were also aunts Jamie Wilson, Delaney Brogan, and McKen’a Brogan and uncle Chance Brogan; as well as his aunt Leah and uncle Jordan Jensen and uncle Christopher Colley. Leah, Chris and Laura are siblings.
The Jones side of the family had a service at Elma Methodist Church on Sunday, appropriate because they trace their relationship with the church back at least as far as Chayson’s great-grandmother.
“Everybody is grieving but everybody is together,” Cathy Colley said in an interview with The Vidette earlier this week. “We are so happy to have family and friends around. That really has made for such a huge difference because we’ve never had tragedy in our family before, we didn’t know what other people go through.”
The Colleys are relying on their faith in God to get them through this tragic situation.
“It’s like we’re in the eye of a storm and sometimes we step out of that storm and we grieve,” Cathy said. “What I feel like now is that the eye is expanding and I’m bringing people into that eye — my friends — and they’re feeling with me that it’s going to be OK and it is OK. … The truth is this momma loved her baby with all of her heart, that none of us saw any of this coming, none of us saw any red flags. The Jake that we knew was a wonderful man that loves Chayson. We just don’t know what happened.”
Troy is known in the community as a member of the McCleary School Board and as the former director of the Coastal Community Action Program. Cathy is a former Grays Harbor Republican chairwoman, who remains active in local politics and works as a legislative assistant in the state House of Representatives.
Cathy said just about everybody in the family is on autopilot right now, “Sometimes, I have to say, ‘I can do this. And I need to do this. I need to be strong.’”
On Monday, she says she spent most of the day in bed. It’s just something she needed to do, she said. She’s been reflecting a lot on the memorial service last Sunday, about all of the friends and family that have gathered around to support her.
“Those were people we all knew and loved,” Cathy says. “Everybody there, one of us knew. And they were there because they loved us and their hearts were broken, too. We’ve also had some intense periods of grief that we never even knew was possible. You don’t know you can grieve until you go through something that is senseless and tragic. I have grieved like I have never grieved before. It hasn’t all been happy and joyous. But, truly, we celebrated his life.”
The family posted a video of Chayson on YouTube, viewable here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XF6qmKH22lk. And Troy wrote a biography of the young boy’s life.
“Chayson was so loved by his family, who were blessed by him every minute of his two-plus-year life,” he wrote. “Chayson loved being with his parents, his grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. His favorite TV show was the Mickey Mouse Club. He would stand and dance to the ‘Hot Diggity Dog Song.’ He loved riding on his push cars, playing with his toys and all of his cell phones and every laptop and tablet he could get his hands on. …
“He loved chasing and being chased. He disliked bedtime because that was just not how he rolled,” Troy wrote. “Like all boys, Chayson loved going outside, throwing rocks and running through puddles.”
At this point, Cathy says what the family misses the most is the sound of Chayson’s laughter.
“Chayson’s laugh made everyone around him laugh, especially his mother,” Troy says. “He was a happy spirit with a full bellied laugh when he really got going. He would talk and talk and talk, though no one was really sure what he was saying.”
“I can’t help but keep thinking of him laughing and rolling,” Cathy says. “We have dreams and visions of wonderful things we’re going to do in his name and his honor to make a difference for years to come. We will find projects and things to do to bless people in years to come.”
The family is currently accepting donations at an account set up at Our Community Credit Union.
At the Colley service on Sunday, Pastor Mike Mueller of Abundant Life Church said that as he was watching videos of Chayson running around, “I had no problem seeing Chayson run into the arms of Jesus. Heaven belongs to the children, but us old people get to go, too. Jesus loves little children. You have to understand we were made in God’s image. That’s why we all think kids are so cute, because He does.”
Mueller told the Colleys that everyone was there to help them in every way possible.
Laura Colley wrote and read what she characterized as a letter to her son in heaven.
“To my beloved son, Chayson, my favorite part of the day was at the end of the day when we were both so tired and we would lay together with your hand in mine and you would look up at me and smile and grab my face with both your hands and kiss me,” she wrote. “And you would say, ‘Love you!’ and I’d say it back. It felt so good to be loved by you. You were my every reason for being. No matter how long, bad or rough the day was, when I would hear you laugh, everything became good again. It was true bliss being with you. My heart will ache every day until we are together again.”
And his Aunt Leah said that she would “miss your hugs and kisses the most and holding you in my arms and … I will miss the days where you wear me out so much that I was looking forward to nap time for both of us.”
Quoting from his favorite book, she read, “I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always, as long as I’m living, my baby you’ll be.”
Cathy says she has cried like she didn’t know she could cry. And she has held other people’s babies for as long as they’ll let her.
“The greatest thing on earth the other day for me was to hold someone else’s grandbaby on my lap for an hour,” Cathy says. “So we’re all going to hug our babies more and love them and cherish every minute that we have with them.”
She says her favorite memory was her last moment she remembers with her grandson, when they were sleeping together on her daughter’s Queen-sized bed.
“And he puts his little hands on my face, draws me close, and kisses me,” she says.
“That’s one of my best memories of all and he says ‘luv you’ and then he grabbed my hand. … Evil is real and God is good. And when you see the most evil vile thing on this earth, God can overcome it. Do not be overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good. God can mend a broken heart and I am confident that Chayson is happy and safe and we are going to see him again in heaven.”