Juliann’s husband, Andrew, had been one of the 19 firefighters killed Sunday, June 30th, as he fought a fast-moving wildfire near Yarnell, Arizona. Though the news was devastating to her and their four young children, she received peace when a message that she believes was sent from her husband and from God came to her in the form of a charred, rubber bracelet: ‘Be Good.’
After officers returned salvageable personal effects to the 19 firefighters’ families, Juliann received Andrew’s belongings. “There weren’t a lot of things that came back intact,” she said. “The damage was pretty catastrophic. Everything was charred and melted — his pocket knife, his compass. They couldn’t even find his watch.”
But besides his pocket knife and compass was his rubber wristband–formerly white, now yellowed and singed, but still recognizable to Juliann.
Six months earlier, Andrew had been in charge of their Family Home Evening–a Church practice where families gather weekly to strengthen faith and family bonds through scripture study, games, treats and prayer. Juliann recalled how Andrew’s lesson was aimed at their young children, ages 6 and under, to be good so that they could be a family forever. As part of the lesson, Andrew got everyone white, rubber wristbands to remind them all to “be good.” From then on the family called them their “Be Good bracelets.”
“The kids and I wore ours for a few days, but then we took them off and only wore them once in a while,” Juliann recalled. “But Andrew promised me that he would wear his until it fell off his wrist–because it was so worn out–or until the day he died. To him, it was a symbol of his commitment to me and to our family and that it was forever. So he wore it all the time, and he told me he looked at it a lot. It reminded him of us, and it made him want to be a better man.”
While Juliann had no expectation that the bracelet would survive the fire, she was overwhelmed by what she knew was a gift from God.
“It was a miracle that it survived the heat and flames,” she said. “I just see it as a tender mercy from Heavenly Father. Andrew made me a promise, and he kept it. And God wanted us to know that he kept it.”
Juliann spoke of her husband as a “good man” who always made good choices, even before he joined our faith.
Due to his strong Christian upbringing, Andrew kept his standards even when on tour with his rock band after high school. As other band members would go do things rock band members stereotypically do, Andrew always declined saying, “It’s just my personal choice.”
“So ‘Choice’ became his nickname,” Juliann said. “Everyone who knew him in those days called him ‘Choice’ because that’s what he was all about.”
Juliann was always impressed by Andrew’s good choices ever since middle school when they met. They dated on an off throughout the years until their marriage in July 2006.
Although LDS missionaries were frequent visitors in their home, Andrew was not interested in our faith until he saw a video about Joseph Smith.
“Something clicked for him that night,” Juliann said. “I don’t know why, but everything just sort of fell into place for him. That night before going to bed he told me he wanted to be baptized. I didn’t really respond–I was afraid he didn’t mean it. But the next morning he said, ‘Yeah, I’m serious.’ ”
Since joining our faith, Andrew has been as active in our Church as his job would allow. Together with their two oldest children, Ryder and Shiloh, they were sealed in the Mesa Arizona Temple in 2009. “Andrew cried more than anyone else in the room that day,” Juliann said.
Over the next four years, the family continued to grow spiritually and develop, including the addition of two more sons: Tate and Choice.
The youngest was named after Andrew’s nickname and for the fact that his mother was medically advised to terminate her pregnancy due to physical complications, but made the ‘choice’ to keep him.
Just in the last six months, Andrew became the leader he was always destined to be for his family, Church, and work.
“He would lead us in family home evening and family prayer,” Juliann said. “He would come home and really throw himself into family activities even though I’m sure he wanted to nap because he (had) this really hard, physically demanding job. Andrew represented the Church and our family well.”
Although it has been a difficult time for the family, Juliann said she has not only felt the comfort of other people’s prayers, but also knows she will see her husband again.
“I’ve always been a believer,” she continued, “but . . . going through this, I’ve really had to come to terms with everything I’ve thought and believed. And now that Andrew is gone, I find that I don’t think or hope or believe that I’ll be with him again–I know that I will.”