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Weekly Gatherings Help Family Heal After Tragedy

When Latter-day Saint couple John and Rangi Williams lost one of their great-grandchildren in a tragic accident, it was a weekly tradition of gathering as a family that became an important part of the grieving and healing process.

Kingston Mauheni Shelford was just 18 months old when he died in accidental circumstances on 22 August 2011 in Gisborne.

Rangi says that following Kingston’s death their family began to have ‘family home evenings’ (a common practice among Mormons) more often, and still continue to do so.

They involve the whole extended family and are held at different homes on a rotating basis.

John and Rangi live in Opotiki, New Zealand, and have four adult children with their own families.

Three of their children live in the area while the fourth lives in Hastings. The family from Hastings also participates when possible.

The couple have 17 mokopuna (grandchildren) and  two mokopuna tuarua (great-grandchildren) living. 

“Family members began to appreciate how precious life is and Kingston’s parents, who are not Church members, acknowledged the support from the family and that family home evenings have helped them cope with the loss of their son,” she said.

“Sports has always been ‘our thing’ in our family,” said Rangi. “Our children are all very competitive.”

One of their children is Exia Shelford who played for the Black Ferns New Zealand womens’ rugby team for eight years. Rangi is a sister to 1980’s All Black flanker, Frank Shelford, and aunty to All Black No 8, Buck Shelford.

“For our home evening activities we decided to have sports activities. We have a 10-week competition of different sports. We have had basketball, netball, volleyball and indoor hockey. We have a rule that the teams have to include at least one primary-age child. Including the little ones helps them to have good hand-eye coordination and they develop good ball skills.”

“The cost of prizes was getting a bit expensive,” she said, “so my husband and I came up with the idea to have a trophy that would be a living trophy that would move around with each competition.”

It depicts the couple’s combined ancestral heritage from Whakatohea, Whanau-i-Apanui, Ngapuhi and Tairawhiti and also the two awa (rivers) of Opotiki , the Waioweka and Otara.

“We named the trophy after our mokopuna, the Kingston Memorial Trophy, and it will be a legacy that John and I will leave for our children and our descendants. 

We hope that it will continue to bring unity to our family.”

Mormon Newsroom states that “Since 1915, the family home evening program, established by Church leadership, has encouraged Latter-day Saint parents to build and strengthen family relationships. Today, ‘family home evenings’ are generally held weekly on Monday nights.”

Read more about family home evening, and Latter-day Saints’ beliefs regarding families.

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