After Jayden’s death, Conover decided to do it all for Halloween because it was his son’s favorite holiday. She bought new decorations for her yard, stocked up on candy, and handed out glow sticks to help light the way for cheaters in her neighborhood of Layton, Utah.
But 2020 has exhausted her. She said she couldn’t afford to decorate.
In addition to the coronavirus pandemic, a powerful windstorm uprooted trees in his yard last month, ripping shingles from his roof and part of the siding of his house. The damage cost over $ 4,000 to repair.
“I looked at my messy yard and decided I wasn’t going to decorate for Halloween this year,” she says. “I just didn’t feel it – I was mentally exhausted.
In early October, Conover said, she informed a few friends in her neighborhood about her decision to skip Halloween.
But the neighbors didn’t have it.
“Pretty soon people showed up on my porch and said, ‘Absolutely not – you have to decorate this year, and we’ll help you,’” Conover said.
Several neighbors helped clean up his yard. Then the decoration began.
“People started to take the decorations out of my shed and put them up,” she says.
“They said to me, ‘You’ve given Halloween a whole new meaning – it’s not just about the candy, it’s about protecting the kids,” Conover added.
His neighbors told him they couldn’t imagine Halloween without Conover’s spooky decorations and the distribution of glow sticks to help kids stand out when handling. His neighbors also decorate their homes in memory of Jayden.
“What Crystal is doing is so important – there’s no way we can let this Halloween be forgotten,” said Jada Bradley, 55, one of the neighbors who rallied everyone in Conover’s dead end to decorate Conover’s house and other houses on the street. .
“We wanted her to know we were all on board and wanted to do it all,” said Tina Peterson, 50, who lives next door and helps coordinate safe coronavirus stuff or treatments in the neighborhood. .
“Halloween is an emotional time for Crystal,” Peterson added. “But what she does every year is a good thing.”
It was 2011 when Conover, then a mother of five, said goodbye to Jayden and sent him to spend Halloween with his father in the nearby town of Uintah, she said.
Later that night, she received a terrible phone call:
Jayden was walking down a dark street with his father while he was doing tricks or treats when the seventh grader was hit by a conductor. Jayden was on life support for about three weeks before he died on Thanksgiving Day.
“My heart was completely broken. Without my other children, I probably would never have celebrated another party, ”she said. “I’m not going to coat it with sugar – I’ve lost my mind. The grief and anger were overwhelming.
Nearly two years had passed, and as Halloween approached, Conover felt deep grief and loss. A close friend of her urged her to do something positive to remember Jayden, something to counter some of her desperation.
“We thought, ‘How can we prevent another tragedy like this from happening again in the future?’ Said Conover. “Because so many of the costumes are dark and the kids are on streets that aren’t always well-lit, we came up with the idea of handing out a glow stick to every cheater.”
On Halloween night in 2013, Conover purchased several hundred glow sticks and named his project “Help Jayden Light the Way”.
“Jayden was a prankster who loved to play pranks and scare everyone on Halloween,” she said. “So we also decided to get ourselves a new decoration every year that he would have liked.”
This year, after placing a banner outside his house on “Light the Way,” Conover had a chance encounter with a former firefighter. He was the first to arrive at the scene of his son’s accident nine years ago.
Lewis Weaver, now a real estate agent, was walking through his neighborhood last week with his two children when he noticed all the decorations and the sign relating to Jayden, he said.
“He immediately clicked and I thought, ‘Oh my God. I found it that night, ”he said.
Weaver arranged to meet with Conover. The moment she saw him, she burst into tears.
“I gave him a hug with everything I had,” Conover said. “This man was the last person to see my son with any life in him. He really understood my nightmare. Meeting him has been the most incredible gift I could have received this year.
When he learned of Conover’s annual campaign to distribute glow sticks, Weaver said he decided to do the same in his neighborhood. He also took his children to buy another clown to add to the decorations at Conover’s yard.
“When I was a firefighter, I made over 7,000 medical calls,” he says. “A call like the one I got that night about Jayden is a call you will never forget.”
Conover said she was grateful for Weaver and for the continued kindness of her neighbors. People sometimes forget, she says, that grief can last a lifetime.
“The race was tough, but I found hope with their help,” she said. “If we can light the way and save the life of just one child this Halloween, I know Jayden would be happy.”