Ashley Code transformed suffering into a gift of self
“Ashley’s will to fight and her kindness towards others is why we are here today,” said Jefferson Parish President Mike Yenni Sept. 15 at “Ashley Code Day: Pay It Forward,” a memorial service held at St. Ann Church in Metairie to honor a Mount Carmel senior who died on Sept. 1.
At the service, Yenni declared Sept. 15 “Ashley Code Day” and presented her family with a proclamation not only for 2016 but for Sept. 15 – which is Ashley’s birthdate – every year thereafter.
“The message to everybody is to remember Ashley by paying it forward and doing acts of kindness like she did,” Yenni said. “This girl has brought so many young people to pray, and we certainly need that. In the society and the world we live in today, I’m hoping this brings some of our younger, future generation … to prayer and to do acts of kindness so we will have less violence in this world.”
Prayers granted extra time
It was the summer of 2015 when Ashley was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor, said her best friend Madeline Puente, who organized the memorial.
The power of prayer, and the strength of Ashley’s faith and that of her family, were evident during her illness. When she went into a coma in 2015, prayers were sent Ashley’s way by so many, and miraculously, she woke up.
Mount Carmel Sister Camille Anne Campbell, Mount Carmel Academy president, spoke of how Ashley lived a life performing acts of kindness for others.
“Ashley followed the way of Jesus whom she loved greatly,” Sister Camille Anne said. “She was kind. She was gentle. Ashley put herself aside to reach out and help others. She hid the pain that she had when she walked in our school doors. She hid the heartache and the fear that she had deep within a heart full of love that could make it all right for her to function despite how she felt.
“She suffered with Jesus and said so. She said to me once when I greeted her and she was having trouble speaking, and I said, ‘I am so sorry Ashley that this is happening to you.’ And, she said, ‘Jesus suffered, Sister, so it’s OK.’ Ashley converted her suffering into love like the Little Flower (St. Therese), whom she loved, and like Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who said, ‘You don’t have to do great things; just do what you do with love.’
“The Little Flower’s way was known as the little way. And Ashley’s life was the little way, doing what she could do to bring joy and love and peace to others’ lives. Her life was spent doing chosen acts of kindness.
“The girls and family of Mount Carmel Academy will always be different because of our association with this young lady, whom we were supposed to teach and with whom the girls were supposed to learn. But she taught us life lessons that will endure in our hearts and in our souls forever. Ashley paid it forward every day of her life because that’s what good people do. That’s what believers do. That’s what people do who want to make this world a better place. And, Ashley did.”
Students from her schools –Mount Carmel Academy and St. Ann – were asked to follow Ashley’s lead and perform random acts of kindness. At St. Ann, the Men’s Club distributed chocolate chip cookies to all students, and first graders presented principal Susan Kropog with a spiritual bouquet, among other kindnesses.
“It is a good thing for them to learn that this is what we are all about as a community,” Kropog said. “We are here to pay it forward and spread the good news.”
Kropog, like so many others, remembered Ashley’s sweet smile that brightened everyone’s day, her kindness and her being active in student government (that continued at Mount Carmel), Beta Club, the choir and being named altar server of the year.
Continue to pay it forward
Puente spoke lovingly of her friend, calling her “gorgeous, good, genuine, gift, generous and more importantly, God-like, and humble.” But, she said Ashley strengthened her faith by example as someone who never feared outwardly showing her love for Jesus.
“She’s shown me how to be a follower of Christ in today’s world and to proclaim it proudly,” Puente said. “She teaches me that, through Christ, all things are possible and that God is always here to help us and help lighten up our load. She’s awakened myself and so many others to Christ.”
Puente asked everyone at the service “to impact someone’s life the way Ashley was able to do and is still doing today. Just be selfless and pay it forward. Ashley will forever live on in all of us due to her good deeds.”
Local Bourbon Street musician Richard “Piano” Scott, a member of the Dukes of Dixieland, performed on piano a medley of Ashley’s favorite songs – including many Disney tunes – in her honor and as nod to her piano-playing abilities.
At the end of the service, car magnets were given out to attendees and others are available to purchase. Any money raised from the magnets will go to the Tumor Initiative. To get one, call St. Ann Parish at 455-7071.
“For those of us who knew and loved her, let us pay it forward for Ashley every day we can,” Yenni said. “Death has done all that death can do, and as Ashley Marie Code goes on her way, we are left with the joyful acts that she shared in such a short time, and the comfort of knowing she watches over us every day.”