COLORADO SPRINGS — Daniel Davis Aston noticed the tiny flowers growing on the side of the trail.
He pondered the clouds in the sky and saw how the wind moved out of a valley and across prairie grass. He was a sensitive poet, a deep listener, a devoted uncle, a natural protector, a romantic, a loving son and a total original, his family and friends said at his funeral Wednesday.
He was one of those rare, radiant people brave enough to be vulnerable with everyone, again and again.
“My hope for the future is to be completely accepted as myself,” Aston said in a 2017 video interview played during the service at Colorado College’s Shove Memorial Chapel.
He was accepted, his family and friends said. And so loved.
“He was so fun,” his sister-in-law Kate Tiger said. “And just the right amount of mischievous.”
Aston, 28, was killed when a gunman opened fire just before midnight Nov. 19 inside Club Q, the longstanding nightclub central to Colorado Springs’ LGBTQ community where he worked as a bartender.
Four others were also killed: Kelly Loving, 40; Ashley Paugh, 35; Derrick Rump, 38; and Raymond Green Vance, 22. Seventeen people were shot and injured in the mass shooting, the second in Colorado Springs in seven years.
“We should not be here today,” said Clifton Turner, the pastor who officiated the service.
Photos at Aston’s funeral showed him as a newborn in his parents’ arms. His family described him as a natural performer, even as a kid. Photos showed him dressed as a skeleton in full facepaint and as a werewolf — baring his teeth and curling his small fingers into claws. As an adult, he favored 1980s hair-band costumes.
When Tiger had a kidney stone, it was teenage Aston whom she called to watch her young kids. He was never too busy to spend an hour looking at Pokemon cards with his nephew or to discuss the intricacies of Harry Potter or Dungeons and Dragons.
“I just wish that my kids had more time with him,” she said.
Aston was Wyatt Kent’s movie-watching partner, hiking buddy and boyfriend. Aston always noticed the small beautiful details when the two hiked in the hills around Colorado Springs, Kent said.
“One thing I learned from him, and I want you all to learn from him: Never stop looking at the small flowers,” Kent said at the funeral.
Aston loved the Walt Whitman quote: “We contain multitudes,” Kent said. Kent loves the Joni Mitchell lyric, “Enter the multitudes.”
When they would meet at Club Q — their second home — they’d take a shot of Fireball whiskey and toast the multitudes, the known and unknown.
“The plan was to be life partners,” Kent said.
Family members urged mourners to act in love in honor of Aston’s life, but to also confront people who speak hatefully.
“This moment in life will make us harder or it will make us softer,” Turner said.
One of Aston’s poems read aloud at the service exemplified how he lived with his heart wide open, Tiger said.
“I may always be a lover poem/But that is just the way these things go,” the poem reads. “I am soft and I will always be soft/This world will never tame me/This world will never make me hard.”
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