Standing in front of extended family and friends, 19-year-old Liam Mildenstein began to read aloud his missionary assignment for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Mildenstein was excited. He was hoping “with all his heart” that it would be Japan, his immediate family said. They had driven from Miami to Provo for a vacation when his missionary “call” arrived, and everyone gathered around for the moment.
But just after Mildenstein read where he was ultimately called to serve — Tokyo — he collapsed backward onto the floor.
Medical personnel were called immediately, but Liam never regained his pulse. He was pronounced dead about an hour later, family said.
Liam’s older brother Kaelten Mildenstein said Liam had no known health conditions and didn’t have medical issues growing up. The family is awaiting an autopsy report.
“There were no signs of anything leading up to the day either,” Kaelten said in a text message. “It was such a shock that it feels unreal. It was truly an unexplainable tragedy.”
The family created a GoFundMe campaign Wednesday to help cover Liam Mildenstein’s “completely unexpected” funeral expenses. As of Thursday afternoon, more than $29,000 had been donated, nearing its $30,000 goal.
“We are devastated,” the campaign’s description, signed by Liam’s immediate family, states. “All of this is completely surreal, and being far from home creates so many difficult circumstances.”
Kaelten said Liam was the “sweetest and most selfless person” he’s ever known.
“He talked about nothing but his mission for the past year,” the brother added. “It was his dream since he was young to serve his mission in Tokyo, Japan.”