2 Weeks + Saying Goodbye

Two weeks ago today our sweet Everett went to be with Jesus.  And if I’m truthful I actually think he even went before that.  I’ve been running those 40 something minutes through my head while I watched his team administer CPR and compressions and get his small body hooked up to life support and I can’t help but think a kind angel swooped in and took him off to be with Jesus then.  Losing Everett has been massively different than losing Mom and in my head I had tried convincing myself I’d be more prepared if something did happen to Everett and yet here I am a freakin’ mess and feeling absolutely blindsided by most everything as we move through each day.  So many things catch my breath and send me into a full on body shaking sob that instantly creates a pounding ache in my head.  From the first load of laundry that contained none of his clothes to only receiving 5 suckers instead of 6 in the bank drive through to Harper sleeping in his bed instead of him.  Every day I could write up a long list of these things which feel just so incredibly wrong and unnatural about our life now.

And then there are a few things I’ve found so far which feel the same.  Grief is a sleep snatcher and not just for me now.  Amon, our littlest and Hudson all wake up in the middle of the night feeling the loss of their brother and Harper can’t get to sleep…her mind won’t quit and she always finds herself in her loss and sadness ending with a hard cry and snuggle from Josh Kelley or myself.  Amon wakes up multiple times a night crying for Everett or his FuShuai.  I’m not sure how long this will last, but besides being emotionally exhausted we are all physically exhausted too.

Time seems to stand still.  Two weeks feels like two days.  At the end of Everett’s celebration of life service/party late Saturday night I sobbed in the parking lot as the last of our friends and family loaded up in their cars and drove away because I knew what this represented…tomorrow everyone’s lives march on and our grief really begins.  It’s an extremely hard pill to swallow and everyday you battle anger and hurt from the world because they don’t sit in your standstill grief with you.  Everyone else’s lives march on while you stay in the same suck ass grief place.  And I know this is how it is suppose to be…no one’s lives should stop for us…that’s normal life…other’s should carry on, but it doesn’t make it hurt any less.  So it’s a constant head and heart game to try and not get pissed off about things like text messages about Disney World or up and coming parties when all you can think about is how your sweet son won’t be at any of those things and you really don’t want to do any of them without him…you just want your boy back.

(Josh channeling his inner Shuai)

Friday we held Everett’s visitation.  We talked and met with so many sweet people who just lifted us up and encouraged us.  It was important to us for those who never actually got to meet Everett that they would walk away knowing him a little better.  Josh Kelley’s only request was for all of our videos to run of Everett so he got all the videos lined up on our computer and ready to go.  We ran about 35 minutes of Everett videos on repeat on the big screen in the sanctuary.  I’m the photo person so I wanted tons of photos of our boy.  We filled the entryway of the church with 250 balloons and attached a photo to each.  We had fun garland around the welcome center so as balloons started to come down over the 6 our visitation we could just clip the photos to the garland for display.  We didn’t want it to appear as a sad funeral…the tiny casket accomplished that all on it’s own…so we hung colorful buntings and garlands and a Happy Birthday banner and set up a candy bar and had tons of big white balloons filled with confetti.  Sweet Everett deserved a celebration.  At the end of Friday night we gathered every last balloon and headed out the back door of the church.  We stood with so many people we love and care for and who have loved and cared for us in our darkest of days and released every last balloon.  I cried and smiled simultaneously as I watched kids and adults alike laugh and watch in wonder.

Saturday morning Josh, his brother Andy and myself headed to the cemetery to decorate.  Everett was buried in the shade of a big tree and I knew exactly what I wanted this sacred moment of burying our son to look like.  We had purchased paper lanterns in China with Everett so those we’re a must.  Harper, Hudson, Solomon and my niece Meiya had cut out one bazillion hearts from old books and hymnals and those we’re a must as well.  I wanted a little representation of him wrapped around the tree trunk too.

Our incredible photographer and friend Cheyenne reached out to me and asked to be apart of our day along with her camera.  Cheyenne also captured our family just a few days before we left for Michigan.  She is a light and a gift.  I could never express our deepest of gratitude for the way she has loved and served our family.

At 10 that morning we gathered with our family under the big shade tree.  My SIL Becky had shared with me that traditional funeral flowers from Everett’s province we’re chrysanthemums and daisies of yellow and white representing celebratory life so those adorned his tiny casket.  Our friends Aubrey and Jen led us in worship and our friend Jim talked about Jesus and children.  Josh led us in a prayer and spoke of God’s goodness.  We gave out red Chinese envelopes to family in the days before Everett’s burial for them to write something if they chose to and at the burial they placed them on Everett’s casket as it was lowered into the ground.

Afterwards our funeral home all on their own had purchased a ton of balloons of all colors with number 4’s on them along with a colorful donkey piñata filled with candy since it was Everett’s birthday that day.  I love when people do what they do so well and we felt so loved and cared for by Forest Lawn Funeral Home.  They made a shit situation better and we surely felt the love and care from every single person we worked with there.  Melena and Rick led the way and we just felt incredibly loved by them.  Then we let everyone take flowers from Everett’s pall flowers.  I didn’t like thinking about all those beautiful flowers dying so we picked it apart and everyone took home a beautiful boquet of flowers in white and yellow.

That Saturday night we held a service and party to celebrate Everett’s life and his 4th birthday.  I did all of 3 things for the party…1) Shared my vision of what I saw the night looking like with Marcie and Susan.  2) I gathered important items and bought some things mostly online and handed it all over to them.  And 3) I dumped a bag of candy in a bowl and that was my food contribution.  Marcie & Nick, Susan, Melody, Brea & Jonathan, Brooke, Chelsea, Alissa, Jessica and so many other’s showed up just killed it.  When I got to the party all I could think was “This is going to be a really special time.”  It was exactly as I had envisioned and even more.  I started to cry as I saw all these people coming and bringing food and helping and putting drinks in tubs and dumping bags of ice and and and.  I caught Marcie’s eye and we cried and hugged…she was thinking the same thing…how special is the body of Christ when we choose to rally around…to unify…to come together in love rather than divide.

The service was incredibly special to us.  Jonathan opened us in a few words and prayer.  Jen and Aubrey led us in more worship.  Andy spoke about our boy and the deep meanings of his names and his life.  When we asked Andy to speak that’s all we asked.  We gave him no rules or agenda because we knew the deep love Andy held for Shuai and it shined so bright that night.  Then Josh and myself both shared some and Josh’s dad closed us out in a few words and prayer.  I loved how a slew of children mulled around and moved about coming in and out all during the service.  It was just as it should have been.  Our only kiddo who made it through the service was Hudson.  He hung on every word.  Our kiddos are all processing too so it was important to us to just let them be.  Some of them left early on, Harper got up when Josh Kelley started crying while speaking, our littlest sat in my lap almost the entire time holding my face or wiping my tears or saying things like “We all miss our Everett” or “I need food now” or “I need to go potty now.” 🙂  We just let them do what they needed to do.

Then we partied.  There was TONS of good food and desserts and jump houses and bubbles and sidewalk chalk and laughter and conversation and sparklers and so many people we hold dear and so many new faces we just met.  We all held a common thread…Everett.  Despite my own feelings of loss and sadness, I do know Everett’s life mattered deeply and God used and is using him still for His glory.  I cannot and will not argue with that ever.  Our goal was to bring people together to celebrate and lift God high and I really feel like that was exactly what happened.  The whole day felt special and holy.  I know we felt honored and humbled to be a part of it and to be loved on by so many.

And now we’re here.  We’re taking one day at a time and everyone is processing differently trying to find ourselves in our unwanted new normal.  Thank you deeply again and again for the way you have surrounded Everett and our family with love and prayer and encouragement.  We are just insanely grateful.

**If you have not had a chance to give in honor of Everett to Morning Star’s Love Project and would like to…there’s still time.  Just call or go by a local Pinnacle bank under Josh & Laura Kelley or you can donate directly online HERE.  They have some amazing prints available for your donation as well or at the bottom right hand side of the site you can make a donation of any amount.**


  1. The picture of the balloons in the “Kroger” sky — they form the shape of a heart! Our God does not miss even the smallest detail. Your love sent heavenward to Everett and God’s gentle breezes forming the heart to tell you, “I’m here, I have him, and I have you.”

  2. Cheryl Stone says:

    Thank you for living your life with all of us – you could choose to hide your grief, to hold Everett all to yourself and not share his life with anyone. Yet, you choose life. That is as it should be – as God intends. Even the worst parts of life are to be shared.

    I remain so sorry for your grief – it truly isn’t ours to understand, but to hold each other up throughout it all.

  3. Laura, For those of us not in your family it is true that our lives carry on now in a different way than yours. But as we return to our normal we continue to lift you up in love and much prayer. You are not alone. Hugs and prayers, Mary

  4. You celebrate his life so beautifully! And I know you will carry on his legacy of joy and a life of BRIGHT color, just as you carry on your mom’s legacy of kindness and baked goods. I will continue to pray for you all.

  5. Your love and journey with bringing Everett home and celebrating him as he joined your family and his loss have touched my heart so profoundly. I cried and prayed more for this precious little boy I never met but felt that I knew intimately than many people I have known and lost. He was and is so special and he served God and you do so sweetly in his short life. I so wish he would be here to welcome Tai soon but he made that happen as did you allowing God to work through you to reach out to Brooke. I continue to pray for you and your precious family and want you to know that you are loved. You and josh are amazing parents and I wish you peace in your grief and healing. ❤️

  6. You are so incredibly strong. Your family and Everett’s life and story and your testimony is touching the lives of many you’ve never even met. We are praying you through this grief and think of you all often.

  7. Susan brewer says:

    The love that your family always showers on others came back to you last weekend during the celebrations! I am in tears as I read this because your story has touched me so profoundly. Continued prayers for your sweet family.

  8. Andrew Marsh says:

    Hi there. Thank you for your kind, oh so brave retelling is the events of Everett’s life and passing to Glorious Glory. Is there any chance that the tees, with Everett’s piñata on, might be for sale? I’m 66 but it would give me a chance to stand with you and to talk about Everett, when asked why an old crony like me’s wearing such a bright, beautiful, life-filled top. Thank you. God will keep you all.

  9. Continuing to pray for your family.

  10. Praying for you still. I was loving on some real donkeys ,wee ones on Saturday morning thinking of Everett and his sweet donkey. I will still continue to pray Everett may have only been here 4 years on earth but left a HUGE footprint. I have still people praying for you all that now know his story to share Some who traveled to be there Saturday because he is in all our lives now. Thank you for the selfless gift of sharing someone so precious and teaching us how to love, pray, and give without ever knowing who we pray for at the time. You all have special close friends and now so many world wide that cry with you and rejoice in faith for Everett who I am sure was dancing with the angels that day. I can not take your pain I can only hope if finds a place to rest and give you hope. No parent ever gets over losing a child because we aren’t suppose to do that. I pray that beginning of school gives your children focus and teachers are tune to their needs. Love you

  11. I am so so sorry that you all are going through this. It is something no one should have to experience. Lifting you all up in prayer daily. I also wanted to highly recommend hospice services for kids. I know where I live they are truly an amazing gift and resource for kids experiencing grief in our area.

  12. Cara Crisostomo says:

    I cried the entire time I read this just feeling a tiny glimpse of the weight of the grief that you are all individually feeling in your own ways.
    You gave Everett such a beautiful sendoff, and one that I know none of you will ever forget or ever have any regrets about — it is just so perfect of a way to say goodbye and see you later to your sweet boy.
    I am just so sorry, Laura. This situation is a shit situation as you said. It’s not supposed to be this way, it’s truly not, and I’m so sad for all of you that you are dealing with this horrendous grief and loss and pain.
    My heart is with you all and will continue to be…

  13. Laura, Thank you for sharing these days with those of us who could not be there but desperately wished to be. Continuing to pray that God carries you through this grief and that you feel fully loved by Him. So many are moved by Everett’s life and death. We are mourning with you.

  14. What a beautiful way to honor your boy and your family! I know that you and Everett have touched so many lives and provided inspiration, love, and hope. Thinking of you all each day as you walk this new journey.

  15. Laura swanson says:

    God bless you all Laura. Everett’s & your family’s story has greatly touched my heart. ❤️

  16. Thank you for sharing your story, all the parts of it – beauty and love and joy and heartache and sorrow and grief. Praying for God to give each of you grace for each day as you go through your journeys of grief. I love how you shared that you’re allowing each of your littles to process their grief in their own way, and you too. There’s no bottling it up or shoving it down. Your honesty and vulnerability are such an encouragement to me and so many others. Thank you for showing the way through dark valleys of suffering. Psalm 34:8 The Lord is close to the broken hearted. He rescues those whose spirits are crushed.

  17. Elizabeth says:

    Many prayers for you and your family.

Leave A Comment