Christmas Things I Hope To Remember

This Christmas wasn’t what any of us had dreamed or wanted.  It was sad and hard and honestly all of us…even the kids…we’re glad when it was all over with.  Now we’re just trying to survive winter break and deal with all the feelings about 2018 being right around the corner.  There are some things I hope I never forget about this holiday season.

*The love among the desperate feelings of loss.  Our family is who we are right now and love jankly still swirls around amongst pain and sadness and our messiness.  And the pain.  I hope every Christmas and holiday I remember how I felt this year.  I hope it births empathy and compassion that remains at the forefront of my mind and heart always, but especially when these seasons where joy is suppose to reign and the sorrowful are often forgotten.  I hope the pain always stays in a way that changes our family for the better.

*Josh Kelley carrying Hudson’s giant sleeping boy man body upstairs.  Our kiddos are so tired from sadness and exhaustion.  We are constantly caught in this “Let’s go do something to get our minds off missing Everett” to “Let’s go home.  This is too sad.  We miss Everett.”  Throw in lack of sleep and grief has taken quite the physical toll on all our bodies.  My kids have always been good sleepers, but these past 5 months have been a doozy.

*Our advent activities which reminded all of us of Everett.  What I loved most about watching our kids and niece Meiya painting their wood slices was that Harper, Meiya and Solomon’s first design was rainbow and then other designs followed.  It made me teary because these kids love fiercely and wanted to spread some Everett love.

*Christmas Eve going to our boy’s grave to check on his tree and take some Christmas flowers.  It was freezing and this was the best photo I got.  Kids stepped in mud.  Hardly anyone remembered their jackets. Everyone was freezing and likely complaining.  As the kids loaded up in the van trying not to get mud all over everything, Josh and I snagged a quick hug and empathetic glance as to how stupid Everett dying feels.

*Swinging by our house after the cemetery by myself to grab everyone’s jackets they forgot on our way to Christmas Eve dinner at Josh’s parents’ house.  I gathered all their coats from the hooks in the kitchen and their lockers in the laundry room.  I looked at Everett’s locker and thought about his small, black jacket still hanging inside.  I opened his locker and pulled out his little shoes he was wearing the day we met him…the shoes he continued to love months after being home with us.  I stood there crying and holding his shoes in my hands.  I would give just about anything for him to be here with us again.  I know things will get better one day, but right now they straight up suck without our boy.

*Sausage balls on Christmas morning.  Always and forever.  I asked Harper what she was most exited about…like what was at the top of her list…and she said sausage balls.  It’s a beloved tradition.

*Going all rainbow wrapping paper for Christmas in honor of Everett.  Traditions do not have to be things you’ve done all your life.  New traditions can be born and taken on at any point.  Rainbow paper for Christmas now is now our new tradition.  One day I hope I’m wrapping my grandkids Christmas presents in rainbow wrapping paper and telling them stories about their brave, strong Uncle Everett.

*Amon asking for only and seriously only “one of those bigs cars you drive around in the yard” a minimum of 100 times and then some sweet friends passing down their boys’ car so our boy could enjoy it.  On Christmas morning Amon hugged it and I don’t even care how worldly or non-Jesus centered that may sound.  DON’T EVEN CARE.  It was the cutest.

*Hudson and Solomon enjoying their usual nerf guns, legos and lightsabers.  Our littlest bringing out each individual item from her stocking slowly and methodically and repeating the same excited expression…”Oooooh tic tacs.”  “Oooooh a candy cane.”  “Oooooh M&Ms.”  It was the sweetest.  And Harper.  Gosh I like her.  She asked for very few things this year, but the one thing she consistently asked for was a box of surprises.  It was so fun putting together a box of surprises all rainbow themed to remind her of her little brother.

*Amon’s sweet tears Christmas morning as we all gathered round to start off our morning with opening our stockings like we do each year.  Everyone had their stockings in their hands.  Josh was putting sausage balls in the oven.  I was sitting on the couch looking at each one of them.  Then Amon began to cry.  He left his stocking and crawled up in my lap and said he missed Everett.  I cried too.  Then we we’re quickly joined with other hugs and tears.  We had a good little cry and group hug, then went back to our stockings and began what should have been our first Christmas with Everett.  What an honor to parent these tender precious little hearts.

*Josh being off work and slow mornings together.  This was his first extended amount of time off since Everett died in July.  He actually only got 3 days bereavement leave which seemed insane.  I still remember the first day he had to go back to work before we’d even buried our son.  I still remember him walking in the door that evening and the look on his face and all the emotions.  A few extra days off for him was really good for all of us.

*Date night.  These are so few and far between.  We asked Josh’s parents if the kids could sleepover and no joke, we grabbed dinner and went home to watch Christmas Vacation with cocktails and sleep.  We obviously know how to party.  I can’t say how physically tired we are and this was a dream date for us.

2018 is coming in hot and fast and I have all the feelings about it.  I am so sad to see 2018 go…the year that held Everett and our time as a family of 8.  Simulatenously the fresh start a new year brings also feels like something we desperately need.  I feel torn because I feel all the feelings about a new year and I can’t push it off…time has always proven to keep marching on even when we’re standing still.  So we’ll head into 2018 reluctant and expectant.


  1. Clarissa Urbina says:

    Sobbed about his little shoes. Wish all of the collective tears that have been cried over that sweet boy for all these months could…….. I don’t even know what I wish except that this unfair mess would have never happened and that he was here with you. Millionth hug to you since July 18.

  2. To read about the fruit of deep empathy being cultivated in you and your children is so bittersweet; reminding me that our good,good Father really does bring beauty from ashes, even and especially when every feeling and experience is screaming otherwise. May His blessings and healing rain down on you in 2018.

  3. Jessica Perrigo says:

    Everyone knows the 1st holiday after a death in the family is hard. But it just seems harder when it’s you, your family. I know it was when we lost my grandmother 4 years ago. I lost my heart that day, only to find out I was going to be a mother in 7 months some time later. My daughter is my saving grace for MANY reasons!! She is why I am grounded, and mostly from remembering the small things from my grandmother. Your family is so precious! Your children’s strength shines through so much, and that is because you are just as strong! Your youngest’s heart is so tender! My heart aches for all of you, for I only know a touch of the pain you have. To lose someone so dear. But, for them to be your child, is unthinkable to me. Four years ago, my world stopped. One phone call. No warning! But, today I see why. I see that my grandmother is my GREATEST guardian angel I could ever ask for! There are traditions she did, that I find myself doing and not even noticing. (Such as buying seasonal socks for holidays or eating crackers and cheese instead of popcorn during a movie.) The things you are doing, that Josh is doing, that all of you are doing, are cherished. Those are the things that they will remember! There is an unknown reason, and only time will tell. March 1, 2013 I didn’t know what way was up or down. But fast forward to today, I have began to see part of that reason, why I lost the most important person to me, and why at that time it was best. I pray for a sense of peace for all of you.

  4. My heart aches for you guys every time I read your honest posts. I just finished reading Levi Lusko’s book Through the Eyes of a Lion. Not sure if you’ve heard of it, but it seems like something you might relate to – it’s a book about what God taught Levi and his wife through death of their 5-year-old daughter. His honesty reminds me of your writing.

    Praying for comfort for your entire family. I’m so so sorry.

  5. Saira Rocha says:

    Sobbing. The shoes. The jacket. The locker. After my sister passed we created new traditions as well. Traditions that we also do in honor of my dad after he passed years ago. My sister was nicknamed “honeybee” because of her big beautiful eyes by my dad. So we always include something with bees or a honeybee. On her birthday and Christmas, we make their favorite meals. We sing Happy Birthday and tell their stories and talk about our memories of them. This year my little sister made us all memory ornaments by trimming little pieces of their clothing in a clear ornament. It was sad and at the same time neat to see their clothing. My sister passed in the 90’s so my kids thought her clothing was so colorful and retro. It also got me talking about my relationship with my sister and how she would have loved to have been an Auntie for sure. Every time I see rainbow colors or a piñata I am reminded of your sweet Everett. And it also reminds me to say a prayer for you all. My heart breaks for you. If I could hug you I would.

  6. Praying for you and your family. God sees our brokenness. He loves you and will continue to help you through this heartache.

  7. Peace and faith to you. So glad you all will head into the new year wrapped in His abiding love.

  8. Praying for you all so often- love you all and your heart as you’re walking through this .

  9. Kelly Beaty says:

    I learned of you and your beautiful art years ago from my friend and your Angie H. I heard of all your recent pain from my cousin and your friend Joann J. I spoke to you briefly at a Goodlettsville festival this fall. But I wanted you to know. I read, I hug you in my heart, I go before the Lord on your behalf, but I rarely tell you. I need to check in more often to let you know we are still out here, grieving with you, standing with you.

  10. From a stranger miles away but one you’ve helped more than you’ll ever know: Your faith, lights, colors and honest words helped me navigate personal loss this year – my sister crossed over a few weeks ago – and also helps to remind me that sending prayers and angels to people we don’t know as well as our familiar beloved connect us all here until Heaven happens.

    Because I found your site, I see Jesus in more ways than I did. And I witness how your faith helps others who stand with scary diagnoses – especially with their precious children. May this year bring the peace that passes all understanding while keeping memories that are sacred near.


    Brett Butler

  11. Oh, Laura. I’m so glad you documented this. These feelings are raw, but so true. All of my love to your family this year. No doubt there will be plenty of hard moments, but as you so wonderfully (and hilariously) put it, “love jankly still swirls around amongst pain and sadness and our messiness”

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