Everett’s 5th Birthday

I’ve been meaning to write this post for a month now, but never really had all the words I wanted to have.  I still don’t have the words so I figured I’d just share what I can.  Everett’s 5th birthday was July 29th and out of all the big dates lining our calendar this one felt the hardest.  I feel angry that we didn’t get to spend any of his 4th year together and I feel angry we had to bury our son on his 4th birthday so his 5th birthday seemed like an extra kick in the throat.  Lots and lots of anger and tears.  His death feels so senseless.  I cannot, for the life of me, see the point.  We still miss him every single day and it still feels so incredibly fresh and hard and painful.  Even though I know we made the best decision for Everett with all the information we had, it still feels like the worst decision of our lives sending him into surgery.  And there’s nothing we can do about it and there are no amount of words or gestures from others that could ever fix this eternal guilt struggle Josh Kelley and myself carry.  It’s just our reality.

Josh and I talked about 436 different ways to spend his birthday, but honestly, they all felt too hard.  We finally decided just to go to the wave pool with our crew and try and make the most of it.  The morning of his birthday we kicked it off with donuts and anger and it was awful.  Josh and I were pissed at one another.  The kids were crazy.  Everyone was fighting and by 9am I had said all the curse words.

We forged through packing goggles and beach towels and sunscreen and floaties…all the while being angry as hell and mean to one another.  We all loaded up and headed to the wave pool and it felt terrible.  All I wanted to do was bail on the whole day.  I just wanted to be with Everett…that was it.  I just wanted my son back.

When we arrived Josh’s brother Andy and sister Jen were there.  We all headed to go in and as we walked down the big set of steps into the wave pool I saw lots of colorful balloons, brightly colored table cloths and a giant rainbow piñata float.  It still makes me teary just typing the words out.  My friends Ashley and Alissa and their mom Tammy along with all their kiddos were waiting for us with a fun birthday set up.  They even invited other friends and they all started trickling in after we arrived.  I sobbed behind my sunglasses and gave out hugs.  This day sucked, but they made it a little less sucky.

Our kids were beyond excited as their friends started to arrive.  We rode the waves and slides and had a concession stand lunch like no other.  Ashley came walking out with trays full of icees for everyone.  They brought all the yummy foods.  Anna made cupcakes and Leah made sure we had all the right candies and Mr. Kelley brought donuts.  Every kid would leave with a full on sugar rush no doubt.

It was a really sweet time each one of us needed.  We needed to see and feel that we were not forgotten and more importantly that Everett was not forgotten.  We think about him everyday and as the world moves on it’s easy to feel lost and forgotten in the mix.  What our friends did for us might have not felt very big to them, but it was huge for us.  In fact, they flipped the trajectory of our day entirely and for that I am incredibly grateful.

After everyone was completely worn out from fun and swimming and sugar and sunshine we headed home for naps and a chill afternoon.  I made Funfetti cupcakes because I’ll always make my boy some sort of cake on his birthday.  Always.  And Amon and Winter put our piñata float to good use. 🙂

After dinner we headed to the cemetery with cupcakes, bikes, skateboards and scooters in tow.  This place will always be so special to us.  I hope we never stop coming.  I hope eventually it will hold such fond memories that we think of it in great joy instead of great sadness.

We lit candles and blew them out.  I watched as certain kids licked all the icing off first, how some picked at the sprinkles first instead and how some went right in taking a giant bite…as it should be. 🙂

I thought about Everett and what an amazing child he will always be to us.  I wondered about birthdays in heaven…is that even a thing?!?!  I just hope he knows how deeply missed and longed for he is.  I hope he knows how long and wide and high our love is for him.  I hope he can feel our love even in heaven.  And what I hope most, is that when we are finally with him again, that to him, it really was just a blink of the eye before we were together again.

Happy 5th birthday sweet Fu Shuai.  You have changed us forever.  Another day closer love.


  1. Callie duncan says:

    I know you feel his death was senseless. Can I tell you, it drew me closer to the Lord?! Yalls transparency, y’all faith, and love for that boy. Man, what a testimony. I’m learning how ugly and raw this grief process is. We lost a class mate of my son around the same time. We honor her EVERY year. We don’t want her to be forgotten. You are loved and prayed for. We speak Everett’s name in our prayers. His life was not in vain and y’alls story’s a true testament of grace. Kelley’s you are all prayed for and thank you for bringing adoption, grace, love, messiness, and the ever so realness of Jesus present in your words!

  2. Your family is loved! Thank you for being real and sharing your heart. Everett will never be forgotten! Your friends put their love into action by showing up when you needed them and helped celebrate your special day. We think of you so often and can’t imagine your daily pain and loss. Hugs from WV!

  3. I’m ready for cooler weather so I can wear my ‘but if not’ shirt in honor of Everett. You are loved!

  4. Thank you for sharing your sweet and honest heart.

    I recently lost someone very special to me in a quick and unexpected way. I have struggled to come to terms with the reason they aren’t here with us, anymore. The void that is there seems to far outweigh the time that I had while they were here. As I thought about my hurt and anger just this morning something overtook my heart. I heard God say, “Instead of asking why I took her, ask me why I gave her to you.” I am still processing and I don’t know completely what it means. But perhaps it helps you and makes sense to you. I don’t get how God picks who stays and who goes. I think we are supposed to learn things from all, but I am not always sure why God allows things that hurt us to happen.
    Praying for you!

  5. Happy 5th Birthday, Everett! You have some very special friends, but, then again, I have a feeling they’d say the same about you. Glad it was a good celebration for your sweet boy!

  6. I saw Everett in every photo. His sweet soul lives on and I believe he sees every little thing that you all do for him. Happy 5th Birthday, Everett! Lots of love to each of you … Josh Kelley, Laura, Harper, Hudson, Solomon, Amon, Winter and Leo

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