Everett’s 6th Birthday + Home

So we are all still alive, but life is in full surge mode and shows no signs of slowing down.  Leo busted out of Mott on July 30th…to all our surprise…and then school started full time 5 DAYS LATER.  We have pretty much been in full on survival mode the last 15 days.  Josh Kelley and the kids came up on Monday the 29th for Everett’s birthday.  Our earlier attempt at getting the band back together was squashed when Amon and Winter started puking.  We were all crazy disappointed.  It was really hard being at Mott solo…sadness creeped in hard.  So once we didn’t have any vomit for a few days Josh and the kids made their second attempt to come up because we all really wanted to celebrate Everett’s birthday together.

Leo was soooooo excited he could not stand it.  I made the mistake of telling him far too ahead of time.  He gets “stuck” on ideas…things he’s excited about…and then won’t talk about anything else and also gets ticked periodically because the thing is not happening right then.  So I fielded lots and lots of conversations about seeing his people all day long.

Leo got his chest tubes pulled that morning so it was the perfect way to welcome in Shuai’s 6th birthday.  2 weeks was enough for Leo and his chest tubes and no one was sad to see them go.  Instantly he was like a different kid.  Nothing could keep him in that bed and he was on the go.  He finally wanted to play and move about where before he mostly just wanted to stay in his bed.  A new kid and I was so glad to watch him soar.

When the rest of our crew arrived Leo lost his mind.  He was so excited to see everyone and everyone was so excited to see him.  The big kids had especially been worried about him and I can’t tell you how nice it was to be able to send them good reports.  Last time was so different and trauma is very real so you can imagine how hard and good it was to be able to tell them how well Leo was doing.  Everett never came home and everyone carries that so uniquely and walking this same road with a different outcome was incredibly hard, but also we were all incredibly relieved.

We celebrated Everett together and felt loved on all day by those who remembered with us.  A kind new friend Elizabeth who lives in Michigan brought us the sweetest, biggest bag of goodies.  I cried like a giant lady baby.  I immediately hung up the rainbow banner and streamers along with our birthday banner Josh brought from home.  The kids were covered in all her goodie sweetness and we all loved the delicious Le Detroit Macarons along with our nurses.  We are good sharers. 😉

Courtney made sure Everett’s grave had birthday balloons and Ashley, Alissa and Leah made sure we had cookies and cake to celebrate with.  My bestie Ashley sent Leo birthday balloons and the biggest treat basket ever.  They each made us feel seen and loved and they remembered our son on what should have been his 6th birthday.  They remembered us on what is a very painful day.

Grief Sidenote:  People send me messages often asking how they can walk with a family member or friend through grief.  One of the most simple and impactful things you can do for a grieving family member or friend is to simply remember.  One of my greatest fears as Everett’s mom is that he will be forgotten…that he will disappear from people’s stories. When others remember him and us it breathes life into our weary hearts.  So pull out your calendar and mark all those special days that will forever be different for them (ex: birthdays & adoption days, the day the loved one died, holidays, etc)…or on any random day…and then remember with them.  Send a card or text or email.  Send flowers or dinner or treats.  Do something no matter how big or small to tell them they are seen and remembered and their loved one is not forgotten.  Scouts honor: It means the world.  End Sidenote.

Leo’s team at Mott was incredible and because Leo did so well with his chest tubes out they decided to try and expedite us out of there.  Tuesday morning they scheduled his echo, chest x-ray, EKG and bloodwork for crazy early in hopes of being able to send us all back to Tennessee together.  Everything came back great and by 2pm Leo was strapped into his carseat and the back of our car was busting with balloons.  Mott is special…Leo’s surgeon and team are special…I will say that over and over again.  Just like Everett’s were.  When Natalie, Leo’s nurse practitioner, came by she and I cried.  This was such a different outcome from last time.  We were actually going to walk out of this place with our child in our arms and that will never ever be lost on any of us Kelleys.  And Mott loved us so well through both outcomes.

As we drove away from the hospital we all cheered and Hudson took roll-call.  I was relieved and thrilled and beyond sad and devastated.  Everett had should have had this too.  We all knew who was missing and how every kiddo and family deserves to leave hospitals together.  I’ll never understand the opposite…it will never be explained by words…it will never be okay or how it was meant to be.  I carried Everett close…I carried Toby who is still fighting so hard and his sweet mama Amanda close…I carried Meredith who has walked this same route far too many times close.  We hold so tightly to one another and hold each other close in our hearts and minds choosing to never forget one another’s losses and fights.  It took all day, but we gladly drove late into the night to be back in our home together.  To bring Leo back home…healing and thriving just as it should be for every child.  And when it’s not, there are no good words.

At one point on our drive a rainbow flashed across the sky and we all lost our minds.  Josh pointed it out quickly getting the kids’ attention so they could all see it.  I cried.  It was the sweetest reminder of our FuShuai.  From Everett’s death has come opened eyes and hearts, love and compassion and a whole lot of jaded hope.  And honestly, I never want to lose it.  Two whole weeks back home.  Welcome home Leo boy!

BONUS:  Winter lost her first tooth on the drive home.  Come really close Time. (Insert throat punch.)

1 Comment

  1. When I saw that Leo in his carseat picture on your Instagram, I thought “Ohmigoodness, ohmigoodness, is that a carseat? Are they going home? Oh man oh man oh man” while I waited forever for my ancient phone to open the picture. 🙂 “Yes! Yes! They are going home! That’s awesome! But… also sad… because Everett didn’t get to… But they’re going home already! So fast!” Just a little peek in my head. 😛

    Also, can I just say, thank you for sharing. I forwarded your Instagram info to a friend of mine from church who lost her baby last September – little Hope had trisomy 18, but they didn’t find out until two weeks from full term. She only lived a few hours, but she was (and is) loved by her parents and two older siblings. Hope’s mom, my friend, sent me a screen shot of your post about remembering and said ‘Love this!’ So thank you for sharing, because it helps moms with loss feel seen, and because it helps friends of those moms learn how to support them better.

    And, I have to admit, my heart fluttered a bit seeing Leo back on that kitchen counter. 🙂 <3

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