His Place

Last week Everett’s burial marker came in and the funeral home put it out.  I missed a call from the funeral home letting us know it was out and when I heard the message I let Josh Kelley know. I received a picture just a few hours later…Josh stopped on his way home.  When he got home I asked how he was feeling and it said it actually felt nice to have his marker in.

The next day I pulled out a recently emptied jar…banana peppers to be exact…and after I dropped our littlest off at school I went to get some flowers.  I splurged for some special flowers at our local flower shop and picked up some cheaper filler flowers at Kroger.  As I carefully cut and arranged flowers it hit me I was making flowers to take to our son’s burial place.  I often ask myself, “How in the world is this our reality now?” and I did the same in that moment.

I took Everett’s flowers and sat them on his marker.  I read over the words and looked at his sweet little name.  The Chinese characters are his Chinese name Zheng Fu Shuai which were incredibly important to us to have first, front and center.  They are the names what we first new our son by and still use frequently.  We chose the name Everett because it means “brave & strong” and it’s from one of Josh’s favorite books The Brother’s K by David James Duncan.  We give all our kids a special family middle name and Everett was named after Josh’s grandfather Louie.  And Shuai was Everett’s Chinese name…it’s always important for us to keep a part of their given names and Shuai mean handsome…which he absolutely is the most handsome of little boys.

I sat down in front of his place there in the cemetery and it felt nice to have this official piece in place, but it also felt so final.  It made me sad thinking about all the life that would happen in this place, all the seasons which would come and go and all the times we would visit with all of our other children, but with Everett missing.  I thought about how we’d already seen summer in this place and we’d watched the leaves fall and change from golden yellow and vibrant red & orange to crunchy brown and how winter was already upon us.  I thought about the picnics and games of tag and holiday celebrations and cemetery birthday parties and the treats we’d would enjoy together without him right here in this spot.  It all just sucks on about a million different levels.  As we’ve entered into this first big holiday season without Everett it feels so deeply sad and weighs heavily on all 7 of us.  Our kids have not gone unscathed by any means and if anything, my heart aches for them and the way they are each having to individually move through and process Everett’s death and their own huge loss they feel every single day.

I’ve been back to the cemetery 4 more times since.  I ordered rainbow solar powered Christmas lights for the little Christmas tree Josh Kelley decided to get for his spot.  Everett’s best friend’s 4th birthday was last week.  They spent all of their birthdays together.  We have the sweetest photos of them blowing out birthday cake candles right beside each other.  Early in the morning our littlest and I went out to the cemetery and left balloons because I know Everett would have been beyond thrilled to celebrate yet another birthday with his best friend.  My brother-in-law Andy referred to Everett’s spot in the cemetery as “a special corner of the earth” and I can’t think of better words.

I checked the mailbox last week and discovered the sweetest package from our friend Melena at the funeral home.  In this whole journey I have been absolutely floored by the kindness of people we never expected.  To say Forest Lawn Funeral Home is full of kind, generous and insanely thoughtful people would be a massive understatement.  So thankful for these people like Melena who have taken their love and kindness far beyond their job description.  It makes me teary instantly because we have felt so cared for and seen by them.

Every day we get up and move through another day.  I’ve cried every single day for the past 5 months…the hospital really did a number on my ability to keep tears in…and I don’t foresee an end in sight on those tears.  We talk about our FuShuai every single day.  We laugh and smile about memories and we cry and hurt about those very same memories.  We feel all the feelings.  Josh and I hash out guilt and regret 1000 different times over the span of each week.  We’re working hard at figuring it all out and while I know we aren’t close to “closure”…if that is such a thing…I do know the love we have for our son and the gentle healing of our God will eventually lead us to better place.  It must.  It just must.


  1. Beautiful. Sending love and prayers your way.

  2. Lee Winemiller Cockrum says:

    Such a lovely flower arrangement. I am so sorry that your family has to deal with this.

  3. My Chinese is very, very limited, but I recognize the middle character Fu in Everett’s Chinese name as “blessing”. Look for this character written in gold as decoration at Chinese New Year or on Chinese calendars. Some call it “luck”, but believers know this to be “blessing”! Thought you might want to know that. I know Everett was a special blessing to you and your precious family!

  4. Those flowers and your words are beautiful. I can’t help but remember that the last couple of times you showed us your bible journaling you were in Exodus. In the wilderness. I just want to share that God is there with you in this wilderness just as He was with the Israelites. I know without a doubt that He will speak directly to you when you open that back up and see how God brought them through to the promised land. He is so faithful and near the brokenhearted. My daughter has a fiesta donkey and I remember you all in my prayers every time I see it. Much love Laura

  5. Hugs and hugs and hugs. I’m so sorry for everything you’re going through and we are all (internet friends and real friends :)) here for you. So much love to you <3

  6. Wishing you joy and comfort and peace as you walk through the Holidays! I will continue to pray for you all as you come to mind, which is often!

  7. This makes me want to hug you and cry with you. Thanks for sharing.

  8. It must. I love you.

  9. Crying with you as I read this. I know that Everett was present in spirit with you all and Tai at his birthday celebration last week. I continue to pray for healing for your heartache for you and Josh and all of the kids. God loves you all and is with you in your pain and with his love and support you will find a path. Your love and selflessness and vulnerability is inspiring. Wishing you all a peaceful holiday season with your precious children on earth and your angel boy watching over you from above. ❤️

  10. Andrew Marsh says:

    And it will, Laura, it just will lead you on to a better place. I cry with you. In fact, this post has been so tearful for me. I grieve with you. My ex wife and I have 4 children, ranging from 21 to 35, and we used to say how awful it must be to bury your child before you. We always said that you expect that your kids will bury you. The other way round is entirely unnatural. And your posts make me weep, and it’s not my child that’s gone, so I cannot figure how you and your Kelleys are beginning to process your catastrophic loss. And, whilst I think about what you said, FuShuai was indeed the handsomest boy!! His smile always made me smile and uplifted my spirit. Be uplifted, all you beautiful Kelleys, by all the love, the HUGE LOVE that comes over this marvelous internet thingummyjig! Please don’t stop posting. We don’t want to forget your sweet Everett or you equally sweet people!! Much, much, MUCH LOVE to each and every one of you! Andrew

  11. I am still here with you and still praying for your family. You can tell how much thought and care was put into his burial marker. I am so sorry that you are going through this.

  12. Heather Herman says:

    Your flower arranging skills are always on point. I have seen 2 fiesta donkeys this week in stores. I always stop for a minute thinking of Everett and all the Kelley’s and say a prayer for you guys. There is a fiesta donkey imprint on so many of our hearts. Your words are beautiful and I can’t thank you enough for being so transparent and sharing your heart with us. Love you guys to pieces.

  13. I am thinking about you this Thanksgiving. I imagine that it is a hard and bittersweet day; you have so many things to be thankful for, but I know there is also an empty chair… You are in my heart today.

  14. I am so incredibly sorry for your loss of Everett. I am so thankful you find a way to continue to write out some of your most personal thoughts and experiences through this here. Because you are no doubt ministering to others as you do. You have no idea who you’re impacting. I know that isn’t why you do it but I just hope you know that you are. As to your last sentence HE WILL. Continued prayers for your precious family.

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