July 18: An Entire Year

We’ve lived through and survived an entire year without Everett.  The whole month of July has done nothing but suck the life out of us and constantly hit us with reminder after reminder of where we were last year at this time.  It felt like this month aimed to suffocate and keep us guilt ridden.  I had to remind myself constantly Josh and I made the very best decision for Everett with the information we had.  I literally pulled up the letter from Everett’s surgeon on so many days to remind myself of his words…to remind myself of the facts surrounding Everett’s complex and beautiful heart.  We love him with every fiber of our being and we really did our best.  I had to make a choice multiple times a day to believe in these truths.  Grief is a hard fought battle every single day.

We just miss him so much.  I always look for words to accurately describe the depth of our sadness and pain and love for Everett, but words fail me every time.  There are none.  I am humbled daily when I think about him and how I got to be his mom…how God put us together just so…and how thankful we are to Him for every single day we had together as a family.  Everett made us better.  He changed us and there was nothing quite like the feeling of being loved by our FuShaui.

As the 1 year anniversary of losing Everett loomed the sadness just laid heavy on me.  I often feel such deep sorrow I have to physically pull myself from it.  People think 1 year is a long time when it actually is much more like a blink.  Losing a child is like nothing I have ever experienced and the day I held Everett in my arms and his heart beat it’s last feels like yesterday most days.

A little before the 18th we received the sweetest package in the mail from our friend Melena.  Melena works at Forest Lawn where Everett is buried and she took lead on his visitation and funeral arrangements.  She is absolutely the kindest and sweetest person and has been a constant over the past year when she had zero reason to be.  She is the type of person you just feel lucky to know.  We don’t deserve her and yet she has loved our family so well.  In our package were the cutest and most colorful rainbow piñata pins for each of us.  Instantly I knew several other people who loved Everett so well who needed one too.  You can grab your own…or any of their adorable pins…at Corazon PomPom…you must check them out.  Such an insanely cute store.

Everyone promptly placed their pins on their backpacks except Josh Kelley.  Josh loves to take bike rides to clear his head and take a small break.  He put his pin on his bike bag and it created instant tears in my eyeballs.  That sweet colorful piñata and his “143” pin…the number of days Everett was with us…just makes me heart beat faster.  Josh loves his boy well and we carry him with us everywhere we go and always will.  We will never be without his sweet little love.

I woke up early on the 18th and couldn’t get to Everett’s grave quick enough.  My friend Leah was at the gym early that morning with me and gave me the kindest note.  I sat at Everett’s grave with his salsa jar full of flowers and read her words.  There is really nothing quite like thoughtfulness and kindness and empathy and love.  I am learning more and more everyday it really is not a difficult thing to make someone feel seen and loved.  Acknowledgment is so powerful.

I sat at his grave for a long time.  I talked to him and cried.  I held the past year so close and longed for the day when I could hold Everett close again.  I miss the weight of his body in my arms.  I miss his kisses and the way he would wrap his little arms around my neck.  I miss the way he told me he loved me every night in Mandarin and English.  I just want my baby back.  It all feels so stupid and senseless…so incredibly senseless.

When I arrived back home after the grave our house was quiet and still.  Leo was the first one awake and he sat silently at the top of the stairs with his rainbow blanket tucked tight in his arms wearing a sweet smile on his face.  I went to the top of the stairs, brought him in close and whispered in his ear, “I’m so glad you’re here.”  Leo is this beautful, living connection directly to Everett for me.  They knew and loved each other before we knew or loved either of them.  They were family before we ever were.  Leo has reminded my heart of what joy feels like.

I wanted to make sure we had some fun on such a crappy anniversary date so off we headed to the wave pool.  My friend Sandra asked if she could join us and brought two of her grandkiddos too.  She also bought us a concession stand lunch and packed a cooler full of fun drinks and snacks and the small human crowd went wild.  She made us feel so loved!!!  Our friend Stef showed up as well with balloons in hand for the kids to release at the wave pool in honor of Everett.  Just the kindest.

We soaked up the sun and played in the waves and wore ourselves out.  Sunshine is always good for us.  Always.  On the way home we all snagged icees and cheersed to Everett.  One thing I so hope is that we are doing good by our kids in the grief department and remembering their brother.  I never want them to feel like they can’t share or cry or talk about anything.  I also don’t want them to feel like his death overshadows their lives.  I long for them when they think about Everett and his death to know we are always here and to feel a sense of joy and gratitude for their little brother.  Recently Harper told me if she ever has a little boy she’s going to name him Everett and I instantly burst into tears.  Our love for each of them is profound and we just want them to all be okay.

For dinner we had planned to make pork dumplings/pot stickers/jiaozis, fried rice and spicy garlic broccoli.  This is our go-to homemade Chinese meal my SIL Becky taught me how to make and Everett LOVED dumplings.  Hudson would always keep count of how many dumplings they would eat and Everett always ate as many or more than Hudson.  They were his total favorite.  Josh Kelley also came home with a bag full of our favorite Asian treats and I made rainbow colored whoopie pies.

Josh’s sister Jen asked to come for dinner and said she’d order Chinese takeout as her contribution and then one thing led to another and before we knew it more family had showed up with more yummy food and all I could think is how much Shuai would have loved this time with some of his favorite people and his favorite foods.  Being loved by him was a gift and loving him is a gift to us that carries on.

Harper colored our chalkboard in rainbow colors.  We all helped make dumplings.  We drank sodas from small glass bottles printed with words like love, my hero and best friend.  We ate all the treats and more.  We chatted and laughed and I had a few teary moments.  The night was warm and we sat around all together outside while the kids played their hearts out and it felt nice.  It felt like the right way to remember this day.

It was a date on the calendar…another Wednesday like there is in every week, but such a significant date for our family.  I ran the events of last July 18th through my head all day long.  I even wore the same tank top I was wearing while I held his body for the last time here on earth.  We weren’t sure how this day was supposed to go down, but we did the best we could.

We have all changed.  Each one of us have and we are not the same people we once were.  My relationship with Jesus is quite different…not bad, but different.  It’s less fluffy and more real.  It’s less facade and more hard truths.  It’s less accepting of the things I’ve been told by others I must accept and more questions and honest words between Jesus and myself.  It’s been hard and sad and freeing and I hold onto the hope that everyday He is refining me into more myself than ever before.  A lot of days I feel jaded and broken and not the same, but I know He has not left nor wavered in His love for me or Everett or our family.

I have this quote typed out in my phone and I look at it often.  I have no idea where it came from, but I’ve read it a thousand times over this past year:

He pulls you right close tonight and whispers, “Do not be afraid”…He knows how hard things are and He knows how faithful He will be.”

Everett Kelley, you my son are one of my greatest treasures.  It is an honor to be your mom and love you even through death.  I will spend all my days remembering you and longing to hold you in my arms again and helping keep your brave and strong spirit alive within us.  You changed us and made us even better.  You cast out a ripple into this world and we will never fully know how far and wide it spread.  Thank you for trusting us and loving us so quickly.  We will always hold the truth that we are surely the luckiest having known and been loved by you.  We love you to pieces Shuai Shuai.  Another day closer Love.


  1. Hannah Andrews says:

    gosh, woke up this morning and first thing i read was this. so hard, and so beautiful. NO ONE should ever have to go through this, and it’s messy and so wrong and hard and difficult. i wish i could be there to hug you i know nothing can fix this, but seeing you walk through this grief on the good bad ugly messy and everything days has been and is amazing. man i wish i could have met that boy, and Leo, dang kid, how amazing is it that he’s this connection, this joy in the grief. words fail me.
    definitely different, but while walking through infertility and losses, i was given a necklace with the word “Saudade” on it. It’s this amazing Portuguese word that expresses this longing and sadness and just is so much better than english at expressing wanting to hold something we just can’t, and how we have joy and grief and longing all mixed into one.
    love you guys and praying and thinking of you often.

  2. Meriah Henderson says:

    Oh my. Through tears I’m writing this. You and Josh are doing an amazing job. What an amazing way to celebrate your son and what a healthy way to teach your kids to grieve and process life’s most unexplainable heartache. I think of y’all often and pray always.

  3. Thank you for this. You are thought of and prayed for in our house.

  4. Heather N says:

    I will never tire of seeing pictures of Everett. He is such a special child. He touched so many people, like me, even though we did not know him personally.

  5. Jen scott says:

    This was beautiful and heart wrenching and soulful. Thank you for sharing and for reminding me to go home and hug my babies.

  6. Oh Laura…what a touching tribute to your sweet Everett. He was a special kid who touched so many and you do such a wonderful job of honoring him. All of the hugs and rainbows to you today and everyday <3

  7. I learned recently that 143 means “I love you” — “I” with 1 letter, “love” with 4 letters and “you” with 3 letters. So special that your babe Everett was with you for 143 days. Living love to the fullest as a part of the Kelley tribe.

  8. Brigette says:

    He was and still is so loved as is his family. Hugs

  9. I don’t know if you knew this, but the number “143” was very special to Fred Rogers (Mr. Rogers Neighborhood). I recently saw the documentary about him called “Won’t You Be My Neighbor”. In it, his wife said 143 was his favorite number because a) that’s what he weighed almost his entire adult life, and b) the words in the phrase “I Love You” are 1 letter then 4 letters then 3 letters long. He told her that was for her. It’s for your family too!

  10. Such a beautiful tribute to your handsome boy. I could look at pictures of him all day! Sending all you Kelly’s a big hug

  11. He touches my heart ❤️ still today…bringing me to tears.

  12. This is so beautiful. Thank you for sharing the hardest day of the year for your family. I dread our grief anniversary but you’ve shown me that beauty can come from ashes. sending love from NM!

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