Mother’s Day: The Shakedown

The entire week leading up to Mother’s Day was pretty crappy.  We are seeing how this season will never be the same for our family again and how each one of us feel the heaviness and loss of Everett ever near.  I thought a lot about how sometimes we’re told to “choose joy” and how sometimes it’s just not that simple.  Heck, I’ve said those words to myself and written them on key fobs and art pieces, but the truth is sometimes it’s not an option to just “choose joy”.  I can still be grateful and look for those bright spots, but sometimes grief is so absolutely thick that there is no just opting out by choosing joy.  Sometimes choosing joy is BS.  Grief and suffering and sadness are real and heavy and they aren’t wrong.  They’re every much a piece of this life as love, joy and peace are.  We’re not broken or messed up or in need of fixing because we’re grieving or sad.  We often send a message to those in the valleys as if they are “wrong” or need to be “fixed” when grief, suffering and sadness are not sins, but threads in life and they deserve their own time and space.

Some days are defeat and some days are wins.  Lately there is no dodging grief and I’m realizing this will forever be apart of my life because Everett is forever apart of my life.  There is nothing natural about burying your child so why do we think people who are missing their babes have this allotted amount of time to fix themselves up and move on.  I will never move on because suggesting that I even can makes Everett this “idea” and not a real live amazing little human who changed all our hearts forever.  He is lasting.  We will carry him forever with us, always.

Due to how wonky and weird and sad our weeks were leading up to Sunday, I took a lot of steps to make sure I was as prepared as possible for the day.  I knew I didn’t want to ball up all my pain and keep it to myself so I tried turning some of it out into the world in the form of art and words and small gifts.  The #1 thing I learned from my Mom’s death was that even when you have no idea what to do for yourself, you can still do for others.  I’ve lost my mom and my son and our family holds a lot of trauma and loss within first families, so all holidays ring in different now, but Mother’s Day weighs extra heavy on our group.  I knew I had to be very pro-active this year so the whole day wouldn’t burn to the ground.

^ Crazy kind gift from my friend Meg ^

Every year we let our kiddos who are adopted pick out flowers to honor and remember their birth mamas.  Winter gives her flowers to her birth mom and we plant all the boys’ flowers in our yard.  I will never forget crying when we thought Everett’s flowers he had picked out had died in a frost shortly after he had died.  The next morning I woke up to find the potted flowers in our warm bathroom.  Josh Kelley was determined to keep them alive and that winter we had coleus flowering in our bathroom floor.

This year we made our flower shopping a mid-week pick me up for our family instead of waiting until Mother’s Day.  We needed something special to do so we roamed around Lowe’s reading about flowers and plants and making special selections for each of our invaluable birth moms.  We picked up another coleus for Everett’s birth mom too.  I think about them all, but often wonder if some how, some way, she know’s he’s gone, but finally whole and healed.

After snagging our flowers, we grabbed icees and dinner at home.  Then we headed to the cemetery with bikes and scooters and footballs and some fresh white flags for Everett’s tree.


We try and put up and change out special things in a tree around Everett’s grave pretty often.  It’s this visual therapeutic thing for Josh Kelley and myself and also our kids.  It’s a reminder for us and a way to visually display Everett.  A stranger can’t look at us and know we are different people…know that our son is dead and buried down the street…know that our other children smile differently in pictures now.  These are things we know…no one can just look at us and know there are really 9 of us, instead of 8 now.  We’re often looking for ways to tell the world of Everett and how there is more to our family.

So when it appeared to us Everett’s colorful lanterns we’d last hung in his tree had been cut down, I felt a tad bit of, ummmm, what shall we call it…RAGE!  Hahahahaha.  I wanted to break something.  While there are all sorts of perfectly good, understandable reasons for why they were all gone, my mind immediately went to anger and assumed our cemetery cut them down.  This is how it shook out in my head:

It was a beautiful sunny day with Everett’s colorful lanterns blowing in the perfect April wind.  Then, from the cemetery office the doors swing open with a cloud of smoke and there emerges an old, tall crotchety business man with dark black hair and top hat scowling with full on angry eyebrows.  The beautiful lanterns catch his eye and immediately consume him with rage.  How dare someone love their little boy and display pretty things in his memory.  He hops in his golf cart from hell and rides over as quick as he can…fire shooting from the tail pipe. (Do golf carts even have tail pipes?!?! 🙂 )  Upon reaching the tree, we does Keanu Reeves moves from the matrix to scale the tree and slices each colorful lantern from it’s limb with a sinister, devilish “Muhuhahahahahahahaha” laugh as each lantern falls to the ground…in slow motion…no less.  It’s official, he may not be a real guy, but he hates us.  And Everett.  And love.  And I want to slash his golf cart tires.

Seriously. ^ THAT IS ME NOW. ^  After we hung up the recent white flags I’ve been back every day to make sure they are still up.  I even get nervous as we are approaching the exact point where we can see Everett’s tree from the road and breathe a long sigh of relief each time I see the flags are still there.  I’ve even created a whole verbal assault…which I’ve practiced out loud…alone…in my car…I want to let loose on the mythical old, crotchety man who surely cut down all of Everett’s lanterns out of his pure hatred for life and drive to make billions in the cemetery industry.  Once I can escape my crazy-capades, I laugh, but the feelings are still legit and real.  This is just a piece of my grief.

In preparation for Mother’s Day I also went ahead and made a few requests to my crew.  I didn’t want to set anyone up to be my blame for why my day went terribly awry, if it did.  I laid it out:

*Breakfast: Fruit Loops and sausage & biscuits.

*In between breakfast and lunch we must watch Beonce’s Homecoming.

Sidenote:  IT WAS AMAZING!!!!!!!!!!  Like, I can’t even form all my words for it yet, but I cried and laughed and we talked all about Beonce and Jay-Z and their kiddos and black culture and Destiny’s Child and drum lines and step teams and cool-ass shoes and and and.  THE BEST.  THE END.

*Lunch:  Grilled hamburgers and hot dogs with all the fixings and white cheddar Cheetos.

*Dessert:  Coke Floats.

*No Video Games, but I will gladly whip you all in a bunch of games of Gotcha basketball outside.

*Visit Everett’s grave.  You do not have to go.  I am totally fine with going alone.  (And that’s what I ended up doing.)

*Please don’t buy me flowers because I already purchased some flowers to share, but please give me all the sweet homemade cards and drawings.

Sidenote:  Big kids are killer.  I commented on how fun a big colorful round beach towel at Target was a few weeks ago and Harper, Hudson and Solomon all went in on it together for me as a Mother’s Day gift.  I was so surprised and really love they remembered I liked it.  Probably doesn’t hurt they have Wave Pool on the brain…especially Harper.

 Like I said, super clear.  I’m the only one who can read my mind, so I let them all know what was going down in it.  We also didn’t go to my Mom’s grave this year…first time since she died.  At first, I felt a little weird about it…almost guilty…but then I realized those were silly feelings to have.  I really wanted the day to be easy and chill and removing lots of moving pieces from it, made it just that.  Simple and chill.  And I still love my Mom. 🙂

We ended the day with leftovers and a few Shark Tank episodes and a new America’s Funniest Home Videos and me demanding everyone not make dumb faces in a photo with me.  Amon still made lots of dumb faces and I got mad at him.  #reallife  I salvaged 2 photos, but I suppose you only need one, so winning.

We remembered and talked of our amazing birth moms and celebrated each one in the ways we can.  I remembered my Mom and Everett and how motherhood looks different and means something different to each individual…even among our little tribe.  It ended up being a pretty decent day.  This morning Amon told me he had a Mother’s Day trick for me.  He had me stand in the kitchen with my eyes closed facing him and then he flung a big plastic snot rocket at my face knocking my glasses off.  I called him a jerk.  Josh leaned in for a kiss and said, “Happy Mother’s Day.”


  1. Thank you for sharing your heart….I have 2 amazing friends who lost their sons. Thru your posts, I have learned how to love them better; I have learned that saying their child’s name is a good thing and I have learned that some times, words may fail, but just being there for them, quietly is helpful, too.

    btw, I am angry that someone took down the laterns!! I could see the lanterns from the road I drive as I take and pick up my daughter from school. Those lanterns made me smile as I thought of your son seeing them from heaven. No reason for anyone to take down those beautiful laterns!!

  2. Crystal says:

    Your honest post do my heart so good. Although I may not be feeling what your feeling at the same time with the grief journey it’s a reminder that it’s ok to be open and real about the pain and the sunshine that appears on this grief journey.

  3. Carrie bentley says:

    Your realness, as usual, is amazing. Thank you for the reminder that, no matter what state we are in, communicating expectations and wishes is the best way to avoid unnecessary letdown. Holidays have a “funny” way of doing that and this was a good level set on how to keep the train on the tracks 😉

    Happy Mother’s Day to you <3

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