Pushing Myself

I haven’t done a totally random post in forever.  I always think about stopping in, but things are just wildly hard right now which means everyday tasks I used to be so used to feel really difficult.  This morning has been incredibly hard…full of lots of emotions and feelings and sadness and tears.  I seriously stood in the entrance of Kroger this morning at 6:30am and cried…my body a sweaty, smelly mess…a cart full of groceries…rain pouring…texting with a precious friend about the deepest of losses and the most beautiful of hearts…and I just broke down and sobbed right there.  No worries about me fellow Kroger shoppers…nothing to see here.

I decided I wanted September to be different in some way…even if it was small.  Things feel so drastically different than they used to, everything is crazy complicated now and I am tired…tired of feeling lonely, tired of feeling mentally, emotionally and physically exhausted, tired of grief having us by the throats….just so tired.  I wanted to take back my life in any small way I could so I’m trying to push myself in a few different ways

1. I’m trying to get back to working out consistantly 2. I’m trying to write everyday.  Most of those writings are sitting unpublished and will likely never meet another’s eyes, but they are for me…for my mind and soul.  And 3. Start creating again…big or small.  Our bank even gave me their booth at our yearly art fair at the end of our street in September.  Now I might show up with stationery and 11 key fobs, but I will show up and I will have at least something I created with my own hands for sale.  I just need something to change and change always needs to begin within.

So in an effort to push myself I decided to sit down this morning and share some randomness.

We swam 4 times between Monday and Sunday.  One of those times Brea and I sat all by ourselves at a completely empty pool and soaked up rays and chatted away.  One time our littlest had the whole pool to herself.  And we also hit up the wave pool yesterday. Church is really hard right now.  It’s filled to the brim with the kindest and most lovely people, but Josh and I struggle to go right now.  It’s just a lot of reminders and memories and we love them, but they also feel sad & heavy.  So Sunday the wave pool was our church of choice and the sun was quite splendid.  It definitely did not hurt we got to hang with friends, see Ashley and munch on chicken fingers and icees.

(You guys, putting clothes on is even arduous.)

In Nashville we got to experience the eclipse in totality.  Everyone was off of school and Josh worked from home.  Some friends and family came over to eat and hang out.  Honestly, I didn’t know much about the eclipse…like didn’t even know when it was…until some teachers from the kids’ school told me about it.  I thought it would be neat, but never did I think it would be as remarkable as it was.  We had over two minutes of totality and it made me tear up.  Of course I longed for Everett to be with us, but I also thought about a line from a song:

The deepest depths, the darkest nights
Can’t separate, can’t keep me from your sight
I get so lost, forget my way
But still you love and you don’t forget my name

I have a lot of feelings about God right now and candidly, a lot of them are not good and I know they are inaccurate.  Still my flesh has to walk through those and process those and this reminder of how He has not forgotten us…how He knows how hard our struggle is right now…how He deeply loves us…was enough to make me want to travel to see every eclipse totality our continent will see.

We let Harper dye her hair blue.  She casually mention it one time and was shocked when without hesitation I told her she could.  Growing up there we’re things my mom did not battle…things that we’re easy yeses because she knew there would be bigger things that would require a “no”.  Decorating my room however I wanted, dying my hair all kinds of colors, getting more piercings and so on and so on we’re always yeses. It has been far tougher than we imagined watching our children grieve the loss of their brother and if you know Harper Kelley you know she loves her siblings fiercely and especially the littles…Amon, Everett and our littlest.  She is so sad and cries a lot and asks hard questions like “WHY???” and makes comments like “I just don’t understand” and “Why is this not getting easier, but harder?” and all we can do is hold her close, nod in agreement and say “yes” to all those things which are easy to say yes too which might stir up some joy for her grieving heart.

Josh Kelley is taking each of the kids over night hiking and backpacking by themselves.  Harper already has gone and Hudson was up next…in order of age.  They did not die which was awesome and they had a really sweet time together.  Pictures started rolling in Sunday afternoon once they got to some cell service and all I could do was smile.

We have received countless kind things in the mail.  I don’t even know where to start with this.  I have lost all hope of ever writing thank you notes at this point.  So many things.  So many cards.  So much kindness.  The kids do most of the opening and if there are personal cards for just me I sit those aside for later.  I’ve started working through some of those because at first I had a very hard time reading everything.  There we’re just ALL THE EMOTIONS of my own coupled with lots of emotions from others and it was pretty hard to process it all.  So many really thoughtful things have shown up at our house…ornaments, lots of Fiesta donkeys in all shapes, sizes and varieties, artwork, gift cards, jewelry, toys & treats for the kids and so much more.  Please please please know how deeply grateful we are.

Last Wednesday I was having a particularly rough day when our mailman handed over a giant box full of rainbow donkey piñata pillows.  Yes, yes you did read that correctly.  And 8 of them to be exact…one for each member of our family.  Insert all the tears.  I sat down and weeped over this incredibly kind gesture of love.  The kids we’re ecstatic about them, snagged their own and landed each pillow on their beds.  Denise, THANK YOU!  You are a gem and crazy talented and each of the Kelleys so loves their personal Fiesta pillow.

Last random thing for today.  School is in full swing which means sickness immediately plagued us.  Can we all just wear hazmat suits and go about our normal lives living germ free?!?!?!  Sol already missed a day of school and our littlest came home feeling puny with a fever.  I had to wake her up at school to which she fell back to sleep during our 2 minute drive to our house and she then proceeded to get in her fetal position and fall back to sleep again.  Insert all the eye rolls emojis…no ones got time for sick kiddos.

Hudson and Solomon both tried out for the rhythm club at school…aka the dance club.  No one was more shocked than I was that they both wanted to.  They stayed after school two days to learn the routine and then on Thursday they stayed late to preform it on their own for the judges.  WHAT IN THE WORLD?!?!?!  The results we’re posted on the door of the school Friday afternoon.  They both hopped out very anxious and excited.  Hudson made the team and Solomon made alternate…and they we’re both totally good with it.  I cry about everything these days, but watching them standing up there reading over the list made my eyes leak a watery substance.

And their entire school is broken up into 4 teams this year.  All the kids are mixed up, but Hudson and Amon ended up on the same team which means they wear matching shirts every Friday.  The other day after school I looked over from the kitchen and my heart exploded.  Brothers are the best!

That’s all I’ve got for today.  Thank you so much for stopping by to read…I know this little space on the internet currently holds a lot of sadness and bitterness and cuss words and rage 🙂 so I appreciate your willingness to read and still come into this space along with me.

“But If Not”

I just wanted to drop in today and share about a really sweet company who has decided to come along side our family during this difficult time of transitioning into our new unwanted normal without Everett.  We are incredibly humbled and honored to have new friends who have linked arms with our family in such kind and supportive way.

From Sage Harvest Gourmet Jerky:
“…we will always sing a song of hope.”

And that’s just what the Kelley family did.

They sang a song of hope when they saw their son’s face across oceans and knew there family would be even better with him in it.

They sang a song of hope as they learned about the unique and fragile heart beating inside their little warrior’s chest.

They sang a song of hope as they traveled to China to make sure that their warrior with the special heart and an uncertain future would know the healing power of redemptive love.

They sang a song of hope as they brought him home and lovingly took him to the very best medical facility where skilled surgeons would mend their baby boy’s broken heart.

And, somehow, with an unimaginable strength and unshakable faith, they continued to sing a song of hope as everything went wrong …

And, between tears and with shaky voices, they sang a song of hope as they left the hospital, not with a wholehearted son held tightly in their arms, but instead with empty, aching arms and shattered hearts of their own.

Everett Louie Shuai, the bravest of heart warriors and most beloved of sons, went to be with the Lord on July 18th, and his beautiful family showed us all what it looks like to boldly walk into the flames with an unwavering faith and unfaltering love for God — and to come out faithful, no matter the outcome. They showed us how to love and serve each other and our Father through the deepest and darkest of valleys.

They walked into the flames with their baby boy, so hopeful for healing, renewing and restoration — knowing and believing that their God could deliver these things, but if not, their hope and faith in our one true God would remain.

And it has.

As they figure out how to live out the hurt and grief of the “but if not,” would you join us in singing a song of hope for Everett and his family? Would you join us in giving back to the family who has given us the most beautiful example of relentless love and abiding faith?

When their voices are cracking, when the weight of grief is too much, when they are just simply too weary to sing, let us sing a song of hope for them and with them. Let us sing for Everett, for a family with beautiful faith and for a God who is true and good — no matter what.

100 percent of the profits from our “but if not” shirts will go toward loving the Kelley family and helping them to offset the medical costs for Everett’s care. Thank you for loving this family right along with us.

You can purchase your “but if not” shirt at http://sageharvestjerky.com/merchandise/strong>

The people and family behind Sage Harvest are crazy kind and we are so grateful.

You can find them on Instagram and Facebook as well.  Check them out and get yourself a tee.  I just ordered a tank top and I’m pretty excited about it.  “But if not”, I mean come on, yes x 1000!!!!  And as hard as it is, we are living that right now and we know God is still His good, loving and merciful self even in the death of our sweet boy!  “But if not…”

One Month

Friday marked one month since we lost Everett.  We actually had been keeping a calendar and new it was coming.  We we’re going for no surprises here, but upon it’s arrival it still sucked the breath out of me.  It reminded me of when I realized an entire week had passed since he had died.  It felt unreal all over again.  Like, there is just no way this even happened.  One month feels like 3 days…tops.  I look back at pictures of us in the hospital and it’s raw and pitiful…Everett so sick, his body being put through all it was being put through, our family so strung out and yet we’d give anything to go back to that place and do it all over again if it meant we could be with him again.

Things feel incredibly isolating and lonely now.  We hear less and less from friends and family and realizing the world is moving on and you are still legitimately, heavily grieving your dead son is pretty damn hard.  And please hear me…I get it, I really do.  People move on and rightly so…it’s a natural progression for others, but it doesn’t make it any less easier and it’s a constant battle to not stay pissed off feeling.  It also feels insane trying to walk our grief out individually while helping the others in our home do the same.  Seven people grieving means there is little to no time to NOT be thinking about it…Everett, the sadness, the mess, the regret, the guilt, the pain.  You simply cannot escape it…especially when the majority of the people grieving are children who talk and talk and talk some more about their grief.  Our littlest asks me multiple times a day, “Why did Everett have to die?” and some days I want to lose my ever loving mind and scream at the top of my lungs like a wild animal, “For effs sake, I don’t know why he had to die.  It’s ridiculous and stupid and makes zero sense so will you never ever ever ask me this question again?!?!  Okay?  Okay!”  Crazy mom alert.  Hahahaha.  And obviously we want everyone to grieve how they need to, but man, some days it’s just far too much.

On Friday morning Harper cried on her way out the door.  She couldn’t believe one month was here.  Me too, sister!  Me too!  But there was a sleepover planned at Nene and Big Daddy’s and a friends house so this perked spirits up.  I spent the day with our littlest running errands and trying to keep thoughts at bay.  I drew in my book for the first time since the morning Everett died.  The last time I put pencil to this paper was laying beside his little body on life support when just hours later his little heart would beat it’s last.  We also picked up flowers because days like today need pretty flowers to share with others.  Andy and Becky asked us to go out for dinner that night too and we thought it was the perfect time to have our first date night in really FOREVER.

Josh Kelley and I just aren’t up for much these days.  We don’t like to go out and we don’t even really like being around tons of people.  Everywhere kind of feels sucktastic because everything feels hard right now.  We have to listen to everyone’s comments and try and have normal conversations when all we want to do is ball up into the fetal position and cry in the corner of a room…any room will do.  And simple tasks still feel really difficult for me.  Amon asked me to make chocolate chip cookies for his Gotcha Day and you guys, you would have thought he asked me to scale Mt. Kilimanjaro naked with no supplies.  I use to love to bake and now it feels like pulling teeth, but most everything does.

And that’s one of the hardest parts…that our everyday has been totally flipped.  The way we once we’re is no more.  We are drastically different people…a drastically different family…whether we like it or not.  Everything is different.  Nothing feels like it used to.  And everyone is our house feels it so there is zero escape.  We’re having to learn who we are along with who “us” is all over again and figure out how this is now going to work.  It’s really hard when you used to really love to do things…baking, creating, running, reading the Bible, etc…and now it all just feels too hard and unenjoyable.  I don’t even know what to do with that yet.

So Friday night we dolled up and headed to Two Ten Jack to eat with Andy and Becky for dinner.  And you know what, it wasn’t terrible at all.  I think it helps being around people who genuinely, deeply loved your kid almost as much as you did.  I think it helps knowing they know we’re doing terrible.  And I think it helps because they’re game despite knowing we’re doing terrible 🙂  So we ate all the foods and drank all the drinks and talked our faces off.  We ate the best brussels sprouts to ever grace a plate along with crazy good ramen, dumplings and salmon.  Aaaaand about 3 hours & 4 cocktails later I might have gone into Five Daughters Bakery  and purchased a dozen donuts because I was all, “Donuts!  I love donuts.” Unbeknownst to me Five Daughters is not like Krispy Kreme in pricing or donuts so Becky and I emerged $50 and 12 cronuts (donut crossaints) later like, “What just happened?!?!”  Hahahahaha.  It makes me laugh every time I think about it, but we sat on the patio outside and ate the best cronuts we’ve ever had…and the first cronuts we’ve ever had.  Worth every single penny.  So so delicious.

We handed off some extra cronuts in a to-go box for A & B, hugged, said our goodbyes and headed home.  As we drove I thought about what this month has looked like…every last hellish piece of it.  And truthfully it’s been terrible.  Could it have been worse, totally, but losing Everett was nothing I was prepared for.  Do we still see God’s goodness everywhere, you bet.  We still love Him, He’s still unchanging and He’s still ridiculously good.  I thought about all the times in my life I’ve thought or wondered about what the year will hold…the hope that might emerge…and I thought it again.  Hope will always be our song.

My Weekly Grief Spill

The farther we move away from Everett’s death the harder it gets.  I always want to share honestly in this little space because I think sharing openly is really important.  Plus I always think “Surely there has got to be another person who feels this way too.”

*I am learning the #1 route through this mess is grace.  Grace, grace and more grace.  Everyone needs it.  Me…Josh…our kids…strangers…family…and friends.  One morning this week we we’re all moving a little slower than normal and Hudson was really sad on top of it.  We needed to leave for school in 15 minutes.  I hate being late…it’s kind of my thing.  I am not typically late and it actually really stresses me out to be late so usually I’ll fly into panic mode and get everyone out the door asap.  This morning I knew we needed different.  Instead I took a deep breath and sat with Hudson on the couch.  We hugged, we cried and we talked about Everett and how we miss him so much.  Then we ate breakfast, finished getting ready for school and I stuffed down my typical feeling of “rush, move fast Laura…do not be late” and I just let them all be late for school.  When I signed the boys in they asked for a reason and I said and wrote “sad morning” and let it be at that.

*Anger is currently an overriding feeling all throughout my day.  I feel it towards people and circumstances.  It is a constant battle.  I just don’t get a lot of other’s actions and words sometimes, BUT I also have a major role in this.  The Bible is very clear about where to place your hope…where to cast your cares…when to align your heart and it is definitely NOT in other people, but in Jesus Himself.  I have let down many people and will do so again and again.  Putting our hope in humans is not wise.

*Amon is incredibly musically inclined.  He loves music.  He loves to sing.  He loves to dance.  Several times while driving down the road and hearing a certain song on the radio that I immediately start to internalize and apply to our current situation without Shuai, Amon will break into tears and share how much he misses his brother.  He internalizes music too.  He likes to hear the music that was played and sang at Shuai’s burial and celebration of life and often ends in tears and him asking me to turn them off, but his little self pushes him to go to that place first and then retreats if needed.  It has been so hard and humbling to watch as each child grieves so differently.

*Marriage is hard in general and marriage is hard in grief too.  Josh Kelley and myself both lost a child and now we’re both living grief while parenting 5 children who are grieving as well, plus work and relationships and all our own personal emotions and feelings…everything right now…including marriage…feels damn hard.

*Our littlest has decided she is very much done with her FuShuai being dead.  She is three and very outspoken and in tune to her feelings.  The other morning she woke up around 4am and cried telling me how she didn’t want Everett to be in heaven any more and how she just wanted him to come home now.  She has shared how she doesn’t want him in the ground anymore and she talks about death daily and always asks, “If I die will I stay in heaven forever too?”  And the other day she got so excited because she was absolutely convinced the private Amazon delivery driver was bringing Everett home.  She exclaimed, “I think it’s Everett.  I think they’re bringing him home.”  She ran out the front door to which I went after her, scooped her up and explained again how he would not be coming home and how the nice lady was just dropping off a package.  She cried into my shoulder.  Another little tidbit on me and death and grief…right now I say the F word a lot.  There is just not one bit of Everett’s death which feels right or good or okay.  NONE.

*The other day my BIL Andy told us how when he went back to school how many people he’d never talked with about Everett wanted to talk to him about Everett.  It made my day.  I love when people still bring up his name and recognize how badly this sucks.  We know not everything revolves around us or Everett or the death of Everett, but our minds are there all day, every day, so when Andy chose to share that with us it breathed life into both Josh Kelley and myself.

*2 things I currently hate feeling: 1. Like we cannot move out of our house quick enough.  It feels terrible to not want to be in a home you have loved and especially when there are so many who are homeless or living in motels in our community.  It feels silly and yet still crazy hard to remain.  And 2.  I’d rather Mom have died than Everett.  Mom’s death was sudden and she was my Mom and I still miss her terribly, but she was the parent and now it feels like a more natural death than your child’s.  Our 3-year-old dying after going through all he went through and my 62-year-old mom dying feels very very different.  Some aspects about my grief feel similar, but most feel vastly different.

*It is crazy hard navigating my own grief while watching, listening, experiencing and living with 6 other humans who are grieving as well.  I hear everyone’s thoughts and feelings and not that I don’t want to, but it just is really really really hard.  Not only are we deep in our own grief, but we’re also deep in each other’s grief and that has been very difficult for me to figure out and know how to handle and move through.

*I have to remind myself daily that I still need to celebrate with others who are celebrating and grieve with others who are grieving.  I don’t really want to celebrate things when my heart is in such a broken place, but people still need to be celebrated.  And we’re not the only ones in the world with sad stuff and with heavy burdens we’re currently carrying.  We cannot turn so inward that we do not see outward those who are hurting around us…those who need encouraging and need love and need to know they are not alone and that they are indeed seen. We still need to reach outside ourselves in the midst of our grief.

*People are crazy kind.  We get cards and packages almost everyday.  There’s a local church where we seriously only know maybe one person there and yet we get cards, cards and more cards from this little body of believers.  It’s the sweetest and my kids are loving opening all the mail.  Friends have dropped off baked goods and dinners and solar eclipse buckets and rainbow weaves.  Strangers have mailed donkey piñata ornaments, cards, tee shirts and bracelets.  All the donkey rainbow goodness makes my heart gush.  And so many of you have sent more goodies & treats for our kiddos.  All the kindness is too much in the best kind of way.

 *A new friend Cara is raising money to help supply books to Mott Children’s Hospital in Everett’s honor.  It’s the sweetest and a young local girl even drew the cutest rainbow piñata donkey picture which will serve as the bookplate inside each book.  If you’d like to donate head over HERE and make your donation.

So there are some of my current crazy grief truths.  Could things be worse?  Yep, totally.  Do we still love Jesus?  Yep, totally.  Do we still praise His name?  Yep, totally.  We can believe and do all those things while still hurting and fumbling our way through life without our son.

Deeply Sorry

Saturday we had two additional kiddos at our house so I didn’t turn on the news, but Ashley kept me in the loop via text coupled with Facebook, Twitter and internet news sources.  I have so many many thoughts on what took place in Charlottesville, but truthfully I feel like they will all fall absolutely short.  Here’s the base of all my thoughts though:  I’m just sorry.  So so heartbroken and incredibly sorry to our brothers and sisters of different colors, races and religions.  I know how overwhelmed and helpless and sad I feel and I am a white privileged women so to those of you who have experienced racism your whole lives…that this is your normal…I am just deeply deeply sorry.

I feel like so many other people say things way better than I do so I wanted to share some great words and articles about racism and what happened in Charlottesville.  I think one of the most important things white people can do to help move towards racial reconciliation is to listen and acknowledge.

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Bob Goff via Facebook: The way we stand up against what is wrong today
How we give away love with even more resolve tomorrow
is the best way to let people know how deeply we feel about what happened yesterday.

21 Racial Microaggressions You Hear Everyday

10 Everyday Ways Charlottesville and White Supremacy Are Allowed To Still Happen – crazy good article.  A MUST READ!

Preemptive Love Coalition: Racist Protests in Charlottesville May Come as a Shock. But They Shouldn’t.

“Let’s not say, “I can’t believe this is happening in 2017.” It never stopped happening.  Racism is real, and it runs deep. Let us open our eyes and ears—and listen to our black neighbors, our indigenous neighbors, our Muslim neighbors, our Jewish neighbors, our immigrant neighbors. Let’s hear the lament, the cries, and the pain of their lived experience.  Love cannot look away. #Charlottesville

Lauren Casper via Facebook:

“I want to be inspirational and hopeful and type a message about love and light driving out evil and darkness. I’ve been sitting here speechless, though, so instead I will just be honest.

I am a human being. I am a sinner saved by grace alone. And because of that, my first thoughts and feelings are perhaps not as rational, thoughtful, and peaceful as they should be, but here is what I am feeling today…

As neo-nazis and white supremacists marched with torches last night I felt furious and disgusted and, sadly, not surprised. They descended on a city we travel to regularly for our children’s medical care (an hour just over the mountain from our home) and the university where my brother received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees. They are flying nazi flags and chanting “blood and soil.” They are chanting “Heil Trump!” while giving the nazi salute. They hate my children. They hate me for being their mother. They hate anyone who doesn’t hold their beliefs, genetics, and ideals. They are the face of hatred.

Honest moment – it is HARD HARD HARD for me not to return their hatred with hate of my own. And it seems impossible to not feel afraid. My initial reaction isn’t love or peace or hope. It’s fear and anger and distrust and horror. It takes some serious mental and spiritual gymnastics for me to remember that love drives out hate and perfect love casts out fear and faith brings hope. It’s the truth. But it’s a hard truth for this mama.

I do not feel this way because I am the mother of two black children. I feel this way because I am a human being. And all human beings should stand against this evil ideology of racism and hatred. So I am praying for peace and reconciliation in Charlottesville and beyond today. And I am praying for my own heart to turn from fear and hate to love and hope and peace.”

 Yes, This is Racism by John Pavlovitz

“White people especially need to name racism in this hour, because somewhere in that crowd of sweaty, dead-eyed, raw throated white men—are our brothers and cousins and husbands and fathers and children; those we go to church with and see at Little League and in our neighborhoods.

They need to be made accountable by those they deem their “own kind.”
They need to know that this is not who we are, that we don’t bless or support or respect this.
They need white faces speaking directly into their faces, loudly on behalf of love.”

Unlock Hope always brings a good word.

I also read a great article on how African Americans feel living with confederate monuments still everywhere.  It was such a great article and now I cannot find it anywhere.  One of the lines said it’s like asking Holocaust survivors to picnic in parks with statues of Hitler.  It was a really important read and if anyone else has read it, please share the link.  I have searched and searched for it.

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I don’t have a lot of insight tonight.  I feel absolutely helpless and at a loss.  I feel so insanely sad on so many different levels, but I can always listen.  I can always choose to link arms with our brothers and sisters who are hurting.  And I can always choose to speak truth and love when others are speaking lies and hate.

Random Grief Thoughts

*Everyone started school on Monday even our littlest.  I had originally been excited about the start of school.  I thought it would be good for everyone especially the routine and friendships and solo time, but randomly on Saturday I had an hour by myself in our house for the first time since Everett died and it was the worst.  I just cried and cried while everyone was gone and I immediately decided I wanted no one to go back to school or I needed to get a job outside our house. 🙂

We’re three days in and it has been a massive adjustment for everybody.  Harper started middle school.  Hudson and Solomon started 3rd grade in separate classes this year.  Amon started kindergarten and our littlest headed off to MDO again.  Lots of our kids are still struggling with sadness and sleeping so not only are we emotionally exhausted, but we are physically exhausted as well.  I keep telling myself this is just a season…just weather through it, weather through it.  The kids miss their little brother something awful and everyone is feeling the weight of grief.

Hands down the worst part of the first day of school was dropping our littlest off at mother’s day out and walking out alone.  Prior to summer I would drop Amon and her off and I would always have my arms full of Everett.  He and I would take the day for just us and I so badly miss that.  I broke into tears before I even reached my car.

*Last night I finally threw away Shuai’s medicines that sat on our counter top in the kitchen.  We gave him his medicines 3 times a day for almost 5 months and when we got home I just couldn’t toss it yet.  Last night I decided it was time and it felt really sad to me.  Those medicines helped his heart do what it needed to do.  Those medicines we’re a very important lifeline.  It was yet another sign of the finality of this mess.

*I’ve been sleeping with his blanket.  Calling all crazies, I’ll be your leader.  I love having it close and I really don’t have any other explanations, but I am the grown woman sleeping with a toddler’s blankie right now.

( ^Channeling my inner Nick Nolte mug shot.  Google it and thank me later. )

*The sky is teaching me again and again that God remains the same.  He is the same God who creates reminders in the sky just the same as before Everett died.

*I had to email Harper’s teachers at school about Everett.  Everyone at our elementary already knew, but not at Harper’s new middle school.  I also had to email her soccer coach and ask if we could get a refund.  She’s just not feeling it and really, who could blame her?!?!?!  If I didn’t have 5 other kiddos depending on me, I wouldn’t get out of bed much.

*Josh Kelley and myself talk a lot about how we see how people lose their religion from these kinds of moments.  We also talk about how the only way out of this mess we can see is Jesus.  When I think of others going through losing a child without Jesus it makes me deeply sad because I know how all over the place we feel and I simply cannot fathom their desolate feelings.  I feel the craziest back-and-forth of mind set…hopeless to hopeful again and again and again.  All day long.

*I went to my first workout last Thursday since we left for Michigan and thought I was going to throw up.  I went again on Monday and fought tears the entire time and didn’t even finish the workout for the day.  I gave myself a 45 minute time limit…once I hit 45 minutes I went home.  This morning I slept in and went after I dropped our littlest off at school.  I never do that.  I always go to the 5am class and usually push myself really hard, but I’m learning to lean into some grace and give myself a break on things like this right now.

*Rachel, a new friend who works at Target, told me she was praying for our family while I was doing self checkout and I wanted to just sob into her arms.  I also cried to our littlest’s MDO teacher, sobbed into Mrs. Elkins’ chest who was working the carrider line and got choked up when our friend Mr. Tony who delivers eggs told me how sorry he was.  I simply cry pretty much all the time to every person ever!!!!  No one is safe from my “dead weight of tears”…fondly coined description by Aimee to describe Ashley, but I’m taking it on for myself.  It just feels right. 🙂

*We’re going to try and go to church tonight for the first time since returning from Michigan.  I’m also going to clean my office and try and create something…no idea what, but just something.  And I’m contemplating about 5 different new tattoos for Everett.  When life hands out trauma, I get tattoos.  Totally normal right?!?!?!?

 *I can see that we love being around our people right now.  When we have a house full of those we hold dear for food and games things feel more normal.  When they leave the normal leaves too because then it’s just our little family again and the void Everett has left is glaring.  It’s this fine balance of pushing through the hard, but also throwing in the nights when our house is brimming with people which feels like a balm to our burned out grief stricken selves.

*God is still good.  I’ve had long talks with myself about how and why God is still good and I can come up with an insanely long list about why He is just that.  Plus, if I believed God was good before Everett died while there was world wide slavery, child headed households, the orphan crisis, people dying of preventable diseases and lack of clean water, rampart racism, Aleppo and mamas and daddies struggling to feed their babies then I must must must believe He is still good now.  Losing Everett put God’s goodness on the line…what will you believe now Laura…it got really really personal…and I know He’s still good.

We are deeply defeated feeling right now, but there are others struggling far worse.  We got to sit by Everett’s side and be with him while he fought so hard and bravely.  Love on him and stroke his sweet thick black hair.  There are parents around the world who do not have health insurance or the money to pay for life saving surgeries their children need.  They are faced with the decision of taking their child home to watch them die or give them up…surrender their rights as their child’s parents…and the government will see to their child’s surgery, but they will never see their child again.  I CANNOT fathom that.  CANNOT.  So while we are hurting, we know others are hurting too.  And some of that brokenness is far beyond our comprehension.  I am choosing to know deeply that God is still good and to continue to look for ways to rally around others in their own hard times.

 *And lastly if you have not had a chance to give in honor of Everett to Morning Star’s Love Project and would like to…there’s still time.  Just call or go by a local Pinnacle bank and give under Josh & Laura Kelley or you can donate directly online HERE.  They have some amazing prints available for your donation as well or at the bottom right hand side of the site you can make a donation of any amount.

Gritty And Ugly And Brutally Truthful

Hi!  I’ve thought about stopping in and writing and then I wondered what do I even write.  The grief is heavy and thick and feels like it’s swallowing us up most days.  Everything feels impossibly different now.  Everything.  And I’m sure very few want to read any of these words, but this is all I’ve got tonight.

Josh Kelley is grieving.  I am grieving.  And then five Kelley children are all grieving and this is hard as hell.  I want to do ZERO of it.  None.  I want to tap out and call it quits.  I want to stay in bed all day long.  I don’t want to leave our house.  I want to drink far too many cocktails.  I want to eat my emotions under the table.  I simply do not want to do any of this, but there are these other crazy amazing kids who need us so quitting isn’t an option.  Heck, sleeping in isn’t even an option. 🙂

I hate so many things in our home now.  And I’ve ran that sentence a thousand times over in my head because our house holds so many incredible precious memories, so it’s really hard to type that, but right now the jeering loss of Everett seems to be tainting most everything.  We always eat dinner together and since coming home without Everett we have not sat down all together until tonight.  And his empty chair stared us in the face.  I mustered out the tiniest prayer and broke into tears mid way.  What in the world?  Our kid is dead.  Our 3-year-old died and not one part of that feels okay.

Going into the boys’ room at night is probably the hardest.  His little bed lays empty with his blankies and stuffed animals.  I actually already packed up a bunch of his newer items and gave them to the Carman’s for Everett’s best friend who will be coming home soon.  I just couldn’t look at some of his things and I needed to know they still carried a purpose and knowing his best friend would have them and use them made me feel better.

I still can’t empty out his backpack from the hospital packed with all his favorite things we knew he’d want when he started his recovery.  The other day our littlest came walking out of our bedroom wearing his backpack and it caught me completely off guard to which I snapped at her to put it back immediately.  And the other morning I closed our closet door and just sobbed in the floor over that same backpack.  I miss our boy.  This is pain and loss and grief like I’ve never felt before.  This is a whole new ballgame and I have no idea how to play.

I get physically sick and cry uncontrollably when I think about Everett and all the hopes and dreams we buried with him.  I just knew God was going to heal him.  I just knew it.  I had imagined what his little life would look like…even things like grand babies and how he and his best friend would celebrate every birthday together just like they’d always done.  I imagined more trips to the beach and airport celebrations and all the first holidays together.  I imagined Chinese New Year with him for the first time and how special that was going to be.  Josh’s parents are taking everyone to Disney in September and we knew they we’re having to change things once Everett passed away and Josh and I have absolutely no desire to go now.  None!  But then there are 5 other kiddos who cannot wait.  It’s this constant turmoil inside ourselves of battling hard with everything…trying to heal, but not being able to the exact way you would if it was just you…or if it was just me and Josh.  There’s this constant reevaluating of every move you make and every feeling you feel and every reaction you have because it’s not just you in this grief game, but five siblings are grieving their brother as well and they still need you.

Tonight after I kissed all the boys goodnight I brought down Everett’s big and little blankies.  I walked down our stairs, into our dark bedroom and stood there in the dark and smelled them.  I smelled every part of them hoping to catch a familiarity of him.  I remember in the hospital one of our nurses asked if I wanted her to wash his little blankie because it had chocolate on it from the days leading up to the hospital.  Right off hand I said “Sure”, but I immediately panicked even though she hadn’t even touched the blanket yet.  I broke into tears and asked her not to wash it.  I didn’t want his chocolate finger smudges washed away or his smell.

Regret spills through our minds all day long and it’s yet another thing to fight.  Do I know it’s Satan?  Yes.  Is it hard to fight?  Hell yes.  We’ve questioned every last decision we made on Everett’s behalf.  We’ve played every moment over and over and over in our minds.  We’ve gone over all the questions we asked and if we asked all the right ones or did we miss some.  The what ifs are insurmountable.  It brings me to my knees daily.  The regret and guilt we’re battling is of massive proportion and weighs oh so heavy.  Yet another thing to fight to hand over to Jesus because we know we’re not made to carry it.

Amon has his cardiologist appointment soon and I am dreading it.  I know without question it will be painful to walk into that building again and sit in those chairs and go into that waiting room and talk to our beloved doctor who cried on the phone with me.  I know every part of that appointment will be hellish on my heart.  The death of Everett naturally brings up fear about Amon too.  The what ifs run wild and it’s a battle to keep them in check and hand them over to God as well.

People say the wildest things to try and make you feel better.

Question:  Is it okay to just throat punch someone who says something so insanely stupid about your child dying?  Asking for a friend. 🙂

Sometimes the best thing you can say to someone who is just brokenhearted is “I’m so sorry.  This effin sucks.  I can’t imagine how you feel.”

And I have feelings about God I’ve never really had before.  I have so many questions and constantly have to say truths about who God is over and over to myself.  I’ve tried breaking down my feelings at a minimum of 354 times and the most honest way I can describe it is this:

I fiercely love Jesus, I really and truly do, but I don’t like Him very much right now.  Love Him, yes.  Like Him, no.  Does that make sense?  None of what happened to Everett feels right or good or okay.  None of it.  It feels like a wildly cruel joke.  We still struggle with the reality and finality of it all.  Some days it still does not feel real.  And I know bad things happen because we live in a fallen world.  And I don’t think God “planned” for Everett to die at age 3.  And I know God is good, good, good.  And I know He is absolutely worthy of all my praise and I will still continue to praise His name.  But I find myself landing in the space of questioning the why behind it all and why not healing for Everett and while Jesus owes me not one explanation I am a completely flawed sinner and I just have lots of feelings and emotions to lay at His feet and say directly to Him.

The thing I love about Jesus is I do not intimidate Him.  I don’t think I hurt His feelings.  I can say to Him,

Me:  “I love you a lot, but I don’t like you right now.”

And in my head I feel like He would respond with something along the lines of,

God:  “I understand your feelings and I am here and will never leave you.  Please always know you can tell me anything and my love for you will never change.”

 I could be totally wrong, but I wonder if He didn’t like some people He came in contact with while on Earth.  Love them like mad…yes, like them…no??  It’s totally speculation on my part, but when I looked up the definition of “like” it said:

find agreeable, enjoyable or satisfactory

I wonder if He ever crossed paths with someone He didn’t agree with or didn’t find enjoyable or was not satisfied with how they treated Him or someone else.  The whole thing has made my mind think like crazy, but what I’ve really boiled everything down to is God is big enough for my questions and doubts and dislike right now.  He’s big enough to handle my anger and sadness and regret.  He’s big enough for all the ways I miss my boy immensely and He’s always here…never leaving…never stopping His love.  He’s big enough for all that I bring before Him no matter what it looks like.

So, that’s where I am right now.  It feels gritty and ugly and brutally truthful, but that’s all I’ve got.  And I really think Jesus is still sitting right here in the midst of this mess and loving us just the same.

2 Weeks + Saying Goodbye

Two weeks ago today our sweet Everett went to be with Jesus.  And if I’m truthful I actually think he even went before that.  I’ve been running those 40 something minutes through my head while I watched his team administer CPR and compressions and get his small body hooked up to life support and I can’t help but think a kind angel swooped in and took him off to be with Jesus then.  Losing Everett has been massively different than losing Mom and in my head I had tried convincing myself I’d be more prepared if something did happen to Everett and yet here I am a freakin’ mess and feeling absolutely blindsided by most everything as we move through each day.  So many things catch my breath and send me into a full on body shaking sob that instantly creates a pounding ache in my head.  From the first load of laundry that contained none of his clothes to only receiving 5 suckers instead of 6 in the bank drive through to Harper sleeping in his bed instead of him.  Every day I could write up a long list of these things which feel just so incredibly wrong and unnatural about our life now.

And then there are a few things I’ve found so far which feel the same.  Grief is a sleep snatcher and not just for me now.  Amon, our littlest and Hudson all wake up in the middle of the night feeling the loss of their brother and Harper can’t get to sleep…her mind won’t quit and she always finds herself in her loss and sadness ending with a hard cry and snuggle from Josh Kelley or myself.  Amon wakes up multiple times a night crying for Everett or his FuShuai.  I’m not sure how long this will last, but besides being emotionally exhausted we are all physically exhausted too.

Time seems to stand still.  Two weeks feels like two days.  At the end of Everett’s celebration of life service/party late Saturday night I sobbed in the parking lot as the last of our friends and family loaded up in their cars and drove away because I knew what this represented…tomorrow everyone’s lives march on and our grief really begins.  It’s an extremely hard pill to swallow and everyday you battle anger and hurt from the world because they don’t sit in your standstill grief with you.  Everyone else’s lives march on while you stay in the same suck ass grief place.  And I know this is how it is suppose to be…no one’s lives should stop for us…that’s normal life…other’s should carry on, but it doesn’t make it hurt any less.  So it’s a constant head and heart game to try and not get pissed off about things like text messages about Disney World or up and coming parties when all you can think about is how your sweet son won’t be at any of those things and you really don’t want to do any of them without him…you just want your boy back.

(Josh channeling his inner Shuai)

Friday we held Everett’s visitation.  We talked and met with so many sweet people who just lifted us up and encouraged us.  It was important to us for those who never actually got to meet Everett that they would walk away knowing him a little better.  Josh Kelley’s only request was for all of our videos to run of Everett so he got all the videos lined up on our computer and ready to go.  We ran about 35 minutes of Everett videos on repeat on the big screen in the sanctuary.  I’m the photo person so I wanted tons of photos of our boy.  We filled the entryway of the church with 250 balloons and attached a photo to each.  We had fun garland around the welcome center so as balloons started to come down over the 6 our visitation we could just clip the photos to the garland for display.  We didn’t want it to appear as a sad funeral…the tiny casket accomplished that all on it’s own…so we hung colorful buntings and garlands and a Happy Birthday banner and set up a candy bar and had tons of big white balloons filled with confetti.  Sweet Everett deserved a celebration.  At the end of Friday night we gathered every last balloon and headed out the back door of the church.  We stood with so many people we love and care for and who have loved and cared for us in our darkest of days and released every last balloon.  I cried and smiled simultaneously as I watched kids and adults alike laugh and watch in wonder.

Saturday morning Josh, his brother Andy and myself headed to the cemetery to decorate.  Everett was buried in the shade of a big tree and I knew exactly what I wanted this sacred moment of burying our son to look like.  We had purchased paper lanterns in China with Everett so those we’re a must.  Harper, Hudson, Solomon and my niece Meiya had cut out one bazillion hearts from old books and hymnals and those we’re a must as well.  I wanted a little representation of him wrapped around the tree trunk too.

Our incredible photographer and friend Cheyenne reached out to me and asked to be apart of our day along with her camera.  Cheyenne also captured our family just a few days before we left for Michigan.  She is a light and a gift.  I could never express our deepest of gratitude for the way she has loved and served our family.

At 10 that morning we gathered with our family under the big shade tree.  My SIL Becky had shared with me that traditional funeral flowers from Everett’s province we’re chrysanthemums and daisies of yellow and white representing celebratory life so those adorned his tiny casket.  Our friends Aubrey and Jen led us in worship and our friend Jim talked about Jesus and children.  Josh led us in a prayer and spoke of God’s goodness.  We gave out red Chinese envelopes to family in the days before Everett’s burial for them to write something if they chose to and at the burial they placed them on Everett’s casket as it was lowered into the ground.

Afterwards our funeral home all on their own had purchased a ton of balloons of all colors with number 4’s on them along with a colorful donkey piñata filled with candy since it was Everett’s birthday that day.  I love when people do what they do so well and we felt so loved and cared for by Forest Lawn Funeral Home.  They made a shit situation better and we surely felt the love and care from every single person we worked with there.  Melena and Rick led the way and we just felt incredibly loved by them.  Then we let everyone take flowers from Everett’s pall flowers.  I didn’t like thinking about all those beautiful flowers dying so we picked it apart and everyone took home a beautiful boquet of flowers in white and yellow.

That Saturday night we held a service and party to celebrate Everett’s life and his 4th birthday.  I did all of 3 things for the party…1) Shared my vision of what I saw the night looking like with Marcie and Susan.  2) I gathered important items and bought some things mostly online and handed it all over to them.  And 3) I dumped a bag of candy in a bowl and that was my food contribution.  Marcie & Nick, Susan, Melody, Brea & Jonathan, Brooke, Chelsea, Alissa, Jessica and so many other’s showed up just killed it.  When I got to the party all I could think was “This is going to be a really special time.”  It was exactly as I had envisioned and even more.  I started to cry as I saw all these people coming and bringing food and helping and putting drinks in tubs and dumping bags of ice and and and.  I caught Marcie’s eye and we cried and hugged…she was thinking the same thing…how special is the body of Christ when we choose to rally around…to unify…to come together in love rather than divide.

The service was incredibly special to us.  Jonathan opened us in a few words and prayer.  Jen and Aubrey led us in more worship.  Andy spoke about our boy and the deep meanings of his names and his life.  When we asked Andy to speak that’s all we asked.  We gave him no rules or agenda because we knew the deep love Andy held for Shuai and it shined so bright that night.  Then Josh and myself both shared some and Josh’s dad closed us out in a few words and prayer.  I loved how a slew of children mulled around and moved about coming in and out all during the service.  It was just as it should have been.  Our only kiddo who made it through the service was Hudson.  He hung on every word.  Our kiddos are all processing too so it was important to us to just let them be.  Some of them left early on, Harper got up when Josh Kelley started crying while speaking, our littlest sat in my lap almost the entire time holding my face or wiping my tears or saying things like “We all miss our Everett” or “I need food now” or “I need to go potty now.” 🙂  We just let them do what they needed to do.

Then we partied.  There was TONS of good food and desserts and jump houses and bubbles and sidewalk chalk and laughter and conversation and sparklers and so many people we hold dear and so many new faces we just met.  We all held a common thread…Everett.  Despite my own feelings of loss and sadness, I do know Everett’s life mattered deeply and God used and is using him still for His glory.  I cannot and will not argue with that ever.  Our goal was to bring people together to celebrate and lift God high and I really feel like that was exactly what happened.  The whole day felt special and holy.  I know we felt honored and humbled to be a part of it and to be loved on by so many.

And now we’re here.  We’re taking one day at a time and everyone is processing differently trying to find ourselves in our unwanted new normal.  Thank you deeply again and again for the way you have surrounded Everett and our family with love and prayer and encouragement.  We are just insanely grateful.

**If you have not had a chance to give in honor of Everett to Morning Star’s Love Project and would like to…there’s still time.  Just call or go by a local Pinnacle bank under Josh & Laura Kelley or you can donate directly online HERE.  They have some amazing prints available for your donation as well or at the bottom right hand side of the site you can make a donation of any amount.**