To Those Who Recognize

I feel like a broken record always showing up in this space with the same old feelings all wrapped up in our grief, but this is our life right now and I can’t muster up enough energy to fake it or paint a picture that isn’t really there.  I just can’t.  Yesterday marked 3 months since Everett died and it was quite the week.  Josh Kelley and I went out on our 2nd date since Everett died.  I shared on Instagram how we measure everything by that now “since Everett died” and how it feels ridiculous and yet so appropriate.  We we’re gifted dinner and tickets to the NeedToBreathe concert in Nashville by some friends of ours.  Crazy nice.

Before NeedToBreathe took the stage Josh and I we’re going to look at their tees they had for sale and we ran into some friends we haven’t seen in a long time.  Usually I kind of dread these moments because I typically walk away feeling sad or mad or unseen, but the wife looked me right in the eyes and proceeded to tell me she was so sorry and she thinks about us and Everett a lot and then she said, “Let me buy you a drink.”  And instantly tears gathered in my eye balls and I felt seen.  It was just that simple.  She didn’t run from empathy because it might be weird or uncomfortable for her, instead she walked straight into empathy for us and then bought be a double vodka soda with a lime.

Josh and I walked to our seats and we talked about how nice that moment was…how simple it was…but what weight it carried for us.  The impact it has on us when people just acknowledge that Everett was real and lived and that we are immensely sad is huge.  When people tell me they don’t want to mention him or bring him up because they are afraid it will make us sad, well, we’re actually thinking about Everett dying every moment of the day right now.  No one’s going to re-remind us our kid died because that’s all we can think about all the time.  Say people’s names.  Talk to those people you know are hurting and ask them how they are really doing.  It will give life.

The concert was fun and I was super glad about that.  I’ve become kind of a hermit…not really wanting to go places or get out much.  When we remembered the kind gesture of our friends, I actually had some anxiety about it, but thought how dumb that was…Laura, you can leave your house and have a fun night with Josh.  This is okay.  It will be fine.  And it was.  The concert was great and right after one particular song the tears welled and I grabbed my phone and typed out these words:

I stood there wondering, alcoholic drink in hand, has anyone else’s child died.  Do they feel this song the way I do?

The morning Everett died Hillsong and NeedToBreathe we’re on repeat so of course this band and a lot of their songs rush our minds and hearts back to the the worst day of our lives as parents.  I was worried there would be zero fun and we’d leave an even more depressed set of parents that we already are, but we had fun.  We talked about him a lot and thought about him constantly and it was nice just the two of us.  And the concert was really really amazing.

It was big week of therapies for kiddos.  Although we feel like a walking disaster party of 7, it feels like a huge win to have steps and plans in place with outside people we trust.  Even though we’re not really benefitting a ton from the plans just yet, the plans feel nice so really we actually are.  I think everyone also really enjoys being heard and acknowledged by someone who is outside of our family.

Over the weekend Amon and Solomon both needed a new pair of shoes.  I was cleaning out their lockers and opened Shuai’s locker for the first time.  His little coat was hanging on the hook and his little shoes we’re sitting in the bottom of his locker.  It took my breath away.  How can he not be here anymore, but his coat, his shoes, all his little things that we’re so special to him are?!?!?  That thought still baffles my brain some days.  I grabbed his coat and just sat there in our laundry room crying into his jacket and breathing in deep the smell on his little coat.  He wore that little jacket all over China and everywhere here at home.  And his little shoes he had on the day we met him, well, I needed a good bit of time to get past that one.  I lined his shoes up on the bottom and hung his jacket back on the hook and closed his locker door.  Moving past that one would have to wait for another day.  I’m just not ready.

Today our littlest and I went to grab a few mid week groceries.  I usually have to go back to the store each week to get things we’ve run out of and our snack drawer was quite bare.  We walked into Kroger and headed to the deli counter when I saw an older women waiting at the counter with a little Chinese boy sitting in the big basket part.  He had round little cheeks and longish smooth black hair and he looked like our Everett.  Tears pooled immediately and I thought I might throw up.  Our littlest noticed right away and yelled out, “Everett.  That boy looks just like our Everett.”  And she got teary too.  The grandmother saw us, heard us and knew we we’re talking about her grandson.  She reached into the basket and cupped his sweet face briefly with her hands and smiled at him.  I was so afraid she thought we we’re being unkind.

Our littlest would not let it rest and by this point I was in a full on cry.  Mr. Larry came by and offered our littlest a banana and I could tell he was concerned.  I finally walked over to the grandmother and chatted with her.  We exchanged pieces of each others stories and she cried with me.  I gushed over her grandson.  He seriously looked so much like our Fu Shuai.  Before I grabbed my deli meat and went on my way she told me again how sorry she was with tears still in her eyes.  I walked away whipping my face with my shirt and while I know deeply what hope is, right now it feels a bit wonky and fake, but God keeps using people who choose to show up for us…for Everett…to remind me hope is real, fierce and powerful.  This grandmother simply made me feel again seen, cared for and understood.

  We went home to unload groceries.  I opened our snack drawer and started dumping in granola bars of every variety.  I noticed two small packages of Everett’s favorite Chinese crackers still in the drawer.  We took packages of them to the hospital in preparation for when he was recovering and able to eat again he would most definitely want some of his favorite crackers.  I remember opening up those packages when we returned home without Everett and how wrong it felt to dump those crackers into our snack drawer knowing full well the kiddo who loved them most would never be the one to eat them.  Two little packages still remained…all crushed and broken.  Week after week I could never bring myself to toss them even though I knew no one was going to eat the broken crackers.  I loaded in all our snacks around the two packages of broken crackers and when I was all done I thought, today is the day Laura.  I snapped a picture because that’s just what I do and then I threw away the crackers and shut the drawer.  It may seem crazy or bizarre or over dramatic, but to me it felt like a step forward no matter how lame a step it may be.

As always, thank you guys for still showing up to read in this space even though you likely already know what I will be sharing about.  Everett and grief and missing him still plagues our minds & hearts all the time and it’s really hard to write about much else.  So please know I do deeply appreciate your kindness and thoughtfulness and encouragement.  And if you know someone in the trenches…show up for them and simply recognize their sadness & pain right now. I promise it will do more for them than you ever know.


  1. Genesis 16… the God who sees me.
    You are seen and loved and not alone… By so many and by God. Solitary grief is the worst, and while we have to walk the road with our own feet, live our life, being held up or carried along is a priceless gift and privilege for those who can support you. Many prayers and much love

  2. Goodness… The shoes, and the jacket…. but the crackers 🙁 my heart just breaks for you! You are right… It might be small, but it is a step forward! Grief sucks! I can’t even pretend to know what you are going through, but just know that I pray for you and your family often!

  3. Nikki mccullen says:


  4. Oh, those crackers. I can’t see a picture of your kitchen without imagining Everett sitting on the counter. ❤️
    I’m glad y’all had a good date night. Sometimes God speaks through double vodka sodas, I think.
    When you talk about feeling like you’re dwelling or somehow boring your blog audience, all I can do is shake my head. You are so brave to share this journey, and I can only imagine how many people to which you minister through this. Sometimes we just need to know that we aren’t alone in the hard things. ❤️

    • I think that some (most?) of the readers here and I could be friends, because it happens fairly often that someone says exactly what I’m thinking. Please keep sharing, Laura, because, like Lauren said “Sometimes we just need to know we’re not alone in the hard things.” This blog does that for us – and for you too.

  5. Please keep sharing. ❤️ I found your blog after my mom had died and hearing about your grief and the way you were processing it made me feel normal in the midst of the brokenness. I’m sure these words will bring someone healing someday as well. But today, for me, they brought deep sobbing tears and praying. I cannot even imagine, but we foster and we have always wanted to adopt. I think about you guys every day though we have never met. You are making a huge impact. Throwing away the crackers is big. Everything is big.

  6. Please keep sharing. ❤️ I found your blog after my mom had died and hearing about your grief and the way you were processing it made me feel normal in the midst of the brokenness. I’m sure these words will bring someone healing someday as well. But today, for me, they brought deep sobbing tears and praying. I cannot even imagine, but we foster and we have always wanted to adopt. I think about you guys every day though we have never met. You are making a huge impact. Throwing away the crackers is big. Everything is big. Thank you for sharing. ❤️❤️❤️

  7. Andrew Marsh says:

    I look forward to your posts. If you didn’t post, I’d be concerned that you were really gone downhill faster than fast. You are hanging on in there and, as a family, each of you looks after the other. You really can’t expect to be immune to your feelings after such a short time. In fact, you’ll never be immune. There’ll always be tears for your Everett, sometime heavy tears, other times tears of joy and good remembrance. Don’t ever beat yourself up for having loved Everett when he was with you or for still living him, now he’s home with the Lord. Now we see through a glass, darkly but then we shall see face to face! I can’t wait. I know I have to but I’m looking forward to being in my eternal home!! Go Everett, you have the best time, till we all get there with you!!!

  8. Oh how my heart breaks for you and your sweet family!! I think about you all the time and pray that more moments/days are coming that will put a tiny smile back on your face! Love you bunches!!!

  9. Continued prayers for you and your family as you grieve the loss of Everett! My heart breaks for you and you are seen, loved and lifted up by many!!

  10. Today I was able to share with an extended family member who is going through tremendous suffering words that you taught me to say: “I’m so sorry. This sucks. I’m so sorry” thank you for being real, for sharing deeply. You are enabling us to walk difficult, terrible roads with others. Thank you!

  11. Bekah k-t says:

    Oh Laura, thinking about you often and praying for peace.

  12. I flew from Nashville to Detroit last night. Thought of you and Everett the entire trip. Thought briefly about kneeling down to pray for you mid flight but I was in a middle row Instead I looked at some of my favorite pictures you shared of your sweet boy and thought of you and the Kelleys. Just pouring love to you over the world wide we. Always.

  13. Always talk about Everett. He is a part of your family.

  14. My heart aches for you. Many thoughts and prayers for you and your family.

  15. Laura,
    My mom told me this afternoon about a lovely mom and her daughter that she and my son met in our Krogers today. She told me how she and this mom talked, shared their story about adopting children from China and cried when this wonderful mom spoke about losing her young son this summer. I mentioned the meeting to a friend at work and she looked at me in shock and said “I know this family’s story, I read about them on FB, you have to go and find their page” and so I did… Having just brought my son home from China this past April, I cannot begin to imagine what you and your amazing family have been going through over the past few months. While sitting at home tonight watching my son Aidan (Ca Hui) play with his car, I could not help but think of your Everett and the heartache, loss and sadness you are all going thru. I felt that I had to write a little note about how much your meeting with my family touched me and mom and wanted to let you know that every time I hug my little guy, I will think of Everett and smile. We pass along a BIG hug from all of us to all of you – You all are in our thoughts and prayers!

    • All the tears. Your mom was precious and just what I needed. Please tell her how thankful I am for her empathy, compassion and kindness she extended. And your little Aidan is just precious…so so incredibly precious. I wanted to scoop him right up & hug his little body! From one mama to another, thank you!

  16. Jenny kleiman says:

    My heart hurts for you. Our boys were together in Zhengzhou. We will keep praying for your family.

  17. Cheryl Stone says:

    God shows up in every space and place – even in double vodka sodas bought by a friend. He knows our needs. I am so thankful for that. I think of you and Everett and all your kiddos all the time – and see you in your grief.

    Grief is a funny thing. We lost my husband’s sister this past month. She had been missing for 16 months and her body was discovered in her car in the Cumberland River. Although we never gave up hope, we somehow knew the outcome of her disappearance. She is missed. We were told “you never shed a tear” when I told you she was found by a family member. I said to her, “YOU don’t get to tell anyone how they can grieve – you don’t know our pain, our worry, our hearts, our sadness, our ways of grieving, whether we cried the last 15-16 months, or how we feel.” So I am especially intuitive about things like seeing people in their grief and meeting them where they are, no matter what that looks like. If it looks like falling apart at the sight of a little pair of shoes, or 2 packs of crackers, then that’s what it is.

    God knows and sees and hears our cries.

  18. God bless you and your family as you continue to grieve for Everett. I am grieving the loss of my Mama, though very different than losing a child, a tremendous loss. Your words are comforting in light of the pain and sorrow that is relentless. I am so happy the “grandmother” was kind, compassionate and loving. God put her there just for that encounter. Love to you and your precious family.

  19. Thank you for being so open and real. Thank you for sharing your grief with us. I’m guessing this side of heaven you and I will never meet but for now, your sharing allows me the gift of praying for you.

    And, through your grief I’m learning how I can better care for those who are grieving around me. Please continue to share, post and be open with us. We are here for you and in turn you are teaching us how to be there for others too. You and your family are loved.

  20. Loving you and your family and praying for y’all. ❤️

  21. Frances Dunaway says:

    Thank you for continuing to share your story. I often wonder how you and your sweet family are doing and it is good to know. At times, it still feels unreal that this precious little guy is not here but his beautiful face and smile and big dark eyes is a memory that will remain. You are not forgotten – each time I look at the pew in church where your family sits, I remember.

  22. I used to worry the same; that people would roll their eyes at another post about my daughter. I feared I was stuck in my grief, and that everyone around me was wondering when I would “get over it.” I think those nudgings to share your grief here are from a God who knows there are other hearts who need to hear those words though, and who will feel seen and understood and /normal/ reading the emotions that you so articulately write. Keep sharing; you never know how your openness may be helping someone who is walking in your same shoes. It has been six years since kissing my sweet girl goodbye, and when we were packing up to move to another state this summer, I finally found the courage and peace to get rid of the two remaining bags of breast milk in my freezer that I had pumped for her. I don’t know why those of all things had been such a hangup for me, but it felt so intimate and irreplaceable, and a symbol of one of the only things I was able to do for her, and I hadn’t been able to bring myself to get rid of them. I pulled them out to thaw, because throwing them in the trash tore at me, so I decided I would pour them out in the flower garden I had planted for her out back. Later that morning I was surprised to find the bags back in the freezer, and I set them out on the counter again to thaw. A little while later my 15 year old boy came through and exclaimed, “who keeps taking these out? I already put them back in the freezer once!” I told him I was planning to pour them out, that they couldn’t make the move and it was time for me to get rid of them. His eyes got huge. “No Mom! You can’t do that! Please!” My tough, cool, teenage boy filled with tears and said, “Those were Ellie’s, and they’re really special to me because, you know, that was her only food!” I was a bit speechless. Of all the people, my half-grown boy who rarely shows his tender emotions was not the one I ever expected to care about two freezer burned little bags of breast milk. But, I have learned along this road that none of us grieve exactly the same, or in the same timing, and it’s an important thing to give each one of them the safe space that they need to process their own grief in their own way. So, on moving day with all our life-things sealed in cardboard boxes, we began the journey across 5 states with a little cooler bag packed full of ice packs and two little bags of milk, which now sit in the freezer of our new home. Each of us in own time makes steps in moving through our grief, and it’s for no one else to say what kind of timeline that should be. We only need to give grace and understanding to those around us as we hack our paths through the unpredictable jungle of grieving.

  23. Girl, we are here because we love your REALNESS! All my hugs to you – maybe one day our paths will cross in real life and I can get you a double vodka soda and a hug <3

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