Still at a loss

It's been exactly one week since Kellan passed away. I'm not sure how it's only been seven days, and so many thoughts still swirl around in my brain as I process this loss of life. This hole in Christmas for us all, but especially for Kellan's family.

I struggle because it's really not my story to tell and I don't want to share things that Brad and Becky wouldn't want me to share. I did ask them both to read my last post to make sure they approved (they did), and I think for me personally I just want to focus on my own experience. I feel like I have to write it all out so that I can really move forward: a common thread throughout the many years of my blog.

Telling Truman and Cecelia that their friend is no longer here on earth was honestly one of the hardest, saddest occurrences for Nate and I as parents. We were both crying, which stunned the kids in itself. But they are just so innocent and their comments were a lot more difficult to handle than expected.

We scripted it with the following sentence, as recommended to us by my mom : Kellan was very sick. His body couldn't get better, so Kellan died. Truman's eyes got really big and worried and he said, 'He is really dead?  Kellan is in heaven?' We told him yes, he is in heaven now. Both of the kids asked 'why' a few times and we repeated the script. You aren't supposed to elaborate or go into some long explanation, but are supposed to keep it succinct and clear. Then Truman said, 'Now Kaydin doesn't have a brother anymore. I don't want Kaydin to die, too. Kellan is going to miss Christmas.' And then I sort of lost it as I watched my first born begin to cry. We told him it was okay to be sad, because we are sad, too. 

Then Truman wanted to write Kaydin a letter, which is such a healthy and typical way for Truman to process this news. He addressed it to Kaydin, Becky and Brad and wrote 'share with Lori' on there, too. He said, 'I hope that you think about Kellan to think of the funny things he did.' Truman then elaborated to us about how Kellan would make that funny sound and jump up and down when he wanted to make Truman laugh. Sort of like a wild monkey sound with flapping arms---something that made Truman giggle every single time. Then he drew a picture of Kellan with God in heaven at the bottom of the letter. Later Truman said, 'That is God taking care of Kellan,' and both Nate and I couldn't really speak for a few moments, fighting back huge tears and a sense of grief and also gratitude. Thankful for our kind boy and his ability to talk to us about his feelings. 

All Photos-178

Cecelia is so much younger and at age three, I wasn't sure what she would understand. When we told them both together at the breakfast table, she asked us, 'Why did my friend die?' She asked it twice before I could swallow away the lump in my throat to repeat our scrip. And 'why was he so sick?' was another frequently asked question. But that's about all she said at first--she didn't cry, but she did comment on Nate's and my tears. She seemed a little testy to Porter right after we told them. But for the most part she didn't seem to think about it much that morning.

Later that night Cecelia was crying and disproportionally upset over something insignificant (like losing a ball under the bed). I asked if she was sad and she said, 'I'm sad Kellan got sick.' She asked me why he got so sick. I gave her a huge bear hug and we talked for awhile. She said 'I miss my friend' and I cried the ugly cry, gasping a bit, and really feeling a deep sorrow as I hugged my three-and-a-half year old who was just a few days older than Kellan. Best buddies. So many memories. She missed her friend, and I was at a loss of how to make sense of it all for her. 

Since last weekend, Cecelia has been giving a lot of frequent 'I love you, mommy' statements.
She's a little more emotional and she wanted me to lay down with her one night, which she never does anymore. She hugged me, kissed me, and said she loved me. 'Don't you love my bed, too?' She said she knows I love her, too, because she is my girl. One night she randomly said, 'I hope Kellan gets better really soon. Are there toys in heaven for him? What will he do there? Are there other kids there? I wonder what heaven is like.' It's like she understands but not the finality of it, as she seems to be waiting for a day when he is 'all better.'

Tonight as she was going to the bathroom before bed: 'Hey, we are still alive! I don't want anyone in the whole world to die, Mommy. You're the best mommy ever. I don't want you to die. I love you, Mommy. I love everything in the whole wide world. ' Lots and lots of hugs and kisses from our little girl, none of them taken for granted.

Kellan's story has made the news on two different stations now. After watching Lori being interviewed on the news, the kids were excited to see and recognize her. They loved all of Kellan's pictures scrolling through on the TV and would say things like, 'hey, look at his awesome blanket there! He is laughing and running!' But once the clip was over they were both very quiet. Truman said he was sad and Cecelia just kept asking why he died. Truman has frequently said 'I'm sad that Kellan died, mommy.' And I will just tell him that it's okay to be sad, that I'm sad too, and then we think of some funny Kellan moments or things that we loved about that little boy. It's been hard you guys, but as soon as I think about that statement I feel horribly guilty.

Because, really? Hard? Hard is being the mom to Kellan, losing a son who was three years old, and losing him quickly and to an illness that is 'rare' and not supposed to happen. I feel physically ill when I think about Becky and Brad having to do Christmas without Kellan there. Reading some of their Facebook updates and even getting a glimpse into their reality right now is beyond heartbreaking. I've enjoyed my children so much this Christmas and it's been a wonderful celebration---but there is definitely an underlying weight of sadness as well. Which of course doesn't touch the severity of Brad and Becky's pain.

One very significant silver lining, one positive part of the story: Kellan was able to donate his heart, liver, and kidneys to little children who needed those organs in order to get another chance at life. Talk about the ultimate Christmas gift, the ultimate selfless act by Brad and Becky. It's just amazing to me that they could think clearly enough to make the decision to donate. Truly inspiring to make something so good come out of such a sad situation.

Also, the GoFundMe site is beyond my wildest imagination for raising money. I know a lot of you readers donated and for that I am so thankful, it's really so amazing to see everyone support Brad and Becky through this. I know everyone just wants to do something that might help--I wish we could take their pain away, but since we can't it's wonderful to take the burden of finances away. They are overwhelmed and grateful for your donations, you guys. Thank you.

As Memaw said in an email to me:
"People showing the goodness of their hearts.  Empathy in its purest form.  A reverence for life as never before. The reality that death is no respecter of age. A renewing of the mind that the tangibles of this world can never compete with what really matters. A busy world coming to a halt and requiring the heart to grow quiet and ponder what it may never have pondered before.  There is no thinking of the future, only of the now." That woman sure has a way to nail my thoughts with her words. 

Other things I wanted to mention: we found out that the strain of bacteria that caused Kellan's meningitis is NOT one covered by the HiB vaccination. So it's not like the vaccine didn't work, it's just even more rare than the Type B strain that the vaccine covers. I'm not sure if that fact makes it easier or harder to believe that this is really real, and this really did happen. The worst case scenario played out with lightning speeds and we won't ever know why. I just can't wrap my head around it. The health department finally called all of us daycare moms and of course they couldn't provide the hard answers like 'WHY', but I guess I'm realizing that this particular bacteria isn't uncommon. It's out there, it might just cause a cold or an ear infection or not cause a single symptom. It's course to progress into fatal meningitis is quite uncommon, however, and they weren't able to give solid numbers for how rare 'very rare' is in Wisconsin. I just wish I knew if this particular strain causes meningitis a handful of times each year, or every few years, or what. But again---it's so rare that there aren't even reports run on it, as per the health department lady. Perplexing, right?

Lori and her husband came over to our house on Tuesday, because she really wanted the kids to have their Christmas gifts from them. Totally unnecessary, obviously, but I knew she also wanted to see the kids for herself to know they are still well. Seeing and hugging Lori made this feel real and it was hard to fight back the tears to speak, but we somehow managed to have a great conversation. Lori was happy to see all three kids and cried when hugging Cecelia---I know CC's proximity to Kellan in age and in their time spent together at Lori's through the years made her big blue eyes and loving grin difficult to handle. But it was a much needed visit and all a part of the healing process, to face reality. I just can't stop thinking about their entire family---something that numerous people have said in comments/messages/emails. It's a hard story to get out of your head.

I've found myself in a puddle of tears when listening to music this last week. During the Christmas Eve service at church, I had to wipe my eyes many times when listening to the children's choir sing with their sweet little voices. Thinking of Kellan and how he was probably singing two weekends ago and now he is gone....thinking of how the Christmas story is so full of hope and life and excitement, and losing Kellan has been so devastating....thinking of how I know God must have a plan and this life on earth is not all there is, but taking a child away from this world is just beyond any comprehension to me. Then the congregation sang the song 'Silent Night' and although I was walking around the hallways with a very antsy Porter, I still cried at hearing the lyrics. I know Brad and Becky's house is so painfully quiet now. And sleeping in heavenly peace is such a reassuring, fragile way to think of Kellan. I hope heaven has plenty of toys for him this year, something I know Cecelia wonders, too.

I heard a new song by William Fitzsimmons called 'Funeral Dress' and it sort of took my breath away with the lyrics:

And don’t worry if laughter is on your lips
Cause you wouldn’t be you if you changed for this
And I won’t measure love from the tears that drip
From your face

I can't wait for you

-The song 'Atlas Hands' by Benjamin Francis Leftwich:
I will remember your face
'Cause I am still in love with that place
But when the stars are the only things we share
Will you be there?

-A quote that my mom found that seems so fitting:
'Grief never ends...but it changes. It's a passage, not a place to stay. Grief is not a sign of weakness, nor a lack of faith...It is the price of love.'

-A poem that a friend on Facebook found:
"Little Angels When God calls little children to dwell with Him above. We mortals sometimes question the wisdom of His love. for no heartache compares with the death of one small child, who does so much to make our world seem wonderful and mild. Perhaps God tires of calling the aged to His fold. So He picks a rosebud before it can grow old. God knows how much we need them and so He takes but few, to make the land of Heaven more beautiful to view. Believing this is difficult still somehow we must try. The saddest word mankind know will always be "Goodbye". So when a child departs we who are left behind, must realize God loves children, Angels like Kellan are hard to find." -unknown

I realize this is a busy time for everyone and not many are reading blogs right now. Everyone is high on the Christmas experience and should be happy/celebrating, not reading sad thoughts from me. But I just wanted to get a lot of these thoughts off my brain and onto a post, as I process all of my thoughts. I know that many understand the experience of losing someone in their lives, so perhaps just sharing my thoughts could help someone else. So many of you have said you are thinking and praying for Kellan's family, and it's truly appreciated. The visitation and funeral are on Tuesday 12/29/15 and I know it's going to be really difficult to go, but I am also looking forward to having some closure with the services.

I hope you all had an excellent Christmas and have been holding those dear to your hearts even closer than before. I know I've gained perspective though all of this and hope it doesn't slowly slip away. Life is really unfair and scary sometimes, but it's also still quite beautiful.

Thank you readers, for listening (reading). ;)


  1. That letter from Truman is too much. It's still so hard to believe this happened.

    1. The letter was incredibly touching, indeed. And unbelievable, yes.

  2. Hi Julia. I've been reading your blog for a long time and always love the way you write and share your family. This was so beautifully written - and I love the way you handled this news with your kids. I was ten when my older sister had an unexpected stillbirth after a picture perfect pregnancy, and that was the first time I'd ever known a baby who died. While I realize the situation is different {I was older, the baby was younger}, those questions and random surges of grief and all the questions are so familiar. Obviously there's no formula for this sort of handling but I love the way you're being present and allowing them to hurt in their own way. Praying for you!

    1. Thank you for this, Bekah. What a horrible story, I can see why it really affected you at age ten. I feel like a ten year old can 'get' death more than my younger kids, which is not necessarily a good thing.

  3. Julia, thanks for sharing your thoughts on this. I've been thinking a lot about Kellan and his family since you first posted about it on Instagram, and I am deeply saddened by the circumstances that have befallen this family I don't even know. This is an unimaginably heartbreaking scenario that is truly impossible to understand. They are fortunate to have a strong support network.

    1. Thanks for the support, Anne. This story really has touched so many.

  4. All the tears. May God hold you tight on Tuesday (and every day). Prayers being said for Becky, Brad, Lori, and family during this unspeakable tragedy.

  5. I type and then retype this comment - still struggling for words myself. I guess I can only keep repeating that I continue to think and pray for Kellen's family. The loss of a child is pain that no one should have to experience. Thoughts and prayers to your family as well while navigating the grief of losing a friend.

    1. A pain no one should have to experience----exactly. Thanks for this.

  6. I love what your grandmother wrote. So true. I've been praying for the family and it just breaks my heart.

  7. I can't imagine the family's pain, but yours too as well, Julia. Having to explain to Truman and CeCe, is something I couldn't even wrap my own head around and think you took the right approach, and if I ever am in the same situation, I would take note from you. As so many times I have through parenthood these last few years. You are a wonderful mom and life is hard, but you are doing so right by your children, your family, friends, and neighbors. I want you know you are an amazing example and i'm so sorry for the loss of that little boy's life. It is so unfair, and I'm heartbroken for his family. So many prayers.

    1. This brought tears to my eyes, Erinn, thank you. Wow, speechless. (hugs).

  8. I have been thinking so much of your family and Kellan and his family over the past week and throughout Christmas. Two of my husband's friends from college (who are married to one another) lost their 2 year old a few days before Kellan passed to a completely random choking accident; they too donated his organs and his heart ended up with a little girl (1.5 years) in Chicago who has spent half her life in a hospital. Both of these stories have touched me so much, have caused me to tear up or clear the lump in my throat, and have made me 1000x more present and more grateful for my kids, family, and small kindnesses this Christmas season.

    Many prayers and continued peaceful thoughts as the memorial service draws near.

    1. Wow, choking would also be another rare/horribly unexpected way to lose a child. Love that donating organs is one way to make some right out of these situations, but how horrible.

      And thanks for the support, Kate. Means a lot.


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