March Forth March Fourth – Kelly


It’s coming.

You know it.

I know it.

Mark Zuckerberg knows it.

I feel pressure to write something profound; something epic and commemorative for the anniversary of the night we lost the kids, but I am unable.  

So many were impacted by the fire:  The first responders who smashed through windows risking their own lives to save the children, the firefighters who fought the fire, the coroners office employees and field staff who had to retrieve Ben, Sam and Maddy from the destruction on Ham Hill Road, my friend Jill who watched over the kids at the funeral home, the detectives, the neighbors, families, friends, reporters, teachers, and strangers.  

That night was an event filled with grief.  Losing all three children, especially the way they left us…will forever be a lifetime of grief Brad and our family.  

So many of you have been sending us messages this week.  

I can only imagine just how hard it must be to reach out to Brad or me, I’m sure.  It’s equally hard to know just how to respond as well.  Common courtesy in our culture dictates a certain fashion and order to our condolences, to our grief.  To our loss.  You want to say something because saying nothing is worse, right? 

When you ask, “how are you?” we know you mean something like, “Good God, my heart is destroyed for you.  I can’t look at you and not breakdown myself. I hurt for your crushing and paralyzing life…I couldn’t do it…how do you?”

When we respond with, “Fine.  We’re…hanging in there,” we really mean, “Every damn day is a psychological roller coaster.  Traumatic grief, child loss and trying to move forward with daily life; all of it makes it hard to simply care…and yet, here we are somehow making it happen;  who the knows how…and here we are.”

We’ve learned some impressive self preservation skills this last week.  We both compartmentalized so much, we’ve created spaces in the day like little boxes, filled with to-dos and checklists.  We open up each box and climb in, head down, staring at our lists, listening to the clock tick forward.  

The sobs, the tears, the panic and anxiety…well, it’s all just waiting for us on the calendar each year now; thankfully this year it’s a Saturday.   

We aren’t holding public memorial or ceremony.  We’re spending March Fourth together in private.  Yes, I capitalized March Fourth because it is a new holiday for us and it deserves the respect we should never have to give it.  Fuck you March Fourth.  Fuck you very much.    

I have planned a comforting day for Brad and I and we know so many of you will be holding the kids (and Brad) in your thoughts this Saturday.  I am very thankful for this because I know it helps him.

I know many of you have asked us where the kids are and that you, or your children would like to go visit them.  We’ve been working with the company who is making the monument and it should be arriving sometime toward the end of March.  Unfortunately, the monument is not yet complete and as such, it’s hard to locate them.  Once it arrives and is placed, we’ll be sharing that information.  I leave it to Brad if he wishes to publicly offer the grave site location for this weekend.

I have 3 pinwheels I will be posting there on Saturday when we go to visit.

Many of you have also asked how Brad is doing.  I will tell you he is loved and surrounded by love from his friends and family and I am forever thankful for all that love you give to him.  He has his struggles in his own way, just as I do and we support each other the best we can.

And still, we live in afterloss.  What, you ask, is afterloss?

A year has gone by and you got to spend time with your kids.  They had birthdays, entered first grade, graduated high school, learned how to ride bikes, went from middle school to high school, got boyfriends and girlfriends, and won basketball games and lost soccer games…you got to laugh with them, cry with them, hold them, argue with them, smell the tops of their heads and love them…in the here and now.

How have we spent time with the kids?  We did it by helping with a book drive, coaching football, organizing a bike-a-thon, feeling love when football players celebrated their Ben Tower award, supporting other families experiencing child loss, playing with our dog and telling him about the kids and taking him to visit them at their final resting place every chance we could.  

That, my friends, is afterloss.  

I’ll close this by sharing a few non-sequitor items: 

  • That morning, when we arrived home from Centralia, I waited downstairs in silence, with Brads phone on my lap, just staring at it, waiting for it to ring and display a name I knew.  Inevitably, it rang (and wouldn’t stop for a month).  It was a number and name I don’t recall.  It was a woman and she was nervous, with a tremble in her voice.  She was surprised by my answering Brads phone and politely pushed to speak with Brad.  She said she saw the news and was hoping it wasn’t the kids…she wanted to make sure they were alright.  I didn’t recognize this persons name so I was short, curt and made a failing attempt at a non-answer about what she was watching on the tv, then I hung up on her.  Dear woman, if you are reading this, I am sorry I hung up on you.  I didn’t know how to respond; it had only been a few hours and I still had foam, water and charred rubbish on my feet, soaking up my pants.  
  • March Fourth is coming.  Please love your children in the here and now.  March Forth with us and keep your families safe, always.
  • To my husband, Brad:  How I wish I could change your world for it all to be okay.  You and I were meant to be regardless of what we’ve walked through together and what is ahead in our future.  I loved you before I met you and can not see my life without you.  Never have I been treated like such a queen and I am thankful we finally met when we did; I only wish it had been sooner.  

           We got this sweetheart.  You and me.  We got this.  


Published by


Check out the "About Us" page for more.

One thought on “March Forth March Fourth – Kelly”

  1. Thinking of you Dear Stranger as the day darkens, as the evening comes, and soon it will be The Fourth. I noticed in your writing that you used the word grief. Lifetime of grief. There is no word in any language that I know that can begin to touch what you and Brad have been through. That your whole family has gone through and will continue to face every day the rest of your life. Grief. PTSD. They just don’t cut it. The sorrow that permeates the marrow and also curls up around you like a cloak. The longing you must feel for your littles. What you have been through is on the scale of bombs falling on Aleppo and parents screaming for their children to wake up, when they will not. It’s on the scale of the parents of the Sandy Hook children, screaming and screaming from the nightmare of their children’s bodies literally torn apart by a semi-automatic gun. I may not know you but you touch my heart—the way you are apologizing for being curt to the lady who called that night. That one thing shows us your heart. It is soft and open and beautiful. Even in the midst of your own loss. I know your writing is for yourself, but you are giving us an important gift. Never again will I feel impatient waiting in line at the grocery store. Never again will I ignore my 3-year-old’s cries to “watch me Mommy!”. Never again will I not stop to marvel at the bones of the trees when the leaves have fallen.
    April 2016, we had new smoke detectors wired into our house, in every bedroom, and outside the bedrooms and living spaces. Our three children know the plan in case of a fire, or any emergency. My husband and I have talked through who would grab who, and what we would do.

    I wish I could give you comfort, but there is none. Instead YOU share your soul with us, and gift US with this incredibly beauty of spirit—your courage. Thank you.

    May the cloak of grief sit softly on your shoulders and may the light of your love for your children shine brightly.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s