By Kelly Murray
You’re not supposed to outlive your kids.
He’ll always be 17. It’s really weird.
And I still feel shock. Almost five years later and I wake up and I still can’t believe he’s gone. It doesn’t feel real for a long time after I wake up each day – it just doesn’t feel real.
It had been at least two weeks since I’d seen him.
I was really missing him. I was putting my mom into hospice care in Michigan. I was trying to clean out her condo, I was, you know, I was really sad about my mom, but I was really missing Evan too. He was back in New Jersey (where we lived). Most days, we would talk or text. He was very busy, of course, with all of his sports and everything.
I was out to dinner with my best friend Gina and her husband. I was in St. Clair, Michigan, on the river at a really nice restaurant called The River Crab. We were just getting ready to order, or we had just ordered our food, and I got a text from a friend of mine who was at the football game, and she told me to call Tom (Evan’s dad) immediately.
I think she just said that Evan got hurt. But she didn’t know anything. She just said that I should call Tom right away. And so I did and I talked to Tom and they were in the ambulance together and then he gave the phone to Evan and I just asked him how he was doing and how he was feeling.
And he said he just felt kinda weird, like he thought maybe he blacked out or something but he was kinda joking and laughing, and I just told him everything’s going to be fine, and that I loved him.
And he said he loved me too.
And that was the last thing we said to each other.
Tom called (again), he, he must’ve been at the hospital. We had just pulled up after getting home from the restaurant, we had literally just pulled up in Gina’s driveway, and then my whole world stopped.
It’s like, it’s like somebody just reaches into your soul and pulls all your insides out. It’s the absolute worst feeling in the world.
I remember just feeling complete and utter shock. I feel like you almost lose your identity. You question whether you’re still a mom if you lose your child or, I mean, I know logically I’m still a mom. I’m Evan’s mom. That’s my identity.
I think it’s the most important and most meaningful job you could ever have – being a mom. So I generally feel lost. The biggest feeling is lost. Trying to find a purpose. Trying to find a reason.
Grief is just – like it feels like the loudest silence. It’s such a lonely feeling – it’s so hard to explain – it’s just so heartbreaking and lonely. It affects everything. It affects everything you do, everything you see, everything you say, everything you feel.
I didn’t know I was having a boy. Everybody said I was having a girl. They would just look at me and think girl. I think they just assumed because we had so many girls in our family that I would have one too.
Oh gosh, my mom was so excited.
He was a happy kid. Smiley. He loved books. He loved, loved books. He loved writing. Loved playing with his friends. He loved to go shopping with me. He loved playing sports. Being a part of a team. Anything with sports.
I never knew how much love and pride you would feel having children, like how much – I didn’t think you could love like that.
I’m easily distracted these days.
I think, it’s just because my, in a lot of ways, my whole foundation of who I am as a person has been uprooted and just taken away. I had a life before Evan but I think once you have children it’s just a whole different feeling of – they’re just a part of you, you can’t – you almost can’t breathe without them.
He would be going on 23, he would’ve graduated from college this year, 2020. I think he would be doing an internship, maybe something in sports writing. Something revolving around sports, I think. Maybe he would come to Michigan, or maybe go someplace else completely different.
I don’t know.
I learned so much about his personality and how he was (as a person) after he passed away. From young kids to older kids, some adults, coaches, teachers. That he was very kind. He did things that I never knew he did – like sticking up for people that were picked on. I guess he, he had a big heart. And he was really funny.
He seemed too good to be true sometimes.
Usually when somebody asks me if I have children and I explain that I have a son who’s in heaven, they usually cry. They cry right away. If they’re a mom for sure. You know, they don’t quite know what to say. And then I talk about him because I want people to know about him.
For me, and for other people I’ve read about, parents that have lost children, they’ve lost friends too. They can’t handle your grief. But it’s not because they don’t care about you, they just don’t know how to be around you anymore. They feel like whatever they say or do will be wrong.
When that’s not true.
What it is is that, what I think that parents that have lost their kids want the most is that their kids are remembered and that they’re talked about. It makes you feel like they’re still here and not forgotten.
I just feel like being with my family is, is the best place. I feel like Evan is alive when I’m with my family.
As time goes on you do, you feel, you know you’re not crying as much, you’re trying to make a new normal. You don’t ever forget them or not think about them, it’s just you try and keep busy so you’re not, you know, you have to try and grow at the same time. It becomes different but you have to carry, it’s a lot to carry. And you have to carry it with you the rest of your life.
You could be fine one minute and then two minutes later you’ll see somebody or something – or it could be anything really. Person, place, thing could come up and you will get so overwhelmed, you will just break down and sob.
You can’t control it, it’s just an uncontrollable cry, or you’re angry, or you just like, you have to just feel it and get it out. You can’t hold it in – it doesn’t stay in.
There are times when I’ll just see teenage boys – I have a hard time, I have a hard time with that. I’ll see a young boy and he’ll remind me of Evan, you know he’ll kind of look like him a little bit, or he’ll say something that Evan would say.
Another thing that’s so hard is – I don’t know his voice. Like I don’t, I haven’t been able to listen or hear his voice. Like if I hear him talk, like I can’t, I have a super hard time with that. Even looking at pictures is hard or hearing certain songs that he liked is hard.
It’s the worst club you ever want to be a part of. I think there’s, not shame, but there’s a stigma to be in that group. I’ve met like total strangers that I’ve talked to and it would come up or they would ask me if I had kids and I’d explain my story and they’d say, “I lost a child too.”
Yeah, that happens a lot. It’s different. What I’m finding is that in America, our culture doesn’t really know how to deal with loss and grief.
I was angry at God. I’m still angry. I feel like He can take it. I do feel like Evan’s in a good place – but I don’t understand why. To me, there’s gotta be a reason.
I haven’t slept through the night since Evan passed away.
Probably the biggest lesson is that life is so short and unexpected. And you have to go after things you want and that make you the happiest because it could all be gone in an instant. Just be more present.
It’s always like you’re planning for things and trying to set goals, and you’re missing what’s right in front of you. I guess mindful. I feel like I’m trying to focus on being more mindful. But it’s hard.
I always think, what would Evan do? What would he want me to do? I talk to him a lot.
I think, I think he helps me get up every day. I think he knows. I think I have to get up for him. I feel like if I don’t get up then I would be giving up on him, on his memory, on his soul, on the good person that he was. I just feel like I need to honor him by getting up every day.
I feel like I have a purpose but I’m not quite sure what it is yet. I would love to be able to maybe find, be a part of, in some small or large way, or some way, be a part of making the grieving process for parents who have lost their children better.
My mom always, she probably wasn’t always this way, but she always seemed to be positive about things. She had a very hard life and she, she was pretty resilient. I am beginning to think I’m resilient too.
The longer that time goes on I am less fearful. Like the worst thing has already happened to me. I am more hopeful. I want to try and make the best of what I have left until I see Evan again because I think he would want that for me the most.
You can learn more about Evan in this Bleacher Report story, The Death of a Teenage Quarterback, by sports writer Lars Anderson.