My name is Rhonda Kelly and I would like to introduce myself to all of you. I am blessed to be Mandy’s mom, Scott’s mother-in-law and Nana to Bekah, Jared, Lizzie and Judah. As almost all of you know God called Mandy, Scott, Lizzie and Judah home recently.
First of all the entire family would like to thank all of you for the tremendous and overwhelming amount of love, support and prayers that have been offered to us during this painful time in our lives. Secondly, I want to reach out and let everyone know what happened on that night from my perspective. Many of you have asked us and others about that night and the days following. While I have written this in my head at least 20 times over I have struggled with how to put it all into words as well as what and how much to share.
Monday, March 20th was a typical day in our lives. Everyone went to work and school just like any other day and that night my husband and I had dinner and settled in to watch some TV prior to bed. Around 11 pm we decided to call it a night and head to bed. At around 1:40 am, Tuesday, March 21st our youngest daughter, Sam, came into our room waking her dad to tell him someone was knocking our windows. We got up to investigate this and found that there was a police officer outside. He asked for me and if my daughter lived on Mossborough Drive to which we responded with yes. It was then that he told us there had been a fire and they needed our help. While I threw some clothes on we woke my son who lived next door and off we went to see what in the world was going on. On the drive over there (it’s about 20 minutes from our home) I rationalized a lot of things. I was nervous but not fearful at that moment. My first thought was that if had been something severe they would have taken us over there and that it was probably a small thing and maybe everyone would be staying with us for a while. Sam was steady trying to get a hold of Mandy on her cell phone which was going right to voice mail. Again, I rationalized that she most likely busy with “things” and the children. Upon arriving in the neighborhood it quickly became apparent that this was not a small thing that had happened. There were emergency vehicles and cars and people everywhere. An officer stopped us (you couldn’t drive down the street) and asked us if we were the Kelly family. We responded with yes and he directed us to stop the vehicle and would get us up there. We followed the officer and all the while my heart was pounding and my eyes were searching the people. I was searching for my family in that crowd and the closer we got the worse the picture became. Once we got up to the house my heart sank, the damage to the home was incredible. The officer told us “they” were inside and so we went in. Remember: God is in control.
The scene inside the neighbor’s house (they go to church with us) was solemn. I remember looking at Suzanne while I was hugging my two oldest grandchildren and her gently shaking her head no. The questions in my eyes were clear as I was not hearing our Lizzie or Judah and not seeing Scott or Mandy. I felt my legs go numb and my world crumble in those few moments. I remember going back outside and just simply standing there on the stairs looking at the shell of a house that remained silently praying and begging God to bring the rest of them out. I listened for the sound of their voices and longed to see them walking through the crowd. We were told that Ruth, Scott’s mom had been air lifted to the burn center in Augusta. All of it seemed so unreal. It had to be a horrible nightmare and someone needed to wake me up as soon as possible. That wasn’t going to happen. Remember: God is in control.
The next several hours were a blur. We talked to several people, law enforcement officers, firemen and so on. Our Pastor and his wife arrived, our other pastors from our church arrived, and some men from our church came. Reality, what kind of reality was this. It was the cruelest type of reality I could ever imagine. That was my baby in that house, my son in law and precious grand babies. What happened, how did it happen, why did it happen? How was I supposed to handle this, could I handle it? This is not supposed to be the way this goes. Someone please wake me up. Reality equaled that I was very much and this was happening. I knew I had to hold it together, the children needed me, us. Grandma needed us. Remember: God has prepared you for such a time as this.
I made phone calls to my father, my sister and my brother. Some of the hardest phone calls I have ever had to make. Remember: God has prepared you for such a time as this.
When the officials finally decided that we could leave Jared went home with his granddaddy and we took Bekah back to our house where our son and daughter in law and youngest grandchildren were. We were going to grab a clean shirt and then meet our Pastor and his wife who were going to take us to Augusta to see Grandma. She had to be told. Remember: God has prepared you for such a time as this.
The next days were a constant flurry of activity. There was Memorial Service plans to be made, information to be given and the endless text messages, Facebook messages and notifications. Our church family was beyond fantastic during this time. There were meals provided, essentials and non-essentials provided for Bekah and Jared. So much love, so many prayers and so much support. Remember: Blessed [are] they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. Matthew 5:4
Family and friends began arriving on Friday, March 24th and it was a blessing in so many ways. People we hadn’t seen in a long time, friends, family and extended family. We were blessed to be able to have so many people here with us, to share in our in our pain and laugh at the many beautiful memories that we all had made over the years. On Monday, March 27th was the Memorial Service. It truly was beautiful and a blessing. Pastor’s Duane Hoffman, Alan Eastin and Mark Shaffer all took part along with our Pastor, Eddie Coakley. We couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful tribute to Scott, Mandy, Lizzie and Judah. When it was over and after a wonderful meal several people returned with us to our home for some more time of togetherness. It was in that moment that I asked “Did we really just do this?” Reality again, though it still seemed so surreal.
I can’t express enough how much we appreciate all the people that came to be with us during this time. It means the world to all of us to know how loved our loved ones are/were.
While it would be easy to ask the why questions daily we are choosing to march forward each day. Each day is a new adventure in this new normal that we find ourselves in. There are days that are hard and painful. There are moments of tears and moments of laughter. Nothing will ever be the same again. There will not be a day that goes by that they will not fill our thoughts and forever be in our hearts. There will be all the firsts without them, the holidays, the birthdays and just normal things that they will miss out on. Their legacy will live on. It will live on through Bekah and Jared, through their siblings and their nieces and nephews and through the countless lives that they touched. The seeds that they planted and watched grow and the seeds that will be planted by those that they touched. The legacy will continue because they touched so many lives.
It is the intention of myself and those who worked with Mandy on Worshipful Living to keep her site going. I don’t want it to become a shrine to her but to continue the ministry that meant so much to her and keep it going in a way that would make her proud.
In the coming days, weeks and months I will be sharing more with each of you as God guides me and my family through this journey.
Thank you again for your support and love. Your comments and messages are always welcome.
In Christ.. Because He Lives,