**Note: Nicholas Kelly is Mandy’s brother.
No way. Impossible. Not them. This could never happen to me. To us. Those were the words echoing in my head as I raced towards my big sisters house that night. I kept thinking they are okay. They got out. Surely they will come out saying how God protected them. How He saved them. Then I got there. And I knew. All I remember hearing was my heart pounding in my chest. And then my dads voice. “It’s just Bekah and Jared. No one else made it out.”
Now to know where I am you must know where I came from. I was born in March of 1990 in Ocala Florida. My first memory of Mandy is a strange one. I remember her humming to me. I’m not sure if I was a baby or a child. But we are on a couch and she’s humming You are my Sunshine. Now Mandy didn’t want a brother. Her words when I was born were “put him back I want a sister”. But as time went on she reminded me all the time that she was glad she got me. And she was proud of me. I’d be lying if I said we didn’t fight. Oh boy we were good at that. I stole her car. Twice. I yelled at her. Said mean things I didn’t mean. I forced her to go on roller coasters and Ferris wheels. I made her laugh and I made her cry and I’m sure I made her mad a lot. But I always knew she had my back. And she knew I had hers. When my first real relationship ended it was Mandy who was there to put me back together. I remember it so well. The girl I thought I loved, the one I thought I would marry, even after all the dumb crap we had put each other through. Well now she had someone else. She was getting married. And I was angry. And sad. At God, at her, at myself. I cried when Mandy told me this girl found someone new. And Mandy the amazing sister just sat there. And held me. Told me Gods plan is better than mine. And he would not abandon me. So throughout my tumultuous teen years she was there. Always. And now I think where do I go? Who do I turn to? And I can hear her saying, “His ways are higher, He is your strong tower, He will never leave you.”
I am thankful for the 26 years I got with her. Thankful God thought enough of me to let her be my sister. She saw my kids as hers. She saw my wife as a true sister.
As I stood outside their house that night old thoughts came roaring back. “Why God? Why take the 4 most beautiful, God loving people I’d ever known?” I remember thinking Lord bring them back. Take me instead. They didn’t deserve this. But then I thought wait. They didn’t deserve this? Scott my big bear brother lived by “To love is Christ, to die is gain”. How can I say they don’t deserve their reward. But I am human. And I am selfish.
It’s been weeks now and I still find myself asking God why. And I still get the same answer. “Because I love them, because I want them. Just as I love you and want you.” You see Mandy and Scott and Lizzie and Judah went home. We are the ones left behind. Which means God is not finished with us. They fought their fight and they finished their course. And I’m sure He is well pleased with them.
So I carry on. And I try my best to make them proud. But above all I try to live how they lived. For Christ.