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Monday, February 6, 2017
My birthmother told me that in 1973, as she recovered from the vicious attack that left her pregnant, she couldn’t see any good that could possibly come from her being raped. I imagine that at the time the pain was too raw, too fresh, for her to possibly find a spark of hope and imagine that a life of purpose might arise from such intense anguish.
For a while, after discovering the truth about my parentage, I shared that sentiment and wondered if anything positive could ever come from knowing the horrific truth.
For me, the circumstances of my conception and abandonment were all-consuming, and I couldn’t help but look at my life through the lens of this devastating revelation. What I didn’t know at the time, however, was that the very heartache and devastation I experienced, and the steps I took to overcome it, ultimately prepared me for the struggles I would face in the days and years to follow.
The events of May 26th, 2016 proved to be one of those times. This day will forever be a defining moment in my family, a moment that shook my family to the core and forced us to hang on to faith, as we walked along an unknown path to an uncertain future.
As I travel the world speaking about the gift of life I have been given, I also have the amazing opportunity to work part-time saving lives as a medic and firefighter. Being a medic can be very rewarding as you fight to save the lives of people you’ve never met. Although many of these experiences are rewarding and have happy endings, others are too horrifying to contemplate.
On May 25, 2016, I was the medic on call and my ambulance driver and I were praying for a slow night so we could get some sleep. My husband and my youngest daughter were at home, and my son and his best friend were going to a high school graduation party and bonfire. These boys were like brothers, always together, and both had graduated the year before and had just returned home from college.
In the early morning hours of May 26, we were paged to the scene of an accident. A jeep had rolled over and pinned a victim under the vehicle. This being a high priority call, we quickly headed out. We were driving down a major highway and I mentioned to my driver that there were a lot of cars on the road this early in the morning.
On our way to the scene of the accident, my cell phone rang. It was my son.
I answered the call. I heard only blood-curdling screams from my son and a desperate plea to hurry. Then the call was disconnected.
About 30 seconds after the call abruptly ended, our emergency dispatcher came across the radio and advised us that a bystander had started CPR. My heart sank. I tried calling my son back, but there was no answer. At this point, I knew my son was involved, but I didn’t know if he was giving or receiving CPR. I immediately radioed my fellow first responders that my son was involved and that I would need another medic as I knew I wouldn’t be able to work on my own child.
The accident was in a field about 1/2 mile from the main road, but we didn’t have an exact location. We could see the glow of the bonfire, but finding the road to it was more challenging. Time was of the essence, so I instructed my driver to abandon the road, cut across the field, and get me to my son.
As we arrived on scene, I saw my son covered in blood performing chest compressions on his best friend. We quickly took over efforts. After a few minutes it was clear that our efforts were failing. Our team worked tirelessly to save this young man’s life, doing everything our training had prepared us for, but it wasn’t enough. His injuries were too severe. We ceased all our life-saving efforts and I completely fell apart. Not only did my son’s best friend die in that field that night, but a part of my son and I died too.
As I sat there hugging my son, he told me what happened. My son said they were doing donuts in the field when the jeep rolled, pinning his best friend under the vehicle. The kids who were attending the bonfire hoisted the jeep off him and put it back on its tires, but then took off so they wouldn’t get into trouble for underage drinking. These 30-50 kids who were at the party when the accident happened left my son to try to save his best friend by himself. It became clear that this was why the road was so busy on our way to the scene at that hour of the morning.
My son was charged with Operating While Intoxicated causing death. His blood alcohol was .085, which is just above the legal limit in Indiana. In December, my son pled guilty and assumed full responsibility for his actions. Our hearts are broken for the loss of his best friend and for the parents of this young man who forgave and stood by my son through this whole process.
I struggle every day with the events of that night. I couldn’t save that young man’s life and there’s no way to go back and make it right. But I am reminded of God’s love and purpose for our lives - and for my son’s life. My son’s heart is broken and the guilt he feels is bigger than any punishment a judge can give him.
I often ask myself what good can possibly come out of this? My son is in a prison cell and his best friend is dead. And then I’m reminded that it took 37 years for my birthmother and I to meet and for us both to discern God’s purpose in her pain. The daughter conceived in violence and abandoned is now working to save the lives of others.
Now I wait, praying to see God’s plan unfold in this situation as well.
Monica Kelsey is the First Lady of Woodburn, Indiana, a mother of three and the Founder of Safe Haven Baby Boxes, an organization that advocates for the Safe Haven Law that allows mothers in crisis an alternative to illegal abandonment. She is currently working on a Public Service Announcement video of her son’s story in hopes of discouraging underage drinking and driving and welcomes donations at www.gofundme.com/NeverLeaveABrotherBehind for this project. Coming soon: part two of this story, in Monica’s son’s own words.