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Sunday, February 26, 2017
Today I sit in a prison cell a broken man. A man that wishes every waking minute of every day that I could go back to May 26, 2016, and make a different choice. The choice I made to drink and get behind the wheel of a car with my best friend Casey by my side forever will be my biggest regret. The guilt that I carry on my shoulders knowing that my actions took Casey’s life weighs heavy on my heart and is something I forever will carry.
Casey was my best friend and was always there for me. He loved life and lived it to the fullest every day. He showed me how not to worry about the small things that most of us spend too much time and energy on and to always look for the good in people. He never met a stranger he wouldn’t help, and he loved his friends and most especially his family. We had a band of brothers who all hung out together, and our motto was “Never leave a brother behind.” Casey always had my back and he knew I always had his, but I never thought that our motto would mean so much to me and that those simple words would lead me on a journey of healing and redemption. The knowledge that I didn’t leave Casey to die in that field alone and did everything in my power to try to save his life is the one thing that gives me peace in the midst of tragedy.
On the night of May 25, 2016, Casey and I went to a high school graduation party, with close to 50 kids from all over the area in attendance. Beer was packed in coolers in the back of the homeowners’ truck and we were told we could drink as much as we wanted. Casey and I had graduated from high school two years prior and recently had returned home from college. We didn’t know a lot of the kids in attendance, so we hung out together, enjoying the party from the sidelines. Party goers asked us to bring a car with a loud stereo system so I drove a jeep out that had a great sound system and Casey drove my pickup. We spent the evening playing a lot of country music. Around 1:00 AM, Casey and I decided to call it quits since we both had to work the next day so Casey drove my pickup home and I drove the jeep. After arriving home, we realized that Casey had left his phone at the party, so we both jumped into the jeep and headed back out to retrieve it. As we were getting in the jeep to leave, someone from the party yelled, “Do a donut!” So I did.
After the jeep tipped I didn’t realize at first that Casey was pinned under the roll bar as he was thrown from his seat as he never fastened his seatbelt. I was stuck in my seatbelt, hanging sideways, and couldn’t get out. I was yelling for help when I glanced down and only saw Casey’s legs. The kids from the bonfire rushed over and together managed to pick up the jeep and put it back on all four tires. No doubt panicked at the sight of Casey who had been pinned, they all ran off, leaving me to help my best friend alone. It was me and Casey in a field all alone at nearly 2:00 AM in the morning. I dialed 911 and began to follow the instructions of the emergency operator when the phone went dead. Tamping down a growing sense of panic, I called my mom, who is an medic and happened to be on duty that night, and told her to hurry. The phone disconnected again. We were in a field where the cell reception was bad and I couldn’t get a good signal to call back. I just followed the 911 dispatcher’s instructions to perform CPR, waiting for help to arrive.
When my mom arrived on scene, she kept asking me if I was okay as I was covered in the blood of my best friend. Her partner took over chest compressions, and exhausted, I sat beside her. At the time, I didn’t realize that I had been performing CPR on Casey for nine minutes with no relief or help. I sat beside Casey, crying, and I knew my mom was doing everything she could to try and save him. I remember seeing tears running down her face as she worked to put a tube down Casey’s throat to help him breathe. Casey was in the best of hands as my mom is a great medic and would do everything she could to save his life. My mom loved Casey as if he were her own, and I could see the hurt and pain etched on her face as she struggled to save his life. Casey was hooked up to machines and my mom, her partner and Samaritan Life Flight were doing everything they could to save his life. After a few minutes, the frustration and sadness on my mom’s face told me all I needed to know. Moments later she came over and hugged me, kissed my forehead, and told me that my best friend in the whole world was gone. In that moment, I thought about Casey’s family and how disappointed they were going to be with me. I completely fell apart, hitting my head on the ground and yelling, “I’m so sorry Casey! I’m so sorry!”
In the early morning hours, I sat there in shock as police officers arrived at the scene, asking me if I was ok and wanting to know what happened. I answered all their questions about the events of the night, admitting that I had been drinking prior to the accident. I told them that I was doing donuts in the field when the jeep tipped. Knowing I owed it to Casey to tell the truth, I hid nothing from investigators. Eventually, I was arrested for OWI causing death as I had a blood alcohol level of .085. The legal limit in Indiana is .08, but since I was under age, there was no legal limit to drinking and driving. I decided to plead guilty, taking full responsibility for my actions, and was sentenced to serve time in a Department of Corrections facility.
Now, I spend my days praying for Casey’s parents who have stood by me, never blaming me for the accident that caused Casey’s death. Having their love and support is helping me heal and hopefully, one day, I can move forward with my life. I also pray for my parents, especially my mom, who emotionally has suffered over this accident and the fact that she couldn’t save Casey’s life. “Never leaving a brother behind” is not just a motto for our band of brothers anymore. Since Casey’s death, it has taken on a new and deeper meaning. It has become a way of life. I never once had any intention of taking off with those kids that night and abandoning Casey to die in that field alone. I pray he is looking down from Heaven and knows that I had the chance to leave him and I didn’t. I stayed and fought for his life and kept my promise that I would never leave him behind.
To help Monica and JJ produce a Public Service Announcement video discouraging
underage drinking and driving by telling JJ and Casey's story click here:
underage drinking and driving by telling JJ and Casey's story click here:
Saturday, February 25, 2017
At some point in our lives, most of us will face a decision that has the potential to alter the course of our lives and the lives of those around us. Just such a decision faced 13-year-old Ashley after she was raped and became pregnant by her attacker. In an act of courage, she assisted in the prosecution of her rapist and decided her baby wouldn’t be a casualty of his father’s crime. Four years ago, when I received a call regarding this brave young girl who resisted calls to abort her unborn child and move on with her life, I was compelled to find some way to help. This is how I met Ashley, a young woman whose strength and perseverance is and always has been one of her most impressive accomplishments.
At a time when most young teens are attending slumber parties with friends, playing with makeup, and going to the movies, Ashley has spent the last four years caring for Aiden, her son, finishing high school, and becoming a powerful voice in support of the prolife movement. Last year, Ashley came forward to tell her story to the Indiana Senate. Her riveting testimony helped convince the body to pass a law that would sever the parental rights of convicted rapists. Although forced to relive her personal nightmare in front of a room full of strangers, Ashley persevered because she knew that she had to protect not only her son, but other children like him and their mothers who live with the constant fear that their rapists will have access to their children. Her testimony ultimately was a deciding factor in the passage of the bill.
This coming June, Aiden will celebrate his fourth birthday with his mom and extended family by his side. Ashley, now 18, is committed to giving her son the best life she can despite the emotional and financial challenges they face. Over the years, Ashley has struggled emotionally to cope with the aftermath of the rape and raising her son on her own, but she has endured by sheer force of will and determination. She continues to pursue her education while working a part-time job and being a single mom to Aiden. She hopes this summer to have enough money so they can move into a place of their own. Her love for and pride in Aiden shines in her eyes when she speaks about her son.
“He is very full of energy, very talkative, and knows his colors, numbers and his ABCs,” said Ashley. “He loves Power Rangers, Batman, Superman, dinosaurs, and motorcycles, but his favorite is zombies.”
Aiden, who is 36 pounds and over three feet tall is by all accounts a well-adjusted and happy toddler.
“He is such a lady’s man and flirts with all the girls anywhere they go,” Ashley continued. “He loves babies and playing with his cousins and uncles.”
Ashley credits her parents and extended family and friends for helping her through a difficult time, and she is appreciative of the support of those who’ve reached out to her and Aiden.
“I am very grateful to my parents for helping me with all they could over the last four years,” Ashley said. “I am very thankful for everyone who has donated and continues to keep up with us. I don’t know where I would be without Monica and her family. I am so very blessed.”
Aiden is a living, breathing example of the beauty that can come of tragedy when a mother courageously and unselfishly choose life for her unborn child. Every day in this movement we find ourselves helping young women with basic needs and support for unintended pregnancies. Through Ashley and Aiden’s story, supporters from all over the country came forward to provide for a courageous young girl and her son, making it easier for her to move forward and build a life. Ashley didn’t ask to be a mom at the tender age of 13, but she didn’t let that stop her from being one. We can learn a lot from Ashley and Aiden about the precious nature and purpose of each human life and the sacrifices often made to protect and nurture that life. Christ has big plans for Ashley and Aiden, and I am eager to see what He has in store for them.
If you would like to give a gift to Ashley and Aiden please click the link below.
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.