Today marks one year since we lost Kolby Jason Clayton. I had not planned to write anything, but as usual, I woke up and just poured out anyways.
I knew from the first phone call that it was bad. Very bad. The phone calls after that one just got worse. The doctors and trauma surgeons couldn’t give us hope. Our hope was in the Lord and sometimes, His answers aren’t the ones we want. When they took him back to surgery, I prayed for my phone not to ring. I knew the quicker it rang, the worse it would be, so I willed that phone not ring. Then, it did. And it wasn’t good. And it happened again and again. Until my dad called and finally said, “I’m sorry hun, he’s not going to make it.” I was standing in the kitchen and Justin was at the sink. I knew there was a chair behind me, but I totally missed it as I hit the floor.
Dad & I made the decision to go on the hospital. I didn’t know if I could handle it, but I knew that my mom didn’t need to drive home. As Dad opened the car door to get in, his phone rang. All he could understand was “9:10PM.” He was gone.
Sometime on that drive to Huntsville Hospital, I went into shock. I had no idea what to expect when we got to the hospital. I didn’t cry or show any emotion. I was just numb. When I went back to see Kolby, it wasn’t at all how I thought it would be. He was still beautiful. You could tell that his chest was open under the trauma gown from the surgeons trying to save his life and his eyes were taped closed. If it weren’t for those things, I would have thought he was sleeping. Oh, how I wished he were sleeping. He was gone, but he was still beautiful.
For the next three days, I was barely functioning and I couldn’t eat or sleep. Thankfully, my MIL & FIL came in from out of town to take care of Bryson & Bella. At first, I thought I could take care of them, but I quickly realized that I could not.
Friday morning, I saw the Times-Journal headline. It read “Kolby Clayton dies at Huntsville Hospital” and I thought, “Why would they print that!? This can’t be real!” I opened that page so many times thinking it would change, but it didn’t. That headline is forever ingrained in my memory.
The family was supposed to be at the funeral home before everyone else. We had all been together at Brandi & Rocky’s Saturday. When we left and arrived at the funeral home together, there was almost no parking. I thought, “I didn’t know we had such a big family?” as I made my way inside. I got in line in the back room, which actually makes me laugh now, because then I looked around and realized that these people were not my family. So many people loved that boy that the funeral home was packed, from one end to the other, out the door, and through the parking lot. It stayed that was until well after the viewing was supposed to be over. He was loved. There is no doubt about that.
During his funeral, I remember just staring at home. I wanted to make sure I never forgot what he looked like. Just like I hold that last hug so closely, I never want to forget it.
As the family pulled up to the cemetery, I was once again shocked at how many people were there. Watching him be lowered into the ground was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever watched. Then, Justin picked up a shovel and started putting dirt on his casket. It’s like Justin couldn’t quit, he just kept going and going. I thought he was going to bury Kolby by himself. Then, people kept telling him it was okay, so he let go of the shovel and came over to me. We collapsed into each other as we sobbed and in that moment, I realized that if we didn’t have one another, neither of us would have been able to stand. That’s what we’ve done for one another over the past year- he’s kept me going more than I have him, but we have really just been there for each other.
After we buried Kolby, the shock started to wear off. I had been surviving off of coffee, so I headed home to cook a simple dinner for my family. I tasted my first bite of food since Thursday evening.
Then, I got angry. I became mad. At Kolby. Oh, I was so mad at him. I remember telling Justin that I just wanted him to come back to life so I could punch him for putting us through this. Why did he make one stupid decision that put a knife through out hearts?
I stayed mad for three months. I tried to make deals with God. I would do this if he would just give us Kolby back. Yeah, that didn’t exactly work. I was mad at God for taking Kolby as much as I was mad at Kolby. Finally, on July 13, 2012, as I was laying in bed praying, God clearly spoke to me heart. He told me to lose my anger, that He had not taken Kolby, that He had chosen Kolby to come be with Him. Why was I mad about that? Kolby was right where I want to go, he was in paradise, he just beat me to heaven. And in that moment, I felt the anger leave my body and in it’s place, came a peace.
Looking back, I think God was preparing me for what was going to happen the next day. July 14, 2012, I went down a slide with my 1-year-old daughter and didn’t get up. My ankle was shattered, my leg was broken, and I was MAD again. My first ever broken bone, my first surgery, and I couldn’t walk for months. I stayed mad for several months. I visualized beating the hell out of that slide and then throwing it in the river. (Yes, I may have gone a little crazy.)
So now, one year later, one year after losing Kolby, here I am. I am no longer angry. As much as it hurts, I am happy for Kolby. The pain hasn’t lessened, but I’ve learned how to function, how to get through those bad days, how to keep going even when my heart feels like it’s be ripped out of my chest. I cry myself to sleep some nights still.
I’m also closer to God than I’ve ever been and that came through the loss of Kolby. Our family is stronger. We get together more often. We lean on each other. I’ve grown more in the past year through our losses and trials and tribulations than before. I feel like a totally different person. I’m quicker to get rid of the negative influences in my life, because our time here is short and I don’t want to spend my time focused on the bad.
I want to thank you all, my readers, my friends, and my family for walking beside me on the grief journey. I know that it’s never fun to watch or read or listen to someone else as they are mourning a devastating loss, but y’all have been there. You’ve commented and messaged me, you’ve hugged me when you saw me in public, you’ve just let me know that you are thinking about me and my family. It means more than you will ever, ever know. I haven’t replied to a single message I received when Kolby died. I was so overwhelmed by my hurt and by your love, so please just know that I’ve read each and every message. I’ve tucked them in my heart and I’ll keep them for always.
I do get mad anytime I see someone roll through a stop sign. I fight the urge to turn around, chase them down, and tell them about my pain because someone ran a stop sign. Someone I loved ran a stop sign and it cost him his life. I see other parents do it every single day. Grown adults who act like they can’t read those four letters “STOP” There is no small writing that says “Just kidding, slow down and then roll through me.” It simply says, “STOP” and that is what you are supposed to do.
As much as I miss Kolby, I know where he is and I know that I will see him again. I’m looking forward to that smirky smile and a hug from my little cousin.
Kolby Jason Clayton
August 10, 1995 – April 12, 2012
See you soon, Kolby.