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Just over a year ago the Texas music and country music scenes were in shock, as we learned that two amazing people had to go home from the hospital without their youngest son.

Granger and Amber Smith's son River had drowned in a tragic swimming pool accident.

As with everyone reading the tragic news it was difficult for me to process. I've known Granger for years, never met his children, but their dad is one of the best people I've ever had the pleasure of meeting in the music business, a tremendous human being. And I'm not alone, he has long been widely regarded as one of the nicest people in music by industry folks and fans alike.

As I read Granger's post over and over, "why?" just kept scrolling through my head. I cried. I didn't believe it. I read it again, hoping that I misread a word that would change the entire context of the post. I hadn't.

I left work quickly avoiding eye contact with anyone in the office and drove to pick up my then two-year-old daughter at preschool. I hugged her so hard.

The Smiths are an amazing couple. Soon after their son died they made the unimaginable decision, to donate his organs, their son's organs. They did it so that other parents, people they didn't even know, wouldn't have to feel the excruciating pain you know was tearing them apart at that exact moment. At their worst moment they had the grace to think of and save others.

Over the weekend River's mom commemorated the one year anniversary of the "honor walk' she and his dad had taken. She also shared that it was the day she and Granger "vowed to not let this break our family." Read her emotional post below.

“June 6, 2019. One year ago today, we took our “honor walk” as we walked behind our sweet son down the long hallway to the operating room. River took his last breath in there, without his mommy and daddy. We know his spirit was with Jesus, but his earthly body was still present and it was so hard to let them close those doors without us. I’ll never forget waiting for what felt like hours for them to come back and tell us everything went wonderful, they were taking the organs to the recipients and he was at peace. They later told me they played the Cars soundtrack as they operated. I still cry thinking of the kindness and empathy from our hospital staff. June 6th was the day Granger and I vowed to not let this break our family.

We now had to make the trip home without Riv in his car seat. We now had to tell our children their brother wasn’t coming home. When we got there we saw this. My heart hurt so bad knowing they colored these hearts anticipating his return. He wouldn’t return to our home but he was Home. We grabbed our kiddos, I could tell by her face, London already knew what we were about to say, and took them out into the woods where Riv always played. We sat together, held each other and had one of the hardest conversations I hope we ever have to have.

Today, one year ago, began our trek down this rocky road of grief. There have been many turns, many bumpy spots and many just outright falls, but we are walking, we are moving, we are taking the next steps and I can say that one year later, we are different. In a strange way, we are stronger by His grace. We have learned so much about ourselves and our family and our God.

Today we start year 2. A lot of people say it’s harder than the first. I don’t know how it could be but I’m ready to take it on, even if I have tears streaming down my face. I’m ready to keep learning and keep growing and keep trusting my God. Greater is He that is in me in me, than he that is in the world. Hebrews 11:1.”

The family will keep River's legacy alive with the River Kelly Fund, which raises awareness and generates money for childhood drowning prevention. So much love going out to the Smiths. Your family is a shining example to us all.


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June 6, 2019. One year ago today, we took our “honor walk” as we walked behind our sweet son down the long hallway to the operating room. River took his last breath in there, without his mommy and daddy. We know his spirit was with Jesus, but his earthly body was still present and it was so hard to let them close those doors without us. I’ll never forget waiting for what felt like hours for them to come back and tell us everything went wonderful, they were taking the organs to the recipients and he was at peace. They later told me they played the Cars soundtrack as they operated. I still cry thinking of the kindness and empathy from our hospital staff. June 6th was the day Granger and I vowed to not let this break our family. We now had to make the trip home without Riv in his car seat. We now had to tell our children their brother wasn’t coming home. When we got there we saw this. My heart hurt so bad knowing they colored these hearts anticipating his return. He wouldn’t return to our home but he was Home. We grabbed our kiddos, I could tell by her face, London already knew what we were about to say, and took them out into the woods where Riv always played. We sat together, held each other and had one of the hardest conversations I hope we ever have to have. Today, one year ago, began our trek down this rocky road of grief. There have been many turns, many bumpy spots and many just outright falls, but we are walking, we are moving, we are taking the next steps and I can say that one year later, we are different. In a strange way, we are stronger by His grace. We have learned so much about ourselves and our family and our God. Today we start year 2. A lot of people say it’s harder than the first. I don’t know how it could be but I’m ready to take it on, even if I have tears streaming down my face. I’m ready to keep learning and keep growing and keep trusting my God. Greater is He that is in me in me, than he that is in the world. Hebrews 11:1 ✝️⚡️

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