Our Loss

Yesterday we lost the life of my great nephew Kaelan, my niece Sara’s boy, my sister Dana’s grandson, to suicide. That is how he died, but I hope no one sees him as just another statistic. That doesn’t tell the whole story. There are always so many layers. He is so much more than how his life ended. His story ended tragically, but he was full of life. That life is what we will choose to remember.

He was 17. Incredibly bright. A lover of animals, especially reptiles. I know…..who loves reptiles? To me it was crazy. His mom Sara told a story today about how their former neighbor called Animal Control and reported them saying they had an alligator on the premises. It was his pet iguana, that he would take on walks on a leash.
While I can’t say he made me love reptiles, he made me consider them as possibly less than vile. And some….I had to agree…were actually amazing when I looked and saw them through his eyes. He knew so much about them. Had so much compassion for them. He’d show me pictures and say “Aunt Kim, look at this one. I think you’ll like it.” Sometimes I did. I expect In the future I will be even more open to them. I have one friend who I remember when I see butterflies. I’ll think of Kaelan when I see lizards and snakes and other such creatures.
He was artistic. Such a beautiful and talented artist. He was a free spirit. He was passionate and opinionated and stubborn. I didn’t always agree with him, but I do love people who speak their mind. I expected as he matured, his opinions would have more layers and he would change his mind about a few things. Most of us do.
He was a skateboarder who drove me crazy when I heard about some of his antics. I’d lecture him on occasion (I have a tendency to do that) and he would give me a look of amused tolerance. We both knew nothing was changing.
He was a hard and good worker, something not seen in teenagers often these days, who once thanked me for “letting him” and his stepdad Brian spend most of their day mulching my yard. He was loving and sweet and kind to me. Always. And a great companion. I have wonderful memories of our Tosco Music Party dates, where we would laugh and sing and on the way home talk enthusiastically about our favorites.
He was loved. So very loved. By so many people. His loss is proof that love is not always enough to save someone. Suicides don’t occur because of a shortage of love or because the person doesn’t know they were loved. I am absolutely certain that was something he never doubted.
I’ve been numb since I heard. It still doesn’t seem real. I wonder if it ever really will. But yet our whole world has changed. Oh, I know we will live and laugh. We will celebrate the 17 years we knew him and be grateful we have so many beautiful memories to overshadow the bad. We will also mourn. What he could have been, should have been. Every day ahead will be different than it would have been if he was still in this world.
I know God knew his pain. I know God knows our pain and the many conflicted feelings that course through our veins as we try to get through this time. I don’t know how to do this. Don’t know how to act. Don’t know how to react. It’s one of those times you let God carry you through, borrowing on his strength to cover your weakness….but not even feeling you are doing that very well. You feel paralyzed. And distracted. And like the world is a little off kilter. This shouldn’t be happening. 
You may not have known him, but I would be happy to tell you more. I pray that you will know others like him and won’t just walk by them. I pray that you will join me and we will find a way to really help them. To remind them of their purpose, instead of letting them feel helpless. To encourage them to live, really live, instead of even for a moment wanting to die.
Oh…..our Kaelan could have changed the world. He had it all. Everything he needed to be successful. Everything he needed to be happy beyond measure. He couldn’t see it himself. Didn’t think he had what it would take to endure. What could have helped him? What could have changed this outcome? I have no clue. The last years I couldn’t figure out a way to help, to support, and not enable. Because of this, in the end I most often stayed away.  I felt like I would just nag and needle and make it all worse. Was that right or wrong? There is no way to know. I know he knew I was there, adoring him, but I missed him. I think he knew that, too.
My heart breaks for all of us who love him. That love is still living and active. It will be as long as we live. He is a part of who we all are. It’s a beautiful thing, even though now tinged with so much sadness. That kind-hearted boy would not want us to feel pain, but as we couldn’t prevent that in him, he can’t prevent that in us. To never get another big hug from those long gangly arms, it seems impossible. He was the first member of a new generation for our family…so much hope and promise. It’s wrong that he will not be here long after we’re gone.
Knowing him, loving him, losing him….it changed me. It changed a lot of us. We will mourn his death, but even more we will find ways to celebrate his life. Kaelan Avery Privette, you mattered so much and you will never be forgotten. We will live life a bit more fully, since you cannot. And we will spread the love you leave behind all around the world.


  1. Oh, Kim, and family. I am so very sorry. Such a tragic loss at such a young age. You tell his mom and grandma that I hurt for them. You m add y nm or know, but Br ed nds's husband committed suicide. I loved him like a brother so I know how very hard suicide is on the family. My prayers are with you all. This will be hard on your dad in his fragile state. I would come but am at the beach. Soooo sorry. đŸ˜“


  2. As I have been for your Dad, I'll continue to lift up you and your whole family. I don't know your pain and any attempt to imagine it only falls short. Loss like this hits deep, hits hard and stays with you. Know that God not only knows the pain but the joy he brought to you and your family. Deciding to remember that, focus on that, live with that is a lasting legacy he leaves with each of you. I love you dear friend. Oh how I wish there were words to share that would ease your pain.


  3. My heart mourns for you and your family. I want to thank you for sharing such a personal tragedy. I really needed to read this today, but I hate it's at the expense of your great nephew. God bless you and your family. Praying for you all.


  4. Kaelan was an awesome friend, he was talented and smart. I remember one time i sold him a turtle even. We hung out quite frequently for awhile. He had the passion to change the world if he wanted to. R.I.P kaelan, we will all miss you very much..


  5. I may not have got the pleasure of knowing him as well as i wish but thtough the beautiful things iv heard and read i feel the energy flowing bc of him and it truely touches my heart. Im wishing the family and close friends the best. Its hard to even mind the words… Rip kaelan


  6. My little brother committed suicide at age 17 almost 35 years ago. Unfortunately I can understand and feel your pain. I watched my parents walk that line of trying to help him while not enabling him and knowing that unless he wanted to get healthy none of anyone's help would make much difference. We could only provide a temporary band aid. I still don't know what the answer is. I do know that more help is needed in the mental heath/medical field. Imagine 32 years ago and trying to get help. All we had was Broughton.


  7. Thank you for sharing. You are so right….it was bad then and still not much better today. Hopefully we can continue to tell the stories and together we can find solutions.


  8. Thank you for that beautiful tribute to Kaelan. I shared it on my page. It helped me not to have to answer the questions about his death that so many were asking me, but I just didn't want to do it, or even feel at peace to do it. Thank you, thank you for loving him. He certainly loved you beyond words….He and I talked a lot about all kinds of things. He told me of his love for you. I hope it's okay that I shared your tribute…with love, Tammy


  9. Thank you for your kind words. I love that you shared it and that you felt it helped explain who he was and answer some of the questions people have. We were fortunate to love him and be loved by him. Thank you for loving my family and being an in-the-trenches kind of friend.


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