Tribute to Kelly Dutcher
Kelly was strikingly tall with short, feathery brown hair. She wore light-tone, high-waisted jeans around her thin frame as she worked in the yard. Her red lipstick lined a wide smile. I remember her big laugh as she helped me around her kitchen while I awkwardly gathered marshmallows and crackers for s’mores around the fire in her backyard. She was hospitable, warm and inviting. She had acres of land, barrels of fruit, and she hoarded nothing to herself alone.
But before I knew her, I knew her kids.
Her oldest and only son Levi was in my grade when their family moved to our church. He joined the youth group, met new friends in half a second and made people smile with his goofy songs and it’s-a-wild-life kind of attitude. I called him Leviticus, and we became fast friends. He liked to sing about munchies with his goonies, and I was always eager to hang around the fun ones. Rachel was next in line, beautiful and usually frustrated with Levi. As a younger sister to many boys, I understood all too well.
Sarah came after Rachel, tall and smart and impossibly young. I kept asking her when she would be in high school. I met her when she was only in seventh grade and it took forever for her to get to high school, though she looked it immediately with her mom’s height and her long brown hair. Hannah, the youngest, was sweet and charming with her big Rachel-like smile.
I didn’t have to know Kelly and her husband David well to know that they were amazing people. I knew their kids, and that said enough.
I am not saying every great parent will have great kids. I understand that there are exceptions to the theory, and we have all seen it too many heartbreaking times. Kids have a mind of their own, and no matter how they were raised, they still have the free will to run amuck, make poor decisions and behave like hooligans.
And I am not saying that Kelly and David’s four good kids were perfect either. They weren’t. They aren’t.
But I still say that they shone like bright, bright lights in our youth group. They cared about others. They respected adults. They stood up for what they believed in. They were faithful to come to church and serve where they could. They shared what they had and focused on the good in others.
Rachel gave me the best hugs and Sarah kept me company in a gentle, peaceful way. Levi made me laugh, always.
I like to think these traits were not just inherited, but taught diligently by their parents, especially their mom, Kelly Dutcher.
Which is why this past week must have been awful for them.
The four good kids who were raised by good parents and made a lasting impression on me, lost their mom this week in a cancer battle.
Those four good kids who have bright, bright futures, have to say goodbye to the brightest light in their young lives. Most of them aren’t even out of their 20s yet and now have to figure out a way to explain to their little humans that they have birthed, adopted, and/or fostered, that their grandma is in heaven.
I’ve thought a lot about the Dutcher family this week. I have cried hot tears, lamented in prayers, and kept their hearts close to mine as the news broke and the ripple effect of the life of Kelly Dutcher spread online.
She was only 55 years old.
She was one million things to her family and the community. She was strength and beauty, and I see her legacy live on through the lives of her children, grandchildren, and beyond.
I don’t know what it feels like to lose a parent, but I can imagine their hearts being ripped out of their chests, the pain shuddering through their mourning bodies.
But those same kids with broken hearts also have her strength. They will get up. They will fight, and they will live loud for her honor, for her memory, because they have her love inside their bones, pulsing them to reach higher, love stronger and live brighter.
So, so bright.