As Caleb was growing up, I often prayed for positive, encouraging and loyal friends to be in his life. Being a military family we moved every 2-3 years and the kids were always forced to make new friends.  To his benefit, he wasn’t shy, he was friendly, outgoing and funny. His infectious personality and big heart drew quite a crowd of friends over the years. I’ve been told that he was the one they always went to for advice, he always cheered them up and helped them to see the bright side of things. Countless people have shared their stories of how Caleb impacted their life, always offered a hug, a smile and a joke to make them feel better. He didn’t just stop there, he followed up and always checked in to see how they were doing. I hope I continue to hear these stories as the years go on. Even in his death he still makes us proud every time someone shares a story with us. If you have a Caleb story you want to share, please share in a comment below or on Instagram @ajourneyforcaleb.

This group of guys right here.  Because Caleb was born and we were stationed at Fort Campbell, KY three different times, Clarksville, TN became our hometown.  We joined a local church and made local friends before Caleb was born.  Each time we moved back his friendships picked up right where they left off, like he had never left.  Their friendship really grew into a brotherhood when we returned to the area in 2017.  The guys quickly took him in and helped him adjust to life in the USA, after having lived in Germany for 3 years.  It didn’t take him long to adjust, he was excited to be a part of the youth group and get involved in the community.

These guys did everything together! If they weren’t physically with each other, they were talking on the phone or playing video games together over Facetime.  Because of two foot surgeries the beginning of his Sophomore year he wasn’t able to play any high school sports, but he loved supporting his friends.  He always went to their games, tournaments and special events to cheer them on.  Caleb was the one they always knew would be there.  His death has been incredibly difficult for his friends and classmates to manage.  With no warning, no indicators and no explanation, the friend they knew they could always rely on was gone very suddenly.  When they were told that Caleb had died by suicide, they said “Caleb who?” Because there’s no way it could be their Caleb.  It started to become real when they couldn’t get through to him.  When he wasn’t answering his Snaps.  When he wasn’t responding on Instagram.  When he didn’t answer their texts.  When he didn’t answer the phone.  Darkness, confusion and questions took over.

My heart is completely crushed for what these boys have lost (there are also some very special young ladies in Caleb’s life that I will write about another day).  Less than 24 hours earlier he was at a friends house celebrating a birthday, playing Spikeball, eating cake and having fun.  Just 8 hours before, he was sitting in class taking notes and doing his schoolwork.  Just 6 hours before, he was enjoying lunch with friends from school.  Everyone who knew Caleb, will never understand why he entertained a lie to hurt himself or how he could walk in that direction and not think of the finality of what he was doing.  It is still so surreal and doesn’t seem possible that it really happened, even after 390 days. I know these guys right here would rather not have had the title of Honorary Pall Bearer at their best friends funeral, but they were absolutely honored to be that for him.

The verse “A friend loves at all times,” has never been more real to me…these guys have really stepped in for their friend.  I used to call them Caleb’s friends, but now they are brothers to his sisters and like sons to his dad and I. They come around the house all the time, eat our food, make a lot of noise and play with the girls.  When it was time to put up the Christmas tree, they came and decorated with the girls and hung up Caleb’s ornaments for him.  They bring ice cream to the house regularly and make sundaes with the girls.  They make bonfires, roast marshmallows, play corn hole and football in the backyard.  They pick up the girls from school and take them out to lunch.  They make TikTok’s together, play games, hide-and-seek, swim with them and watch movies too.  They come visit me at work just to say hi and give me a hug.  They brought me flowers and sent me sweet text messages on Mother’s Day.  They miss their friend and need somewhere to put their love for him, so they put it in his family.  Wish my girls luck when they want a boyfriend, whoever it is will have about 13 guys to get through first, ha! They are honoring their friend any chance they get. They have struggled immensely with their best friends death, but they have sought after God for courage, strength and comfort, they have depended on each other and held one another up on difficult days.  We have had some hard, really hard, discussions with them and opened up the conversation about what to do when they feel there’s no way out.  They encourage each other and have grown closer together through this tragedy.  Here are some pictures of things we have done together.  We all realized really quickly that just because Caleb was gone, it didn’t mean they had to stop coming around…being together helps all of us.

Initially I assumed it would be incredibly difficult for me to be around his friends, but the opposite happened.  I need them around.  I need to hear their boy laughs.  I need to hear their jokes.  I need to hear about their girlfriends and girl troubles.  I need to hear how college is going.  They help us heal.  When we spend time with them, it’s like we’re spending time with Caleb.  I don’t get to share these things with my boy anymore and the boy mom part of my heart needs to share life with them.  They surprised me one night and came over to show me these shirts they had made.  Caleb loved the Tennessee Volunteers and his jersey number was 28.

If you are feeling depressed, broken and weak and you don’t see a way out of your current pain and circumstances, it takes one second to reach out to someone for help.  One second makes all the difference and can save a number of hearts from being broken and lives of people who love you from being crushed.  You can call or text the Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.  I am always available by email at  Never believe a lie that your loved ones would be better off without you! You matter, you are loved and help is available.