Granger Smith’s Wife Honors Son On First Anniversary of His Death

Instagram / Amber Emily Smith

On June 6, 2019, Granger Smith and wife Amber had the unfathomable happen and lost their three-year-old son, River, after a tragic drowning accident at their Texas home.

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I have to deliver unthinkable news. We’ve lost our youngest son, River Kelly Smith. Following a tragic accident, and despite doctor’s best efforts, he was unable to be revived. Amber and I made the decision to say our last goodbyes and donate his organs so that other children will be given a second chance at life. Our family is devastated and heartbroken, but we take solace in knowing he is with his Heavenly Father. Riv was special. Everyone that met him knew that immediately. The joy he brought to our lives cannot be expressed and his light will be forever in our hearts. If there are words to say more, I cannot find them in this moment. Love the ones close to you. There has never been a more difficult moment for us than this. . . In lieu of flowers or gifts, please send donations to Dell Children’s Medical Center in River’s name. The doctors, nurses and staff have been incredible.

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Nothing can prepare a mother to deliver this kind of news. We’ve lost our youngest son, River Kelly Smith. Following a tragic accident, and despite doctor’s best efforts, he was unable to be revived. Granger and I made the decision to say our last goodbyes and donate his organs so that other children will be given a second chance at life. Our family is devastated and heartbroken, but we take solace in knowing he is with his Heavenly Father. Riv was special. Everyone that met him knew that immediately. The joy he brought to our lives cannot be expressed and his light will be forever in our hearts. If there are words to say more, we cannot find them in this moment. Love the ones close to you. There has never been a more difficult moment for us than this. . . In lieu of flowers or gifts, please send donations to Dell Children’s Medical Center in River’s name. The doctors, nurses and staff have been incredible.

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When it was clear that River would not be able to recover after his drowning accident, Granger and Amber made the selfless decision to donate their son’s organs in hopes of giving other children a second chance at life.

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Where do I even begin? This has been the most horrific, life-altering, soul-defining 2 weeks of our lives. We went from such a happy, fun-loving, exploring, dancing, party of 5, to hitting our knees, praying, asking why God, how God, and to losing our youngest son in a matter of minutes. It all happened so fast. We spent the next 2 days in the hospital praying that our little Riv would be healed. We had hundreds of prayer warriors behind us, but God had other plans for our angel, bigger plans. If you believe in our God like we do, we know now that Riv was sent to this Earth so we could experience his joy, laughter and love for 3 years. And then Jesus came and took his hand before he went under and took him home. God didn’t bring our little boy back to us, but God and Riv performed at least 2 other miracles that day for other mamas and daddies praying that someone would help save their child. Grief is such a strange thing. One minute you feel like you have the strength of a lion and you can handle what God has given you, the next you’re sitting by your son’s crib, holding his blanket and crying so hard that no tears or sound comes out, or punching your steering wheel crying and screaming at God, or smiling and laughing at the memories you have of such a special person. Sadness, anger, shock, questioning, fear, hope, the joy of remembering, emptiness, worry, heartbreak, trust in our faith – we feel all of this and more. But we also feel all of the prayers and love from every one of you who have reached out to us during this time. Our family, friends, fans and even strangers have brought us so much comfort and we cannot thank you enough. We’ve made a video updating you guys on how we are and wanted to share it with you, along with a video of River we shared at his service. Hold tight to your loved ones, as cliché as that sounds. You truly never know what life is going to throw at you. Love them fiercely, experience this beautiful life together and vow to live like Riv ♥️ Romans 8:28 ✝️ *Link in bio to watch our video

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Following River’s death, the family became advocates for drowning prevention and set up a fund in his honor.

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Most of you know, our precious River went to heaven in June 2019. Since his passing, we knew we wanted to keep spreading his big legacy, light and joy across the world by helping others in need. Today, we have heavy, but hopeful, hearts as we share @theriverkellyfund with you. Through this fund, we will help other charitable organizations close to our hearts in honor of our son. By donating to the River Kelly Fund, you are not only spreading joy, but also transforming lives for the better. We have one life to live and we hope to live it with purpose, gratitude and compassion. Please take a look at the link in my bio to learn more about our mission and to see how you can join us. We are so grateful for all of you and your support thus far. There are so many good things to come. We hope you will join us in not only living in the present moment, but making every moment count. We hope you will join us and Live Like Riv. 🎈 🚜 🦖 @theriverkellyfund #livelikeriv

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On Thursday, June 4, 2020, Amber took to Instagram to reflect on it being a year since she held him in her arms and admitting how hard it was to grasp the amount of time that had passed.

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365 days since I held your curious, playful, vivacious spirit alive. It’s hard for me to grasp that I’ve been without you a third of the time I had with you. Time doesn’t make sense. Heck, most of life doesn’t make sense. Today, I’m holding on to hope. I’m lifting my gaze to what is unseen and instead of letting myself go down a bad road of guilt, pain, and anger, I’m going to praise. I’m going to thank God for you. You changed me forever, River Kelly. As I type this, I’m looking at the beautiful sun, and the thousands of yellow wildflowers I know you would have brought to me with the biggest smile on your face. I know God is working. I know He will bring healing, new joy and transformation of our hearts through this pain. I know that when everything seems impossible, God will carry me and I know I will see you again. Until then, I will praise, I will fight, I will live for you with an open heart to try to learn and grow and trust God’s plan. My worst day was your best, little man, as you woke up in the arms of Jesus. I miss you. I love you. We can do this. ❤️⚡️🦋🌈✝️🚜🦖 2 Corinthians 4:18

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June 6, 2020, was the one-year anniversary of River’s death. Amber posted on Instagram to honor her little boy and reflect on the day that their son was taken to the operating room to harvest his organs for donation.

“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.”

She revealed how hard it was to let him be wheeled into the emergency room without them, but she found comfort when she found out that the surgery was successful and that the surgery staff played the Disney Cars soundtrack while operating to honor River’s memory.

“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.”

Amber also reflected on the extremely difficult conversation they had to have with their two older children that River wouldn’t be coming home.

“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.”

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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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Our hearts and prayers are forever the Smith family.

If you’d like to donate to the River Kelly Fund, you can do so by clicking here.

Watch the video below of the couple talking about finding the light in their darkest time.