The nightmare began

Friday, August 11th, 2017 was a good day. I was down our new shore house and I went out with friends and had a lot of fun. I came home & went to bed exited for the arrival of Andrew’s Godmother, who is one of my best friends, in the morning.

8:30 am on August 12th my phone rang, I saw it was my husband,  Mike so I picked up and I could hear in his voice something was wrong. He says to me “I don’t know how to tell you this..I don’t know how to say this but I have to tell you something awful.” so I responsed, “Just say it…what’s wrong?”. I never ever in a million years expected to hear his next few words! “Andrew was in a car accident this morning & he died!”

Wait….please repeat that, I don’t think I heard you correctly! ‘‘This can’t be possible! No! No! No! No! I could hear my daughter, Amanda in the background & I knew what he was saying was true! I couldn’t even process those words!

Our youngest son, Michael was away all week at camp. He is a cancer survivor and spends one week every summer at Camp Can Do & it’s his favorite week of the year. Mike was picking him up on Saturday & taking him to his football scrimmage that day which is why he didn’t come down the shore. Mike was up getting ready to leave when the police knocked on our front door to tell him what had just happened to our son. Mike and Amanda went to go pick up Michael & tell him about his big brother. My mother & father in law came to pick me up and take me home.

I really don’t remember that ride home. I was completely numb and my phone was blowing up as the news was spreading about Andrew. It was a living nightmare driving home to my new life without my son! How was I going to survive this? How?

As we got closer to my house I was looking for where the crash was. I knew it happened on St. Davids Rd but I didn’t know exactly where. As we got really close to my house I saw it! The fence was down & bushes were flattened. I screamed “Are you fucking kidding me? This is one block from our house! Andrew could have crawled home from here!!!!”

We pulled into our driveway and all of our family was sitting around out there, except my other two kids were inside. I jumped out of the car and began to scream on the top of my lungs! I just let out screams that have never come out of me before! I started shouting “I can’t do this! I can’t do this! I just want to die!” I was rolling around in the grass just sobbing and screaming! I looked up and my kids were standing over me. Amanda sat down on the grass next to me and just put her hand on mine. Michael looked at me and said “Don’t ever say that again, What about us?”

I jumped up and wanted to go to Andrew’s bedroom. Mike said “don’t go in there” but I said No! I have to go in there and I ran in his room and just laid in his bed and sobbed! I could smell him! His clothes from the day before were on the floor & so were his work boots. How could he not be coming home? How is this possible? He’s 20 years old and needs to come home!

All I wanted to do was go see him. My sister in law called the medical examiner but they said we couldn’t see Andrew until he got to the funeral home. The funeral director, who is a friend from childhood, said we should wait until the next morning so we did just that.

Our house was filled with close friends & family. Mike & I were just in complete shock and disbelief. Our friends made all the phone calls to the church, funeral home, cemetery & planned the luncheon. They drove us around to everywhere we needed to be to make arrangements. They filled our house with food & drinks and anything else we needed. They were a Godsend.

I wanted to go see the crash site. I needed to see where my son took his last breathe. I was shocked because it was a barn fence that he hit. The wood type with 3 railings….I expected to see a tree but there wasn’t one. He hit the fence and shrubs and then drove down the small hill into the home’s backyard. He didn’t go too far down because he wasn’t driving fast. The police think he fell asleep because of the way the accident happened. I just couldn’t understand how that killed him.

The next day we went to see Andrew. My brother & Mike’s sister came with us. Andrew still had on the hospital gown from the autopsy. He looked perfect, not a hair out of place. I just kept rubbing his hair because he looked like he was asleep but when I touched him I knew it wasn’t Andrew anymore. It was horrible to touch your child who was freezing cold & stiff. I just kept stroking his hair because that felt like my boy! I looked at Mike and said “Andrew would hate this!” He always wanted his hair to look perfect and didn’t like anyone messing it up, but I couldn’t help myself.

After we left the funeral home I wanted to go see his car. It was like I was trying to put all of the puzzle pieces together. The front of his car was damaged and his windshield was all cracked but still attached. A piece of the fence was on the hood of his car and went through the glass and was leaning on his dashboard. I’m not sure if that’s the actual piece that killed him or not, however a piece of wood slammed into his chest and collapsed his lungs. That’s what killed him.

We ran into one of the police officers who came to our house that horrific day. He came over to us while we were going though Andrew’s car. He told us that when he saw the car on the lawn, he thought to himself that this kid’s parents are gonna be so pissed at him! He said I never expected to find someone dead because it wasn’t a bad scene. He told us he was shocked that Andrew wasn’t alive. He explained he has been doing fatal car accident reports for a long time and that he has never seen a fatal accident that looked so peaceful. He said Andrew appeared as if he were asleep. The officer thought this was such a freak accident that if a million people were to hit that fence one would die & that one was our son! He believes Andrew died instantly and felt no pain. The medical examiner also told us that Andrew died instantly. We will never know exactly how or why that accident happened.

His toxicology report showed he was not under the influence, He was on his way home from a friend’s house and they did have a few beers the night before, but it was out of his system by the time of the crash. They stayed up playing video games & he never went to sleep. They were all going to bed around 5:30 and he wanted to come home and sleep in his own bed. He drove a friend home and stopped at Giant. We found the grocery bag in the front seat of his car with bacon, pork roll & prosciutto in it. Andrew was planning on coming home and making himself breakfast. Andrew’s favorite food was breakfast, especially the meat.

One memory I have from those first few days is one that I’ll never forget. On Saturday afternoon an older man came to our front door. He said to me, “You don’t know me but your son was at my house yesterday.” He proceeded to share with me that Andrew was working st his home on Friday and that he offered Andrew a cup of coffee. He said, I expected him to take the coffee and get back to work but that’s not how Andrew rolled. Andrew pulled out a chair and made himself comfortable at the kitchen table with this gentleman. He told me how they sat and talked for a while and he offered Andrew a refill & Andrew obliged. They sat some more and had a very nice conversation. This kind man said after Andrew left he thought to himself what a fine young man he was to take the time to sit with an old man like me and be interested in what I have to say.

His daughter lives in the development where Andrew crashed and she told him about the accident. He realized it was the same kid who sat and had coffee with him the day before. I clearly remember him saying “This really hit me hard, your son was such a nice kid & I just can’t believe this happened to him. I had to come look you in the eyes and tell you how much I enjoyed your son’s company and what a really nice young man he was.” I don’t even know this man’s name but I would love to tell him that Mike & I are so grateful he shared that with us. During the worst day of our lives this stranger brought a little joy into our hearts and it will live there forever!


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My name is Melissa Shelly and I am a 46 year old mom who lives in Newtown Square, PA. I never thought of myself as mighty but when my 14 year old son, Michael was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer on August 18, 2014, everyone kept telling me how strong I was. Three years later on August 12, 2017, my 20 year old son, Andrew died instantly in a car accident. Again, people kept saying I was so strong and I actually hated when people would say that to me! I have heard 100 times “I could never do what you’re doing....if my child died I wouldn’t be able to function!”. That’s what I thought about myself until it was me! I didn’t ask to be handed these tragedies & painful traumatic events and I never felt I had a choice....I had to be a mighty leader!! I am a mother of three children and a wife to a wonderful man. We needed to survive and keep hope alive in our hearts! I wish I never had to be strong....but unfortunately we don’t control many things in our lives; however, we can control how we deal with them. It isn’t easy and I have some really bad days but I continue to work on healing and living my life with meaning and purpose. I want to share my pain and my successes with anyone who wants to walk beside me!

16 thoughts on “The nightmare began”

  1. A torturous and traumatic day that never ends for you, the sweet Mother Melissa and her husband, Mike, the good father, and your other children Amanda and Michael. Why? Why? Why did your precious Andrew die? These are the questions that you ask over and over again. That every grieving family asks over and over again. We want an answer, just give any answer we ask and pray then ask again because nothing makes sense in our vision field that is now so blurred from the tears we have cried.

    You have an army of friends and family who surround you with their love but one piece is missing, a whole, a space so big and so lonely for Andrew – that son whom everyone liked so much because he was that likeable and sweet and fun and smart.

    Life is so fragile and we are all wounded by it – some more than others. It always comes back to losing someone we love but the loss of a child is like no other; it’s a permanent blow to the soul.

    Peace and strength be with you during this most difficult week, Sister Mother.



    1. MJ, you’re so dependable…I can always count on you to read my blog and to write a beautiful and insightful comment! I love you for that & so many other reasons! I’m so grateful that as much pain as I feel…I also can still feel love!


      1. It is a privilege to blog with you, Melissa, because you are not only an authentic person and wonderful writer but your blog is helping others learn the deep loss that a bereaved mother must face every second of every day. Plus, you have an amazing loving heart.


  2. Besides my own parents, you are hands down one of the people I admire and respect the most in this world. My oldest daughter left for college yesterday and won’t be home until Thanksgiving. While happy and excited for her, I was feeling so sad and sorry for myself yesterday. Then I thought of you. I thought about how you and Mike must feel. How Amanda and Michael must feel. How you (and so many other parents who have lost a child) would do ANYTHING to have their child away at college and coming home for the holidays. So I told myself to get a clue!!!!

    The way you conduct yourself, the way you communicate and share your journey of grief, the strength and courage you have, the way you allow yourself to feel vulnerable…it’s been extremely influential on others. I thought of you all day yesterday. And I was a better mom to my other kids that are still under my roof because of you and ANDREW.

    My thoughts are with you as you navigate through this week. There are so many similarities between Andrew’s story and my sisters. She died at the corner of my street. She looked perfectly “normal” after the accident with not many bumps or bruises on her (she had a brain injury). She died a completely senseless death. She was so kind and gave so much to others.
    Many, many similarities. I have to get you together with my mom this fall. I know Dre has talked to you about this before. The two of you would be such good company for one another.
    We will do it! Until then, big hugs and know you are a shining star to the world. Andrew is loving his mama big time and bragging all about you in heaven. xoxo Krista

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Krista, I’ve always really enjoyed your company & I think it’s because of what you went through losing your sister gave you a deeper understanding of life & what is important! You don’t do the small talk bullshit and you’re just a real genuine person! I would love to meet your mother because I know I would love and admire her….I already do and I never met her! Thank you so much for taking the time to read my blogs & comment! It means so much to me and it is a gift to my healing!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Melissa, your story is so beautifully written. It comes from the heart and you know that I can relate to the enormity of the pain and grief. But it is the love for Andrew that shines. You honor him in such a special way, the way you are living day by day. I try to do the same for my precious Kristen. Love you, my friend, and see you on the 12th.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Lisa. Unfortunately, you know too well! You’re doing a great job honoring Kristen! I loved you as soon as I met you becuae you’re such a warm & welcoming person as well as comforting to talk to! Can’t wait to see you


  4. Melissa, we don’t know eachother, but I’ve felt like I’ve known you through this horrific tragedy of losing your precious baby! My daughter, Alicia was 2 years younger then Andrew, but they hung out many times at my house throughout the high school years and I want you to know Andrew was always a pleasure to have around. Andrew was full of such positive energy, well mannered, and a fun kid to have around!
    The day Alicia got the news( I still remember) we were driving to NY for a family event, she screamed from the backseat “ omg Andrew Shelly died last night!” I screamed “what?”, as we both started to cry in complete shock. My heart ached for you & your family and I often think of you all!
    I hope all your good memories of Andrew help heal your & your family’s heart each day!
    Thinking of you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Nichole! I appreciate your kind words about Andrew! He sure liked to laugh and have fun and was comfortable around adults so he had no problems holding a conversation with the parents of his friends. Thank you for your kind message


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