In June of 2019 Granger Smith and his wife Amber tragically lost their 3-year-old son, River, in drowning accident. A year later, Smith is reflecting on the pain and grief he's experienced, specifically when he returned to the stage.
Smith made his return to the stage at Country LakeShake in Chicago, 18 days after losing his son. In a recent interview with People, he described the performance as "terrible," although he recognizes the importance of taking that step. "I knew that would be a critical part of my healing process, and my gut instinct was right," he added.
Smith went on to explain how the worst part for him was facing the audience and deciding "they're staring at me like, there's the failed father up there."
Since then, he's been able to put some of those thoughts to rest although he confesses he still feels enormous guilt over his son's death. "I know that there's going to be a time when I'm going to forgive myself, but I'm not there yet," Smith said. His wife Amber added, "I don't know if we ever truly will be able to forgive ourselves. I pray that we can. I hope we can."
The tragic accident occurred at Smith family's home in Texas on June 4, 2019. That evening Smith was playing in the yard with his three kids, River, who was 3 at the time, London, now 8, and Lincoln, now 6, while his wife Amber was inside taking a shower. People reports that Smith's attention turned to his older kids for a moment, which is when River somehow managed to break through the child-proof lock of the pool fence and go toward the water.
By the time Smith rescued River, he was unconscious and his lungs were full of water. Smith and his wife went back and forth performing CPR for about 10 minutes before help arrived. River's heartbeat was restored, however by then he had suffered catastrophic brain damage. Two days later, he was taken off life support and his organs were harvested for transplant.
From that moment forward the Smiths' went on a journey to find purpose in their son's death. Three weeks following the tragedy, they donated $218,000 to Dell Children's Medical Center in Austin, Texas where River was cared for. The Smith family also continues to honor their late son's memory through the River Kelly Fund. The organization will support charities and causes that are close to the family's heart, including arts and education, wildlife preservation, first responders and more.
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