Coping with Grief and Loss: Eddie Montgomery & Kacie Clousing
Eddie Montgomery: We just knew that we loved playing music and we knew what we wanted. It wasn’t like we did it because we wanted to be a star or were going to make a bunch of money. We loved it. That’s who we were.
Coping with Grief and Loss: Eddie Montgomery & Kacie Clousing – Episode #202
Narrator: Welcome to the Jesus Calling Podcast. This week’s guests talk about deep losses they’ve experienced in their lives and how God gave them the courage to keep going, even when their hearts were breaking: award-winning country music artist Eddie Montgomery and Jesus Calling reader Kacie Clousing.
Eddie Montgomery is one half of the wildly popular country music duo Montgomery Gentry until an unexpected accident claimed the life of his friend and bandmate Troy Gentry in 2017. Eddie looks back to when he and his brother first met Troy, their rise to success as friends who loved to play music together, and the fateful day of Troy’s helicopter accident.
Eddie: Me and my brother had a band. And actually my brother John Boy, or John Michael as everybody knows him, met him [Troy Gentry] first. And then there was a guy that was needing a band in a club, and first he was wanting happy hour. So my brother and Troy were doing Happy Hour, and I was hanging out and I’d get up and sing some, too. And then we put a band together and went into the club and started playing the club.
And it worked really [well], I mean, the club was always packed. I remember six nights a week, man, we’d have a crowd out the door trying to get in. I mean, we loved it. We did. We ate it, breathed it, and slept it.
And lightning struck. It’s so funny, because Atlantic Records had heard of John, John Boy. I went on the road with my brother. I was playing drums, and I quit playing drums because I didn’t want to get known as John Michael Montgomery’s brother, the drummer. I knew what kind of music I wanted to do.
We’d always do a lot of charity work back at home. You know, growing up back home, my cousin Troy’s dad, Lloyd, my mom and dad, if there was any flooding or tornadoes, we’d be there and bring the neighbors together. This is what we do. So any time something would happen, they’d call one of us, they’d call the other one.
And so we just kept playing and finally figured out like, “Well, we want both of us, they don’t want one of us.” And me and T never thought anything about it. You know, I guess that’s why I think it’s so funny, because me and Troy put this duo [Montgomery Gentry] together, Nashville did not. And I think that’s why it was different, because we’d get each other in and out of trouble, we had each other’s back. We knew who we were. And this is what was going to sing and what it was all about.
“Me and Troy put this duo [Montgomery Gentry] together, Nashville did not. And I think that’s why it was different, because we’d get each other in and out of trouble, we had each other’s back. We knew who we were.” – Eddie Montgomery
I reckon we loved it so much and wanted it, but it was our life. We didn’t want to do it because we wanted to be a star or [because we were] going to make a bunch of money. We loved it. That’s who we were. You know, I think it’s a different breed, because I’ve heard new artists say “Man, I want to be a big star.” No, we love the music, and we love the people, and we love interacting with people.
“There’s not a day that goes by I don’t think about him.”
Narrator: After making music successfully for thirty-three years, racking up awards and the adoration of millions of fans, Eddie and Troy were out doing what they loved—being on tour—and as part of that tour, Troy was offered a side trip to see a collection of vehicles from a famous TV/movie franchise he admired. Several minutes into the trip, the helicopter carrying Troy crashed near Medford, New Jersey, killing both Troy & the pilot. Eddie tells us about that day and the impact the loss of his friend has had on him since.
Eddie: He’s a big Batman freak, and the guy had the original Batmobile and an original Batman motorcycle. So when he told us about it, it’s me and him and Eddie K, our keyboard player—he was our bandleader at the time. He was gonna come up, and [Troy’s] like, “Hey, this guy’s gonna give us a helicopter ride.” And I said, “T, I’m gonna jump in the shower real quick,” he said, “Well I’m gonna go on down there.” And a sound was coming down, they were getting strapped in a helicopter, and the guy was firing it up and getting ready to take off.
So, you know, there’s not a day that goes by I don’t think about [Troy]. I miss that big smile of his, that big wooden spoon, you know, and he’s stirring the pot, always doing something and pulling practical jokes.
“So, you know, there’s not a day that goes by I don’t think about [Troy].” – Eddie Montgomery
After about thirty-three years looking to your left, man, it’s different. So I had to sit back and take a little break. And, you know, I didn’t know what to do. I talked to Angie about it, and talked to the band about to, talked to management about it. And all our fans out there were writing all the cards. By the way, I want to thank you fans for all the cards and letters you sent, it’s totally awesome. And they’re like, “Man, we want you back out on the road.” I’ll let them make that decision if they wanted me out there or not.
It was always me and him. It goes back to meeting him, putting it together, and being friends and brothers before we were a duo. Because we did have each other’s backs, you know, yet each other’s hand was added to it. We were brothers. That was it.
Before we go on stage, we get together and thank the Man Upstairs that He’s let us live this long and let us do what we do with all the stuff that He’s given us. I reckon it goes back to that saying that, “If it don’t kill ya, it’ll help ya.”
“Before we go on stage, we get together and thank the Man Upstairs that He’s let us live this long and let us do what we do.” – Eddie Montgomery
It can eat you up. I mean, it really can take you in some dark places. And you better believe in the Man Upstairs.
I don’t know how you explain to anybody the loss of a child or loss of your brother, best friend. You just don’t. I think if He was to pull my heart out, it’d be scarred up pretty bad, and that’s how you get through [loss]. You remember all the smiles and the good times.
“That’s how you get through [loss]. You remember all the smiles and the good times.”- Eddie Montgomery
Narrator: As we close our time with Eddie, he reflects on the memory of his friend with a passage from Jesus Calling, August 14th, that talks about how God’s presence shines through us in this life and on into eternity.
I am yours for all eternity. I am the Alpha and the Omega: the One who is and was and is to come. The world you inhabit is a place of constant changes—more than your mind can absorb without going into shock. Even the body you inhabit is changing relentlessly in spite of modern science’s attempts to prolong youth and life indefinitely. I, however, am the same yesterday and today and forever.
Because I never change, your relationship with Me provides a rock-solid foundation for your life. I will never leave your side. When you move on from this life to the next, My Presence beside you will shine brighter with each step. You have nothing to fear because I am with you for all time and throughout eternity.
Narrator: To learn more about the music of Montgomery Gentry, please visit montgomerygentry.com.
Stay tuned to Kacie Clousing’s story after a brief message about a limited-time sale on the hardcover edition of Jesus Always, available at Lifeway.com!
Embrace Joy in His Presence with the Jesus Always devotional, now on sale in hardcover at LifeWay.com! Now’s the perfect time to stock up on encouraging gifts for friends and family, since you can get three copies of the Jesus Always hardcover edition for only $15, six copies for $30, or nine copies for $45! This sale ends on June 21, 2020, so hurry now to LifeWay.com, type “Jesus Always” in the search bar, and order your three, six, or nine copies of Jesus Always hardcover edition today. Purchases must be in multiples of three to receive the sale price.
Narrator: Kacie Clousing always dreamed that one day, she would build a family of her own. After suffering through years of infertility, Kacie and her husband found themselves blessed with two daughters and thrilled to be expecting another child. But a 20-week sonogram revealed a heartbreaking tragedy that sent the Clousing family reeling and clutching more tightly to faith than they ever had before.
Kacie Clousing: My name is Kacie Clousing. I’m a mother of four. I grew up in Fairfax, South Dakota, this really, really tiny town. I know some people say that they’re from a small town, but I am from a small town. It has a hundred people in it. I grew up on a farm right on the edge of town. And then after I got married, my husband and I jumped around a little bit, and then we settled in his hometown in Sioux Center, Iowa.
Traveling Through Infertility, Building a Family
When we first got married, we knew that we wanted to have a little time just to be married, but we always knew there was no doubt with either of us that we both wanted kids. He said when we first got married that he wanted six kids. And I was like, “Oh, no, no, let’s take a step back here.” So now he laughs about it, because after we’ve had kids, he’s like, “What was I thinking?”
And then unfortunately, when we decided it was time to start our family, we ran into some fertility issues, and that is so hard on a marriage. I feel like nowadays I know more people who struggle to start a family than I do that are like, “Oh, it happened so fast.” And so we went through that for a while, too. I remember we had bought a house where we were living, and the room that would be the nursery when this happened was right across from our bedroom. And I would go in there, into this empty room, and I would just sit and cry and be like, “God, why is this not happening for us, and why are we going through this? Just please, please, let this happen if it be your will.” And so that was it. That was a hard start.
But then once it finally did happen, it was just so sweet and so wonderful. And we were just so thankful that it had finally happened, and that we were able to start our family, and that God had given us that gift, because being a parent is just incredible.
Our oldest daughter is eight and our second daughter is six. So they’re just about twenty-two months apart, and they are awesome. We were good with the two girls, especially with all of the fertility stuff we’d gone through. We were just happy to have the girls and have them be with us and healthy. And we were good.
The Grief of Losing a Child
It was toward the beginning of 2015 when I found out we were pregnant with our third, and of course, we were thrilled. At our twenty-week ultrasound, the first thing we saw was that it was a boy. And so the rest of that ultrasound was just kind of a blur, because we were just in shock, and we just kept looking at each other like, “Can you believe it’s a boy?” Nothing seemed to be all that different than the twenty-week ultrasounds of the other ones. The ultrasound tech was looking at stuff and checking this and measuring that. And we were just like, “How’s everything look?”
Looking back, she never said anything, really. She would make very general comments, but everything looked normal. He had ten fingers. He had ten toes. We saw the heartbeat. We saw eyes. We saw everything that should have been there. So we had no inclination that it wasn’t just a perfect little boy.
We got done with the ultrasound, and we went over to meet with the doctor, and she came in, and I know the doctor very well. And the first thing I said was, “Did you hear it’s a boy?”
And she looked at me, and she said, “I did.” And it was in a very monotone response.
And I was like, “Oh, okay.”
And she sat down and she turned to us, and the first thing she said was, “It’s days like this that I hate my job.”
And I said, “Is he not okay?”
And her voice broke up a little bit, and she said, “He’s not.”
There were a few big problems that, in her words, made him not compatible for life outside the womb, which I thought was a very nice way to say that your baby will die. In a second, our life went from, Oh, my goodness, things are fine. We’re having a boy. We’re so excited, to just nothing but complete sorrow and grief.
“In a second, our life went from, Oh, my goodness, things are fine. We’re having a boy. We’re so excited, to just nothing but complete sorrow and grief.” – Kacie Clousing
So for the next while, I was a pregnant woman with a baby who wasn’t going to live. And that’s a very—I didn’t know how to feel. You know, he was alive and he was kicking. But every time I would feel him kick, I would think, Oh, don’t—don’t get too excited. Don’t get your hopes up. So it was like grieving him before he had died. I was grieving what could be, what we wanted it to be, but also trying to keep myself in check. Like, Listen, this isn’t going to be how you wanted it to be. This isn’t going to end the way it ended with the girls.
I remember before we had gone to the twenty week appointment, we were gonna tell the [girls]—I had bought a pinata, and it was a question mark and it was pink and blue. And so we were going to go to the store and get the candy that was the color of whatever the gender was. And they were so excited about that, you know, they were four and two, so that was a really big thing for them.
I remember the day we came back from the appointment, they said, “Can we do the pinata?”
And I was like, “We can’t.” I said, “It’s a boy. You’re going to have a brother, but . . . we’re not going to get to bring him home.”
And they were little. They were so confused, so I didn’t want to overwhelm them. I kind of wanted to just break the ice, and then let them come to me. I figured I would just take it as it came, rather than throwing all this terrible news at them and breaking their hearts, just kind of letting them know that we weren’t doing the pinata, but we would talk to them, we would answer any questions that they had, and I just kind of left it at that.
And thankfully, they were young enough that they didn’t really get it. But they still had questions often. “Where will he go?”
“Well, he’s going to go right to heaven.”
“Well, because that’s how God made him. Some babies get to come to Earth, and some of them get to go right to heaven.” So we tried to make that be—and he’s luckier than all of us. He got to go right up there. He didn’t have to deal with the sadness of the world. So we tried to make sure we told them how wonderful that was going to be and how lucky he was that the first person he was going to see was Jesus.
We just took each question as it came and just made sure that they knew even though God had made him this way, it wasn’t a bad thing. He would be in heaven, and he would be perfect. And we would get to see him again.
Even to this day, they talk about him. I mean, he is 100-percent part of our family. When someone comes up to me and asks me how many kids I have, they are the first ones to say, “Nu-uh, Mom, we have this many,” which then you’re like, “Okay.” You have to go through that whole [process]. But I love that they remember him and honor him by bringing him up and talking about him. And, you know, when they draw a picture of our family, it’s us and them, and then a little picture of him in heaven up in the sky in the corner of the picture. He’s just always, always part of our family.
“I trust that You’re going to take care of us.”
I have led a very safe life so far. It wasn’t until the fertility stuff that I was that I came to a time where I felt like I didn’t know where else to go. And God had always been in my life, but it wasn’t until then that I was like, “Listen, I literally have nothing. I literally don’t know what to do.”
And my sister in law, unfortunately, also lost a baby a few years prior, and she had sent me Jesus Calling. She said, “Somebody gave this to me when I was pregnant with Natalie, after I had just lost her. I wanted to give you a copy.”
And I didn’t think much of it, I was just like, “Oh, thanks. Thanks for the book.” But honestly, that sort of gave me a way to look at it differently. I would wake up in the morning, I would wait to feel if he was kicking, and then if I felt him, I would say, “Okay, here we go, another day.” And I would pull out Jesus Calling, and I would see what it had to tell me for that day.
And like everybody has said about the book, it’s just so incredible how no matter your situation, there are certain days where it just says exactly what you need to hear, or gives you the guidance of exactly where you’re supposed to go for the day. And the underlying theme that I kept coming across was trust. You know, you’re going to go through things in your life. It’s inevitable.
Nobody goes through life in sheer joy, with no troubles at all. And I just remember thinking like, Trust in the Lord, trust in what’s coming, trust in the overall plan. Don’t think about what you’re having to deal with, just trust that what’s happening is in God’s plan. And so I started to have a mantra, where when I would start to think about the bad, I would just say, “I trust in you, Lord, to stop my negative thoughts and to not fall into the dark hole again.” I would just stop and say, “I trust in you, and I trust in what’s going on. I don’t like it, but I trust that you’re gonna take care of me. You’re gonna take care of us. And you’re gonna take care of him.”
“I started to have a mantra, where when I would start to think about the bad, I would just say, ‘I trust in you, Lord, to stop my negative thoughts and to not fall into the dark hole again.’” – Kacie Clousing
He lived for ten additional weeks after we found out at the ultrasound about his conditions, and he passed away and was born on September 4th, 2015. That was the best day of my life and the worst day of my life. It was so amazing to get to see him and meet him, but then at the same time, that’s when our grief actually started. For ten weeks we were grieving when he was going to die, then it was finally like, “Okay, now we’re grieving that he did.”
When he was born, it was so beautiful. Everything about it. I mean, Jesus was there. He was in the room. We could feel him. When I think back about it, it was so amazing. And I’m so thankful that we got to have that, because it’s the only time we ever got to be with him. And it’s such a great memory and such a loving time in our life that we were able to meet him, to say hello to him and say goodbye to him.
When we were talking about names in the beginning, I just thought, I need to give them a name with some meaning. And so we named him Gabriel. And the name Gabriel means God is my strength. And when I read that, I thought, That’s it, because God is all that I have right now. I was at the bottom, and God was the only place I had to turn. And I thought, Since God is going to be the first person he meets, then that is the name he deserves.
Beauty Out of the Ashes of Lost Dreams
Gabriel was born on September 4th, so that day was very much a whirlwind. We were in the hospital and doing all the final arrangements and everything, and I couldn’t even think that day. It was the following day, September 5th, that was the first day that life was going to start without him, and also the same day that we had his funeral. And I thought, How? How am I going to bury my child today? How can I do this?
And I grabbed my Jesus Calling, and this was the passage for September 5th, the morning before his funeral. It says:
I am your best Friend, as well as your King. Walk hand in hand with Me through your life. Together we will face whatever each day brings: pleasures, hardships, adventures, disappointments. Nothing is wasted when it is shared with Me. I can bring beauty out of the ashes of lost dreams. I can glean Joy out of sorrow, Peace out of adversity. Only a Friend who is also the King of kings could accomplish this divine alchemy. There is no other like Me!
The friendship I offer you is practical and down-to-earth, yet it is saturated with heavenly Glory. Living in My Presence means living in two realms simultaneously: the visible world and unseen, eternal reality. I have equipped you to stay conscious of Me while walking along dusty, earthbound paths.
There were just so many pieces of that that I was like, Are you kidding me? Bring beauty out of the ashes of lost dreams and joy out of sorrow? It starts out, “I am your best friend.” I mean, that’s who you need on a day like that. You need your best friend. And there it was, and it was like, Wow, that’s amazing.
We had some time to heal, and we took a few years. And we just thought, Maybe we should think about adoption, maybe we should think about having another child. And we were both scared. We were both very much like, “This cannot happen again. We don’t want to go through this again. Why would we even consider this?”
I just prayed about it, and I just said, “I don’t feel like something is not closed. There’s still something out there.” And I just prayed that if there was another child for us, that God would help us get there.
We had another baby in May of 2018. We have another son who has completed our family and just been everything to us. And I just want people to know that if it’s on your heart to have more kids or to find another way for your family, don’t be scared and just trust that God will take care of you and your family, and bring to your life what is meant to be. So don’t be discouraged, and go for it.
“God will take care of you and your family, and bring to your life what is meant to be.” – Kacie Clousing
No parent should have to go through losing a child, but you’re not alone. It’s such a lonely feeling to think when you lose somebody, everybody else’s life moves on and you feel like yours just ended. I felt so alone. If you have a tough day, if you don’t want to talk to anybody, if you just want to be by yourself, just know and just trust that things will get better and things do get better.
It’s okay. It’s okay to be sad. It’s okay to be angry, but also know that no matter what, you’re not alone. You can do it. You can. You can get through it. And God is always, always with you.
Narrator: If you’d like to hear more stories about moving forward after times of grief and loss, check out our interview with pastor and author Jonathan Pitts.
Narrator: Next time on the Jesus Calling Podcast, we speak with pastor and author Dr. Dharius Daniels. Dr. Daniels implores us to find our purpose by adding value to others’ lives, even if they are different from us, by supporting and showing love as God showed His love to us.
Dr. Dharius Daniels: At the end of day, purpose isn’t just about the acquisition of things. Purpose is about assisting people in some way. When you carry out your life’s purpose, you’re going to be adding value to other humans, directly or indirectly.
Narrator: Do you love hearing these stories of faith weekly from people like you whose lives have been changed by a closer walk with God? Then be sure to subscribe to the Jesus Calling: Stories of Faith Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, or wherever you listen to your podcasts. If you like what you’re hearing, leave us a review so that we can reach others with these inspirational stories. And, you can also see these interviews on video as part of our original web series with a new interview premiering every other Sunday on Facebook Live. Find previously broadcasted interviews on our Youtube channel, on IGTV, or on jesuscalling.com/video.