• Sheila Harkins

Letting Go (Wise Words From Kevin)

Updated: Nov 10, 2019





Our chapel theme this year for the high school students at our school is Moving Forward. As I’ve been thinking and talking to teens about it, I find it interesting that in order to move forward, sometimes you have to hold on and sometimes you have to let go.


Sometimes we need to let go of an incorrect way of thinking or a bad habit that is holding us back.

Sometimes we need to press in and hold onto doing what we know is right.


In this new journey of grief that I find myself in, I have been struggling to figure out what to hold onto and what to let go of. I want to hold onto the memories of Kevin, the laughter we shared, and the way he enriched our lives. I want to let go of any anger, regrets, or guilt that threaten to immobilize me from moving forward.


When I think “I didn’t want it to end this way” I am thankful that I have had friends to remind me that it hasn’t ended. Kevin’s memories, legacy, and his impact on our lives and the lives of so many others will live on. Life on this earth is only a small slice of the eternal picture.


What I see as an ending, could perhaps be a beginning to how God wants to use Kevin and his words and his story.


In light of this, today I want to share Kevin’s own words about letting go.



On a vacation with Kevin in Blairsville, Georgia when he was nine years old.

Kevin wrote this e-mail to me on February 7, 2016. As he talks about our letting him go, he is referring to the time in his teenage years when his anger at us (and, subsequently, his frequent running away and raging episodes) meant we had to reevaluate what loving Kevin looked like. When we knew God called us to be his forever family, we thought that meant that he would live with us until he went to college one day. We thought it meant that he would graduate from high school. We thought it meant that our love and being in our home would be the best thing for him.


In late 1999 as we begin to see that he needed more help, that his anger was detrimental to our younger children, and that he was no longer listening to us, we made the agonizing decision to put Kevin in a boys’ ranch that had a program to help boys rehabilitate and return to their homes. However, it wasn’t long until Kevin was expelled from that ranch, and we put him in another one. Only to have the same experience repeated again. We had to make a series of decisions for several years. Again and again we had to make agonizing decisions. Each time, it seemed like God was saying to let go.



The "letting go" years were so very hard for all of us.

Although Philip and I both struggled with this decision, my mother-heart along with my belief in “happily-ever-after” made it even more difficult for me. It seemed to go against everything I knew about loving someone. And, my insecurities and pain only increased when some of our friends didn’t understand our decisions. How healing it was to receive this e-mail from Kevin many years later.


I share it today in hopes that, just as Kevin desired, it will help others who need to hear that it is sometimes okay to let go. May you be encouraged by Kevin's words today.


We talked about a lifetime movie I had seen. It was called The Face on the Milk Carton. I don't normally watch things like that--I'm not for all the drama on TV. I'd rather watch DIY projects and house buying.


But there was one part that really got me. The girl in the movie discovered it was her on the carton and she had gone through the process of finding her real parents. They were very good parents and loving and considered the possibility that the girl may be better off with the people that she had grown up calling Mom and Dad rather than them. What caught my attention is how the real mother had put it. She referred to King Solomon’s wisdom in deciding the fate of that poor child who was about to be chopped in half. And how the real mother had decided to let go rather than trying to keep a part for herself.


And it struck me mom, you had the wisdom of King Solomon when it came to me. Thank-you for your decision to let go even though it had to be the hardest thing a mother could do. It was really a decision that none of us could have determined such a positive outcome from.


Thank-you.

In a time that you understood I needed more internally than could have been thought, you had a trust in God so strong that you were willing to give me away to my foolish desires. And even though now we all wish it had gone different, and that I could have a great education and upbringing that my siblings did, I think that it could not have done better for my curious side than to see that the grass was fine on my side of the fence.

I hope that if you know friends in the same spot that you can show them all the letters that I sent. I hope that no parent ever has to go through the decisions that you and dad did. But, if they must, I hope that you will step in with open arms. I hope that they can be as mentally tough as you were. And I hope that they can see that it works.


Not because you gave me everything, not because I got the best help money could buy, and not because you did anything except trust and have faith that God would deliver.


Just like king Solomon.

Just like Moses leading his people out of slavery.

Just like Abraham who was willing to sacrifice his own son.

And I hope that I am able to be the prodigal son that you desire.


I am so thankful that you let go. Not because I wanted nothing to do with you, but because I honestly think that it was God’s plan. Since then I have been able to do so much. I discovered what the world was about, and that I didn't want to be a part of it. I learned what I was missing in Thailand with a mom and a dad that cared. I learned to take initiative, because at that point I felt no one could help me but myself. And I started to not lean on my own understanding but to pray and to ask advice. I learned that I didn't have all the answers.



Kevin was able to have many experiences he would not have had as we "let go."

For a while I thought you gave up on me. That you didn't care anymore. But I know different now.


I am not the wealthiest man on earth.

I'm not the most physically attractive.

I'm not the best dad or husband.

And I'm not the best follower of Christ.


However hard that is to accept, I know that it's okay not to be the best. It's OK not to have all the answers. And as long as I love the Lord and my kids, I know they will be OK no matter how painful it may be to have to let go if the need arises.


Thanks, Mom.

I have thanked you for so much that you have done, but I've never thanked you for letting go. And in the end, that was the greatest gift of all. And the hardest. But you did it. It is my hope that all parents know the joy of letting go.

Teens are extremely bad thinkers.

I knew everything back then (and nothing anymore!)


I wish we could have all those years back, Mom. But looking back and seeing us now, I don't think we needed them, but that doesn't mean we don't desire to have them back.

I hope that I'm not the only tears this letter sees or I might be embarrassed.


But I do want you to know that you have a story to tell. You are such a great mother and I am glad that you get to hear this now. I am sorry it wasn't sooner.

But, hey, sometimes better late than never!


And I hope that God gives you the courage to talk to moms and dads in your situation. I know it can be hard to suggest to people the thing that is furthest on their minds to accept, but maybe for whoever that someone may be, it is time to let go. Not partially but completely.


I don't know why I feel that this is meant for someone. But if it is, I would like them to know that I know without question that letting go completely was the greatest gift my parents ever gave me.


And although I wanted their love I wasn't used to love, for it was a new concept. And when shown love it only pushed me further away. But now, I love all the love I can get. I had to be shown tough love, tougher than any parent is ever willing to give freely, but love that was able to pierce through even the deepest walls of protection.


For I'm not afraid to admit my walls were thicker than any I've ever seen.

But it was worth it on my end. Hope you feel the same, Mom.

I think my/our testimony stands as a testament that God takes care of even the weakest of his flock, regardless of the extent of their injuries. And, regardless of how much time it takes.



So grateful for the love, grace and restoration God gave us. So thankful I have these words from Kevin.

Kevin’s life here on earth has ended. But, his words live on.


I pray that they bring hope to someone today who needs to move forward by letting go.

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