Grieving with faith

Julie KempWAXHAW – Julie Kemp’s life was forever changed on Oct. 19, 1997.

Kemp and her husband, Andy, and their 8-year-old son, Landon, were involved in a car wreck that claimed Andy’s life and threatened to take Landon’s, as well. Years of anger, despair and questioning followed, but it was ultimately Kemp’s faith that restored her hope and put her on the road to healing.

Kemp, a Waxhaw resident, has worked with her church, Weddington United Methodist, as a grief counselor for the GriefShare program since 2008. She’s now also reaching outside the walls of the church and using her own testimony to help others through her new book, “Faith Has Its Reasons.”

“I’m not a writer – I’ve never aspired to be a writer,” Kemp said. “It was just something that I felt like God wanted me to do. I survived a tragedy and had a long grief journey and struggle.”

“Faith Has Its Reasons” was officially released June 3 and is a candid memoir of Kemp’s struggle with grief after the 1997 accident. Not only did Kemp lose Andy, but Landon was declared clinically dead three times and remained in a coma. 

Landon eventually woke up and endured extensive surgery to repair parts of his face, the area most affected by the wreck. Because of his head injury, Landon struggled in school and with extracurricular activities, as well.

“He went from being a straight-A student to a child who struggled academically … Also, he was an athlete and had to deal with the frustration of (not being allowed to play) contact sports,” Kemp said. She said her son made a remarkable comeback despite a challenging recovery, playing on an all-star team just six months after the accident. “His recovery is beyond anything anyone ever thought possible.”

Kemp and her family attended church regularly prior to the accident. However, she found it difficult to return to church following her husband’s death and son’s injuries, partly because she was admittedly angry toward God and partly because the accident happened on the way home from church. Though she visited churches with friends, she wasn’t actively involved.

Kemp eventually remarried, and she and her second husband, Greg, had a son, Parker, in 2001. She realized it was important to return to being an active church member for the sake of her children, which paved the way for her own emotional healing.

“I was scared to trust again,” Kemp said. “… Once I (chose) to understand that I won’t get the answer to my ‘whys’ here on earth – that this is the hand I’ve been dealt – when I quit asking why and accepted this is my life, that’s when” the healing began.

Something else helped pull Kemp through – the words of her son. Landon returned from his experience of being clinically dead three times with stories of heaven, Kemp said, which she shares in her book.

“I think what helped (Landon) the most in his recovery was knowing that his dad was in heaven,” Kemp said.

Kemp began feeling God wanted her to write a book in 2011, but she brushed the idea off for several reasons – it wouldn’t be fair to her second husband, Greg; it wouldn’t be right to tell all of Landon’s struggles; and so forth. When both Landon and Greg voiced their support, she ran out of excuses.

Kemp was driving home from the YMCA one day when she passed a seminary marquee that read, “Faith has its reasons.” She instantly knew she was meant to write the book and went directly to her keyboard when she arrived home. The majority of 2012 involved a lot of typing and tears as Kemp relived many painful memories.

“I kept saying, ‘I don’t want to do this,’ but I finished it and turned it over to (God) to see what his reason is,” Kemp said.

Every publishing company Kemp sent the manuscript to wanted to publish the book, she said, and she eventually chose Tate Publishing, a Christian publisher. “Faith Has Its Reasons” has earned a five-star user rating on Amazon.com. Kemp also has received emails from readers thanking her for sharing her story.

“I kept praying, ‘If it helps one person, it will all be worth it,’” Kemp said. “Just getting this feedback from the readers makes it all worthwhile.”

Find more information including a link to purchase the book at www.juliekemp.tateauthor.com. Learn more about Weddington UMC’s GriefShare ministry at www.weddingtonchurch.org/wumc/pastoral-care.

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Josh Whitener

About Josh Whitener

Josh Whitener has been with Union County Weekly since he started freelancing for the newspaper in summer 2010. He joined the paper full time in December 2011 as a staff writer and has since been promoted to Features Editor, a position that allows him to focus on Union County school and education news, human interest stories, church and religion news, special events and more. Josh graduated from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte in 2009 with a degree in communication studies - mass media and a minor in journalism. In his spare time, he enjoys playing and writing music and spending time with his wife, April, and son, Caleb, and their two beagles, Annie and Dori. Have a story idea or question for Josh? Contact him at josh@unioncountyweekly.com.

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