Granger Smith Reflects On His First Performance Following Son's Death

By Blake Taylor

July 5, 2020

Granger Smith Reflects On His First Performance Following Son's Death

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."

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Right before we walked on stage tonight, Jonny asked me, “Remember the 1st time I played bass with you? 10 years ago in Webster TX and there were 40 people.” Yep, of course. I remember all the shows. How could I not? I’ve played shows where I broke ribs and punctured my lung, played for important suits in DC and heroes in Iraq. I’ve seen country kids in the mud in Iowa and cowboy hats in Australia. I’ve dislocated shoulders at county fairs and grabbed some forehead stitches in College Station. I’ve played a few times for a lot of people and many times for a few people. I’ve played shows at the greatest times of my life and I’ve played shows after terrible loss, again and again. And that’s my job. But through it all, it’s the people that keep me coming back. If you’ve seen me lately, please let me say thank you for the support. Through it all. Seriously, you’re the fuel to my flame...still. I can feel the love.

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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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We’ve been on quite the journey these past few weeks. I’ve been dark on social media, but I still have a full understanding of the responsibility placed upon me as a public figure. I can choose to snuff that influence, or instead use my platform (in relevancy big or small) towards what I believe is right. I believe I’m obligated on certain levels to include you guys in my current journey, as I’ve been involved either personally or musically in yours. - The finality and mortality brought on by death makes life feel fragile. It can weaken, terrify and separate those close to it. But it can also awaken us. It can remind us never to take a moment with those we love for granted. - In my house, we have united stronger and closer than we’ve ever been. We’ve cried. We’ve smiled. I’ve held my family tight. I’ve found strength from God and used that in the face of adversity so that my wife and children can rely on me. I’ve guarded my heart and my mind during weak moments and graciously accepted all of the encouragement and empathy from so many. I have realized that I will not slave over a search for answers, but instead for meaning. I will focus and then cultivate the light from a dark place, the good from the bad, God’s will from my own plans. I can rest assured knowing that River’s assignment on earth was always intended for 1116 days and not only did he live it to the fullest, but he lived it loved by so many, including a mother, father, sister and brother who held nothing back and have no regrets on how much he felt that love. We should all be so blessed to be able to live like Riv. - Amber and I want you to hear it from us and not just read it, so we made this little video for you to watch. (Link in bio)Thank you for all the love, prayers and support. We feel it!

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Photo: Getty Images

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