West Virginia mother writes book after losing her Columbia-born son

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — Melodi Shipley, of Hedgesville, lost one of her sons, Kevin Shipley, on March 7, 2019.

The death of her son, who was born in Columbia, devastated her, but she has created a way to share her grief, her experiences and her faith with those who will listen.


“The Gift of Kevin” is a book that Melodi wrote with help from her son, Connor, and her niece, Michelle Andrews, that shares the story of the gift that Kevin was in their lives.

Melodi and her husband had always wished for a child, but unfortunately, they were devoid of the blessing a child is for many years. Unexpectedly, a miracle happened. They were finally able to have a son.


After raising her son to be the best he can, Melodi lost him to the heavens again. In this book, Melodi tells you her story to help people, like her, who have lost a loved one.

Read ‘The Gift of Kevin’ to find out what brought her back to life again after losing her son,” the description of the book reads.

Connor, son and editor, Andrews, senior editor and niece, and Melodi sat down with The Journal to talk about the release of the book, what it means to them and what their hopes are as more people read it.

Melodi expressed that writing a book was harder than she thought but was also more rewarding than she ever imagined.

She said she could not have done it without Connor and Andrews and the support from her husband, David.

“I wrote the journal, and we worked together on making this book come true,” Melodi said of her family.

She didn’t start out with the idea of writing a book, though. She began to journal her experiences into voice memos, as she is not a fan of writing.

“[Kevin’s death] was devastating, but we were getting all of these signs,” she said, sharing some of the signs that she discusses in the book, such as visitations from cardinal birds, which are said to “send messages from heaven” or something happening when she needed it most.


Because Melodi spoke into her phone as experiences were happening and when she felt like she should, the book was written literally in her own words, without interference from company editors who don’t know her story.

“I thanked God again. He is the one who is leading me down this path. Something was telling me to do this. I wasn’t sure what was going to be at the end, and I still wasn’t thinking a book. I just didn’t want to forget what I was experiencing. From there, it came together, and I decided which stories to share. I kept feeling I should do a book. I thought, ‘I might as well do it for me,’’' she said.

That’s when she called her niece, and the work began.

“It is her voice,” Andrews said, “the most authentic version.”

BookBaby published “The Gift of Kevin,” and in October, Melodi had the book in the mail.

One of the themes that Shipley loves most about the book is the idea that “love never dies,” something she believes and has seen to be true in her life.


In the book, Melodi shares with readers a personal experience connected with life here on earth and life beyond physical death.

Kevin Tyler Shipley was born Oct. 16, 1991, and died in Hedgesville on March 7, 2019. He passed away from asphyxiation, a neck compression that turned into a fatal accident.

Melodi described her son’s life as truly a gift since day one.

High school sweethearts, Melodi and David were happily married in 1981. Her dream was to have a family, which was challenging when she found out she was having trouble getting pregnant.

Through a series of what she calls “miracles, never coincidences,” she was able to have her first son thanks to a new technology at the time, in vitro fertilization, the gift of Kevin.

Connor is two years younger than Kevin, and because of how Kevin was conceived, the two brothers were extremely close — some called them twins, as they were both conceived at the same time, with Connor being one of the frozen embryos.


It was Connor who gave the eulogy for his brother in 2019. The family expressed that they had been receiving signs that Kevin was still with them.

“It was almost like he was sitting there next to me,” Connor said of writing the eulogy. “There is a higher power. We have had an abundance of signs.”

It is in the book where Connor and Melodi dive into what they have seen, experienced and feel.

Kevin attended Hedgesville Middle School and Hedgesville High School, as did Connor. They participated in sports, including hockey, and at school, they did football, track and swimming. The two were involved with Distributive Education Clubs of America, participating in many volunteer opportunities throughout the area. Kevin also graduated from West Virginia University.

“My brother was well-loved and well-known in the community,” Connor said. “Everyone has lost a loved one at some point or will lose someone. It is bigger than the book. We are looking to connect with people who have experienced signs, who have lost loved ones and maybe record more experiences.”

He explained that the book is about what someone is experiencing, as well as opening the door up for conversation.


Melodi said that an important aspect of the book is opening up yourself to possibility.

“Once you open up, you’ll be amazed at what comes,” she said.

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Melodi said that her son was full of love, something she still feels from him to this day.

“You can’t take things with you. He was full of love, and that is what he left for us,” she said.

She added that her hope for the book is to give people comfort and to help those who read it.

“I can’t take the pain away, and their pain isn’t going to go away, I can tell you that. I want them to know that there are people that are experiencing what they are experiencing, but there will be times where you will laugh again. You will always grieve and that is OK,” she said about the goal for the book.


Connor added that because he has been able to experience some of what his mother has, he is still grieving, but he feels a sense of hope.

“There is now a new flame in me that has been ignited, where I feel OK. I feel that what happened was meant to happen and now, what is meant to happen is to share and talk. If I could talk to someone who has lost a loved one — a brother, a sibling — and help them open up and help in their healing ... we know some people won’t believe, but there will also be people who do,” he said.

“The Gift of Kevin” was released Dec. 20 and is available on Amazon and through BookBaby.