Rodney and Kelley met in the fall of 1991--their fairytale story was a whirlwind.
Rodney was working for an insurance company and she worked at a bank—both within the same office building.
“A person who worked in the building kept telling us about one another and one day we met in the lobby,” Kelley recalled.
Shortly after, they went on their first date. He came to her apartment, she said, and they sat and talked for hours on end.
“I knew he was the one for me because we were the best of friends,” Kelley said. “Our connection was even evident to people who were around us. He meant the world to me and I know he felt the same.”
A few years after they began dating, Rodney proposed to her at her favorite restaurant at the time, Red Lobster.
With a classic black and white theme, the couple married on April 5, 1995 with a 16-person wedding party, as well as their family and friends to help them celebrate.
With a black tuxedo, complete with a white bowtie and shined black dress shoes, Rodney posed in photos next to his bride, Kelley, who was wearing a delicate pearl and lace head piece, matching a fitted, lace-adorned white gown with a sweetheart cut and satin train.
The next few years would hand her some of the most joyful moments of her life, and also, some of the most heartbreaking.
On Feb. 10, 1999, their daughter, Kennedy, was born.
She was born with agenesis of the corpus callosum (ACC), a rare birth defect where the fibers between the left and right sides of the brain are not formed properly during pregnancy, leaving a lack of communication between the two sides of the brain.
Part of the challenge, the mother revealed, was not knowing how ACC would affect their daughter. She could be independent or could be completely dependent on Kelley and Rodney.
Kennedy’s doctors told her, “‘You just have to wait and see what she shows you she can do.’ And that was hard… that was so hard,” Kelley remembered.
“After I was able to pull myself out of the shock, of not having a healthy baby, I was able to be much more proactive in her care. I dug in, just as an educator would. I studied everything that I could. I learned how to take care of her.”
“We were committed that whatever it takes, she’s going to be the most thriving, healthy baby girl she can be,” Kelley said.
On Oct. 5, 1999, Kelley took Kennedy to her doctor’s appointment. She was right on track with her progress.
“I was very encouraged and happy. She was the best that she had been,” Kelley said.
But, on the way home, she didn't look so good. So, Kelley took her back to the doctor… "and then, that was it."
“Suddenly, she left us,” Kelley said, tears welling up in her eyes. “In all that time, she was helping me to grow. I learned so much about life from her—just how fragile it is.”
And a little over a year later, Kelley was pregnant again.
But, on Thursday, Dec. 7, 2000, everything for the Castlin family, which included their 4-year-old son, Kyle, would take a dramatic turn and change their lives forever.