Feb. 24--GREENVILLE -- Chad Watson may have lost his wife and eight children, but he won't lose his faith, he said Sunday during a "Celebration of Life" at Felix E. Martin Jr. Hall in Greenville.
"We began planning this service while I was in the hospital, and they told me I might not be too well," he said. "I told them I'd be ready. I had to run to you and tell you, don't be mad at my God for what happened. ... I want to remember how my family lived, not how they died."
Watson addressed a full crowd at the service, offering prayers and thanks to the Muhlenberg County and surrounding communities for their support.
Watson and his daughter, Kylie Watson, 11, survived a fire at their home on Motes Road in Depoy on Jan. 30. The fire killed Watson's wife, LaRae "Nikki" Watson, 35; and their children, Madison Watson, 15; Kaitlyn Watson, 14; Morgan Watson, 13; Emily Watson, 9; Samuel Watson, 8; Raegan Watson, 6; and 4-year-old twins Mark Watson and Nathaniel Watson.
Investigators believe the fire was caused by a heater, which ignited items in the family's bedroom. The cause of death in each case was smoke inhalation.
The survivors were released from Vanderbilt University Medical Center and Monroe Carell Children's Hospital in Vanderbilt just more than a week ago. Muhlenberg County residents welcomed them with a parade.
Chad Watson, other speakers and musical selections, such as "God Will Make This Trial a Blessing" and "It Is Well with My Soul," encouraged the audience to find a lesson in the loss.
"I was keenly aware that my kids were gifts from the kingdom of God," he said. "God has written my story. I wouldn't have written it this way, but when the only one who can stop it is the one making it happen, where do I go? I still go to the Lord."
Chad Watson reminisced on walking the halls of Muhlenberg County High School with LaRae Watson. Martin Hall is on the school's west campus.
"Our story started here. We walked hand-in-hand, professing our love for each other," he said. "Imagine 11 of us; we struggled. There were things I couldn't always provide for my family. But, it didn't matter 'cause we had each other and the Lord."
The Rev. Jeremy Jessup, pastor of Browder Missionary Baptist Church, graduated high school with Chad Watson.
Jessup and his 3-year-old daughter, Bailee, like many others in the audience, wore black T-shirts with #WatsonStrong in white letters across the chest.
"To see how far he's come since I saw him in the hospital a couple weeks ago shows his resolve," Jessup said. "I've never seen anyone with that strong of a faith."
Chad Watson, who is also a minister, thanked friends, family, firefighters, law enforcement, his pastor and fellow members of Calvary Baptist Church in Central City and several others before opening the altar to others for prayer and reflection.
Ensuring that the family would heal emotionally, Chad Watson's cousin, the Rev. Adam Brown, said, "So many people have been surprised by the faith of our family, but the Lord will give you enough grace to endure what you're going through. How much grace do you need? That's how much he's willing to give you."
Angela Oliver, 691-7360, email@example.com
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