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A year after losing son, Buford man seeks to become human again
Kelly Nashs body was found in Lanier after monthlong search
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Alan Nash talks about how he has coped with his son’s loss in the year since his son was discovered dead on Lake Lanier. - photo by Erin O. Smith

The morning coffee comes with an unsettling vista for Alan Nash.

Out the window from his Shadburn Ferry Road home are the boats resting in the winter waters and the dock where his son Kelly was found last year after a monthlong search.

“They say that grieving is not a process, it’s something you learn to live with,” Alan Nash said. “I’m finding that to be true. You just learn to deal with it and learn to work with it.”

Kelly Nash, 25, disappeared from his Buford home Jan. 5, 2015, setting off massive searches and attention for the Georgia Gwinnett College student.

A fisherman discovered the man’s body on Feb. 8, 2015, in a cove near Shadburn Ferry Road and alerted law enforcement. How he got there remains an unsolved mystery.

“When something like this happens to you, initially you think you’ll never find any joy in your life,” Alan Nash said.

The father adjusts his camouflage Auburn cap — Kelly’s hat, which fits him perfectly.

He places his hand over the face of his watch, another of Kelly’s keepsakes.

One of Alan Nash’s favorite pictures with him and his son, almost two years ago from a wedding, is slightly askew on the wall.

“I’m sure I hung it crooked, but I’m telling you about every third or fourth day, I’ve got to go straighten that picture. I just like to think it’s him messing with me a little a bit,” Alan Nash said.

Kelly and Alan Nash worked together building homes for about 14 months, with Kelly’s unfinished plans still rolled upstairs in Alan’s office.

“We were going to go back and build another house that was going to be the way Kelly and I wanted the house to be,” Alan Nash said. “I made the decision I’m going to go ahead and do that, and we’re going to start within the next month or so.”

It’s taken about a year to “start feeling human again,” the father said.

“You do what you have to survive, to go on,” Kelly’s mother Beverly Nash said. “There’s not a day that goes by that you don’t think about him. There’s not a day that goes that there’s not tears.”

Kelly Nash played basketball for Lakeview Academy. Many of the first group of searchers came from those who knew him there.

“I sit and I’m in awe of the number of people that showed up to go search for him — people we did not know, never had met before and still don’t know to this day,” Alan Nash said.

The countless hours, food donations and fliers printed still amazes Alan Nash, who said he still wants to find a way to thank all of those who helped.

Beverly Nash said Kelly’s friends continue to keep up with her, even giving a bouquet of pink roses for Mother’s Day.

“Kelly’s friends during all of this were phenomenal,” she said. “Those boys have been in and out of my house and a part of my life for so long.”

Garrett Wiley first met Kelly at 16 playing basketball at Lakeview Academy. Wiley has stayed close to the family, as he and Alan will share stories that the father has never heard before.

Though people have moved away from Gainesville and Lakeview over the years, Wiley said friends from the school still honor him whenever the group gets back together.

“When we get together, we always make sure to bring him up and maybe bring up a positive story about him,” he said.

Alan Nash continues to praise the work of the Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Office.

“They still have this on their list. They still are following anything that might give them a reason to reinvestigate it,” he said.

The uncertainty of what happen causes pain, Beverly Nash said.

“There’s still so many unanswered questions that it almost haunts you. We have Kelly. We know where he is, but we don’t have the truth about what happened,” she said.

On the night his son was found, Alan Nash was in Orlando.

“To me, that was God going, ‘You don’t need to be at this house when your son is going to be found right down the way,’” he said.

The family struggled while taking the boat out the first time in May. Getting in the water still feels weird for Alan Nash, who hopes to give it another shot when it gets warmer.

After the creation of the Kelly Nash bench at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Hall County, Alan Nash realized he needed a place to meditate. The backyard garden, near a pair of Adirondack chairs, gives the Buford man a chance to read C.S. Lewis and stay close to his son.

“You have to try and move forward and try to not let your brain block you out of your life,” Alan Nash said.

Through the Internet, Alan Nash found connections to his son that he never expected. A person living half a world away messaged the Buford man’s father about his son, who he only met through online gaming.

“That feels good. It feels good to know your son was appreciated, and the way he treated people was appreciated,” Alan Nash said.

Alan Nash thought at one point of selling the Shadburn Ferry Road home, but ultimately decided against it. He knows that sight out the window toward the docks won’t make him happy but will eventually not make him sad.

“I can’t let this define my life. There are so many other things in my life, and most importantly my daughter (Holli),” he said.