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Underwood lineman keeps pushing after mom dies falling off a horse

Underwood offensive lineman Kade Laney is playing with a heavy heart this season after losing his mother in a horse riding accident. David Samson / Forum News Service1 / 2
Underwood offensive lineman Kade Laney wears a necklace featuring the Lord's Prayer given to him by his mother, who died in a horse riding accident. David Samson / Forum News Service2 / 2

UNDERWOOD, Minn. — For the first two nights after being told his mom was dead, Underwood senior offensive and defensive lineman Kade Laney didn't sleep at his house. It wasn't until the 6-foot-3, 265-pound Laney climbed into his own bed that reality set in. His mom was not coming up the stairs to pray with him and say goodnight like she had done every night he slept in his home.

"That's probably the one thing I miss the most," Laney said. "It was just coming upstairs, going to bed and realizing she wasn't coming that it hit me."

Kirsten Laney loved horses and helping people. On April 29, 2016, she combined both, opening up Oakdale Korral Rescue Ranch, a youth ministry ranch near Underwood. It was her dream to use horses to help children struggling with depression.

Kade will never forget the smile on his mom's face the day the ranch opened.

"She was helping kids along, leading the horses around," Kade said. "She had the biggest smile on her face probably anyone has ever seen. She was happy to be helping people with problems. She was just happy to help people."

On March 15, 2017, at around 3 p.m., Kirsten was riding horses with a friend near the Laneys' home. According to a report by the Otter Tail County Sheriff's Office, the horse was spooked, and Laney fell, suffering a fatal head injury. She was 48.

"It was devastating obviously," said Kade's dad Ken. "I don't know how else to put it. Shocked and devastating."

Kade had been at a friend's house working on his truck. Unaware it would be the last time he spoke with his mother, the last conversation he had with her was asking permission to go.

Kade came home to find his pastor at his house. The pastor told him his mother had passed.

Kade didn't think it was real. He thought he was dreaming, and he would soon wake up.

"It's just hard hearing the words coming out of someone else's mouth," Kade said. "It's a hard thing to comprehend that she was gone. A lot of people don't understand. She wasn't sick, so it was really unexpected. It's really hard to deal with. The first thing I did was I went in my house and just cried. I couldn't stop crying."

A few days before she died, Kirsten gave Kade, the youngest of her two sons, a necklace with a 9-millimeter Magnum bullet with the Lord's Prayer engraved on it. Kade enjoys hunting and anything outdoors, and he and his mother shared a strong faith. The only time the necklace leaves Kade's neck is for football games.

"She had a passion for her family and for God that was untouchable by anybody," Ken said. "She had a fire that burned for those two things. Our whole family has faith, but the two of them had a special connection that way."

Kade was introduced to football by watching games with his dad. Ken signed him up for football in third grade. Kade wanted to quit in fourth grade, but Ken told him to try for one or two practices. Kade did, and fell in love.

Ken was the focal point when it came to football for Kade, but Kirsten was the vocal point. The voice Kade always heard during his games from the stands was his mother.

"She was loud," Ken said with a laugh. "She could cheer him on, and she wasn't afraid to do so. It never mattered where games were, we were going. Most people would think the dads are, but she was a big or maybe a bigger supporter of football than even me."

Kade tore his meniscus at the end of his sophomore season with Fergus Falls. With that injury still on his mind, plus the family moving to Underwood, Kade didn't play his junior season. He came back this season to play for Underwood because he missed the game.

"I think the biggest thing with Kade is his leadership," Underwood coach Chuck Ross said. "For someone outside our school, he has really stepped up as a vocal leader that the other players really admire. He brings a lot of energy to our practices and games."

Kade is starting on both lines for the Rockets. He had 3.5 tackles in the season-opening win for the Rockets. Although he'll miss his second game Friday, Sept. 15, due to injury, he'll be back next week.

"She would be joyous," Ken said with tears when asked what Kirsten would think of Kade playing football again. "She would be extremely proud of him this year, what he's turned into, the team leader he's turned into. His mom would've been extremely joyous and proud."

The Laneys are still picking up the pieces in the six months since Kirsten died, attempting to fill the void of all that Kirsten left.

"Don't put off tomorrow what you can do today because you might not have tomorrow," Ken said. "That would be advice I'd give to anybody. If you wanted to go on a trip somewhere or go do something, go do it. I have many regrets over stuff that we said, 'Well, we'll do that some day.' Now someday is never."

There's a void the Laneys won't ever get back.

"I guess the main thing I learned is you can't take someone's life for granted," Kade said. "The people you talk to regularly, there's no guarantee they are going to be there. There's no guarantee. Driving away that day, I had no idea that'd be it."