In August 2019, Blake Bivens had no idea he was seconds away from his life being knocked sideways.
The 24-year-old pitcher had pulled his phone out to check in with his wife, but instead got the news no one wants to receive.
Bivens—a top prospect with the Tampa Bay Rays major league baseball (MLB) team—was playing in the minor leagues and had yet to be called up to the MLB squad. He was with the Montgomery Biscuits—the Double-A affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays—in the Chattanooga, Tennessee airport awaiting a return flight to Virginia.
Bivens lived with his wife Emily and baby son Cullen in Keeling, Virginia.
It was during that layover period that Bivens opened his Facebook account on his phone and his world was turned upside down.
Bivens recently opened up about his experience and elaborated on his shocked response to the tragedy during an appearance at the River Church in Danville, Virginia.
Bivens said he first suspected something was wrong when his wife had not texted him that morning. When he went on Facebook hoping to connect with his wife, he saw news reports that police were looking for his brother-in-law.
He then began searching Facebook for more details.
"First headline I see is two females and a small child were gone."
"I immediately knew that was them. I found out my family was gone over a Facebook headline. I just immediately began to scream in the middle of the airport."
Nonetheless, Bivens boarded the plane home.
He described processing the horror in such a public, mundane environment.
"It's almost kind of like, 'This isn't really happening.' I was more in a state of shock. I would go through periods of shaking. Then I would start to lose it a little bit and break down and cry."
"It was kind of like a circle. The plane rides just seemed like they took forever."
You can see his River Church appearance here:
May 3, 2020 River Church Danville youtu.be
Bivens relayed how it felt to arrive home without his family waiting for him.
"I think the hardest moment for me was when I got home and I walked in my son's bedroom for the first time and realized I was never going to see him on this Earth again."
"That was the worst moment in my life. Nothing ever will come to being, to feeling the way I felt at that moment. Then again, I know I will see him again one day, and it won't be long."
Police and prosecutors believe Bivens' family was killed at the hands of one of their own. The NY Post reports that Matthew Bernard, the alleged killer charged with three counts of first degree murder, is the 19-year-old brother of Bivens' slain wife Emily.
Law enforcement alleged that on August 28, 2019, Bernard killed his sister Emily, their mother Joan, his 14-month-old nephew Cullen and the family dog. After police discovered evidence on Bernard's phone about visions and hearing voices, he will undergo an assessment to determine whether or not he's mentally fit to stand trial.
Bevins described to parishioners how religious teachings helped him move on since that horrific August day.
"And when I read, 'Take heart, for I have overcome the world,' it changed, it completely flipped a switch in my heart."
"From that moment on I knew that this was not going to beat me, this was not going to beat family. I was going to live in victory the rest of my life, and I was going to use this as a testimony to show what he has done for me, he can also do for others."
"That moment for me was one of the biggest moments where I just knew God was with me, and the only thing I knew to do was just laugh in the enemy's face, because he thought he had won."
"But all he's done is awoken a sleeping giant and as long as I'm here on this Earth, every day I wake up, my goal is to pile-drive him right in the face every morning when I get up."
Bivens' Instagram shows his attempts to balance the need to press on with life while keeping family memories alive.
The Youtube comments for Bivens' appearance at River Church were filled with condolences and messages of support.
Bivens told the church that since tragedy struck last August, he's spent most of his time with his teammates.
He continues to play minor league baseball, but relocated to Australia.
We wish Bivens nothing but the best as he continues to heal from the tragic loss of his family.
The book Resilient Grieving: Finding Strength and Embracing Life After a Loss That Changes Everything is available here.