Love, loss and a community that cares for this North Carolina high school girls basketball player

Matt Burkhartt, Asheville Citizen-Times

Love, loss and a community that cares for this North Carolina high school girls basketball player

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Love, loss and a community that cares for this North Carolina high school girls basketball player

NEWLAND, N.C. — The memories Heaven Nelson carries from her mother are a painful collection of love and regret.

She can still see her mother beaming on the sidelines after Nelson scored her 1,000 career-point for Avery County’s basketball team on Nov. 29. Nelson kept the handmade poster of congratulations her mother gave her after the game.

“She was my biggest fan,” Nelson said.

There are feelings of warmth.

Nelson didn’t like to sleep alone when she was younger, but her mother never objected to sharing her side of the bed with her daughter.

Then, there were the bad times.

During the middle of the basketball season, Nelson was removed from her home after multiple people witnessed a shouting match between her and her father after a game. She stayed with a teammate while child services tried to find her a more permanent home.

“I feel like that was the moment my mother just stopped,” Nelson said. “There was a change in her. She didn’t want to come to games anymore. When I left (home), it was like she lost her reason.”

The morning of Jan. 31, Nelson met with her mother at a social services’ office. They told Nelson she could go home if her mother agreed to leave her father.

“Mom said she couldn’t pick between the both of us. She was crying. I was being 16. I didn’t care about her feelings. I was mad she wouldn’t take me,” Nelson said. “I said some things I’ll always regret.”

Later that night, Kimberly Lee Nelson took her own life.

Nelson’s father found her dead on the living room chair with her hair and makeup done and a gun in her hand. She shot herself once, straight through the heart.

Kimberly had texted her husband before her death.

“I love you and Heaven more than anything in this world,” it read. “I can’t choose between you and Heaven, and I’ll have to see you in the afterlife.”

Nelson had just finished a basketball game at Madison High School when she was told her mother was gone.

“It’s like everything just stopped,” she said “I couldn’t feel anything. It wasn’t real.”

Read the rest of the story in the Asheville Citizen-Times

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Love, loss and a community that cares for this North Carolina high school girls basketball player
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