Josh Carden and his grandmother, Louise Pickett, play with the family's dogs in their new house in southern Alabaster. (Reporter Photo/Jon Goering)
Josh Carden and his grandmother, Louise Pickett, play with the family's dogs in their new house in southern Alabaster. (Reporter Photo/Jon Goering)

Archived Story

Profile: A family’s journey from tragedy to a better life

Published 4:02pm Monday, March 10, 2014

Moving away from tragedy

 

Carden and Louise Pickett’s faces still light up when they reminisce about the community’s generosity during the 2010 Christmas season, but nothing compared to what came next.

After a group of volunteers, including Jeff Brooks, visited Carden’s house at 1880 Fulton Springs Road in January 2011, they originally intended to only make upgrades to the house.

But after learning much of the house was not up to city code, the volunteers began looking into building the family a new house.

Brooks and other volunteers worked out a property swap with Alabaster resident Rick Blaising, and recruited the help of architect Jack Donovan – who also uses a wheelchair for mobility – to design the house off Washington Lane near the southern end of the city.

“Jeff Brooks is a wonderful man,” Louise Pickett said. “Jack Donovan, Rick Blaising, they are all saints in my mind. I honestly believe that God has a special place in heaven for people like that.

The family’s house on Fulton Springs Road was not designed for wheelchair access, and presented many challenges for Carden.

“There were so many places he couldn’t go. There were some steps in the old house that he could not get past,” Louise Pickett said.

Besides the logistical problems of living under an interstate overpass and on a heavily traveled road in a rapidly growing city, the Fulton Springs Road house also provided daily reminders of one of the worst days the family had ever experienced.

“It’s a lot easier for us to be off that road,” Louise Pickett said. “Josh didn’t want to be outside (at the old house). It was a constant reminder of what he lost.

“Sometimes, he would get halfway across the street and freeze because (losing his grandfather) would hit him,” Pickett added. “We had a lot of good memories there, but it was overshadowed by the last few we had. They were horrible.”

 

‘A different world’

 

After volunteers and local companies worked for about two years to build the new house from scratch, Carden and his grandmother moved in to the Washington Lane house in the winter of 2012.

Today, the family is enjoying its new home on a quiet, wooded one-lane street perfectly suited for Carden. All doorways and hallways in the house are wide enough to accommodate Carden’s wheelchair, and Pickett’s bedroom is adjoined to Carden’s by a wide doorway.

The house features wooden floors, which make movement easy for Carden, and a large bathroom with a roll-in shower. The walls of his bedroom are covered in NASCAR posters, his flat-screen TV hangs a few inches above his THS diploma and a large trophy atop his bookshelf commemorates his day as grand marshal of the city’s 2011 Christmas parade.

“The way this place is, there’s nothing in my way,” Carden said. “I’ve got freedom.”

“This is like a different world,” Pickett added.

The new house allows Carden to be much more independent, as he is now able to bathe and feed himself, check the mail each day and even visit his new neighbors on a regular basis.

“I’m so happy I could be here to see this. It has made life so much easier for him, and it lets me sleep easier at night,” Pickett said. “I’ve told Josh ‘I’m going to have to go to heaven one day. Everyone does at some point.’

“It makes me feel so good to know he will be OK even after I’m gone,” Pickett added.

For Carden, something as simple as being able to travel from his bedroom to the mailbox each day has opened up a world of possibilities while helping the entire family move on from a horrible tragedy.

“He will tell me every night ‘We sure do have a lot to be thankful for,’” Pickett said. “He’ll say ‘If I still had my Paw Paw, I’d be in heaven right now.’”

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