Like many women, Jessica Padgett couldn’t have been more excited about getting married but tragically, an alleged drunk driver robbed her of her dream day and her dream man.
Padgett’s fiancé, 27-year-old volunteer firefighter Kendall Murphy was helping a car accident victim in southwest Indiana in November last year when another firefighter, who was allegedly under the influence, plowed into him.
“I remember that day like it was yesterday,” Padgett, 25, tells PEOPLE about her late fiancé’s death. Hours before Murphy died, the soon-to-be-married couple spent their evening “making supper and watching movies” at Murphy’s home.
After some time, Padgett left to go make a dessert she found on Pinterest for her family’s Thanksgiving gathering. She explained she texted Murphy when she made it home. When he later responded to ask how her baking was going she replied, but Murphy never texted back.
Initially, Padgett didn’t think anything of it — considering she had just been with him moments before. However, later in the night, she received news that would change the rest of her life. “I heard my mom bawling and my dad saying ‘Kendall didn’t make it.'”
“It was a nightmare,” Padgett tells PEOPLE. “I fell out of my bed. I was completely numb head to toe.”
Before Murphy’s death, Padgett, her mom and future mother-in-law went dress shopping. Padgett explains as soon as she found the gown she knew it was perfect for her to say “I do” in. After her parents paid for the dress, it was scheduled to be ready in February.
However, when February came around Murphy was no longer alive. “What am I going to do with this dress?” Padgett said to herself when the dress was ready for pickup.
Soon after Murphy got down on one knee in 2016, the couple set the date of September 29, 2018.
“I’ve been dreading that day since his passing,” Padgett tells PEOPLE. “We had the date planned for almost two years. [It] was supposed to be the best day, but turned out to be the worst day.”
However, she wanted to honor Murphy’s life and their love so, on the day she was supposed to put on her dress and walk down the aisle to her love, Padgett decided to hold a photo shoot with their wedding photographer Mandi Knepp.
When the day that should have been her wedding day arrived, Padgett’s sisters and family members helped keep her busy with a hair and makeup appointment.
Once she arrived in Glendale, where she and Murphy had their engagement photos taken, Padgett was met by Murphy’s groomsmen and her entire bridal party as well as both her and Murphy’s family. “I just started bawling. I was like ‘Oh my word,'” Padgett says.
Murphy’s parents also surprised Padgett with his cowboy boots, which he wore every day. In addition, a plaque was connected to the boots that read, “Whatever path you take I will always be with you, your guardian angel Kendall.”
Padgett also posed with Murphy’s firefighter uniform. After their stop in Glendale, Padgett and her family drove to Providence Church, where Kendall was buried to take more photos by his grave.
“I was a complete mess, emotions going everywhere,” Padgett says. “A lot of tears were shed.”
As the anniversary of Murphy’s death quickly approaches, Padgett cannot help but think about what “an absolutely amazing man” he was.
“He loved to make people smile,” Padgett says. “He would do anything for the community.”
While Padgett is not exactly sure what she’ll do on the anniversary of his death next month, she recently honored her late fiancé by putting on a 5K event in June.
Half the proceeds from the event were donated to the volunteer fire department and the other portion went to a scholarship fund under Murphy’s name for incoming kindergarten students at Barr-Reeve School, where Murphy went as a child.