Julie & Emmie's Cause - Please Pay It Forward
Organized by: Shelby Kearon
My Mother, Julie, is the single most compassionate and giving person that I will ever know. She was born and bread in Browns Mills, NJ by my Mom Mom and Pop Pop. 8 years ago we moved to Tennessee to care for my mother's elderly grandparents (my great grandparents). We moved here on a bunch of promises from family members and with the thought of starting a new life in our very first home. I can't imagine any other reason that Mom would willingly leave her family. All Mom has ever wanted for us is a home that we could call our own and a yard that we could play in. Like most people, her life revolved around myself, my two sisters, our little brother, and our father of course, so even though the decision to move was heartwrenching to Mom, she would make whatever decisions she had to to take care of us and her grandparents. Mom has always stressed that family and friends are everything. Shortly after we moved to Tennessee, Great Grandpa became very ill. He could no longer walk and he no longer knew who we were most of the time. The doctors called it Dementia. I personally call it soul crushing. It's a disease that not only eats away at a person in a physical way, but also takes their memories and breaks the hearts of anyone who loves them. My mother (in true mother fashion) stepped right in and started taking care of grandpa. She saw something that needed to be done and she did it regardless of the toll it would take on Mom physically and emotionally. Even in the toughest times she would say, " Grandpa and Grandma are responsible for our very existence. They have spent our entire lives being there for us when we needed them. Now its our turn to give back to them." She swore he would never end up in a nursing home and that if someone was going to take care of him, it was going to be someone who loved him dearly. Sometimes, I could see it taking its toll on her emotionally and physically. She would go to nursing school in the evening, work double shifts on the weekends when Grandpa would have a caregiver that would sit with him, and spend all of the rest of her time with Grandpa. She never complained. Not even when the most of the family was less than helpful. Everything was left in her lap. The only time that most of our family wanted to intervene, was to check on the finances. Mom would just say, " I much prefer it this way. No one will ever be able to say that I cared for Grandpa for his money." Mom took care of Grandpa for 3 full years. He died in her arms one Saturday afternoon. He suffered, but mom suffered more. There would be no funeral for grandpa, not even a pastor to give a eulogy. My mother was volunteered for that. She very proudly stood in front of the crowd at the cemetery with her sunglasses on and barely holding herself together, and gave the best eulogy, and the funniest that anyone has ever given as far as I am concerned. She graduated nursing school two weeks later with a song playing in the background, a voice singing "are you proud of me", and tears streaming down my mother's face. Ya see, my mother had promised Grandpa and vice versa in his more lucid moments that he was going to graduation with her. They repeated this over and over for the two years while she was in nursing school. He missed it by two weeks. There's no doubt in my mind that at that moment she was wondering if Grandpa was proud of her. There wasn't a dry eye in the house because most of the guests knew what she was thinking too. Mom found a nursing position rather quickly after that. She worked with a passion that all nurses should have, but most don't. Her patients adored her, and their families adored her more. She encouraged struggling patients, and held the hands of dying ones. She was a champion to all of them. She never came home on time, always staying over to give her patients that extra moment they deserved. Ya see, Mom was working in a nursing home as much as she disliked them. She would say that someone had to make the lives of these people better. Someone had to love them when everyone else had forgotten them. I remember Mom bringing home 4 red roses once. When I asked her where they came from she choked with tears. She said she had lost a patient a week before ( I remember because she was coming home very late from standing at his bedside and supporting him and his family). She said that she was on her rounds and getting medicine ready when she turned around and there was his family. Each of the deceased man's little grandchildren handed her a rose and said " Thank you for taking care of our Grandpa and for taking care of us." Two years into Mom's nursing career, Grandma fell ill. At first, mom hired caregivers to go in and give Grandma a hand against my family's wishes. Mom just kept doing what she knew was right. Eventually, Grandma needed a nurse. Mom gave up her nursing career to take care of Grandma. Again, she never complained. She would spend 16+ hours a day with Grandma, and no sooner would she get home, then she was called right back over. My brother , sisters, Dad, and I - we understood. We loved Grandma too. We would even go over and give a hand when we could. I was the oldest, so I would sit with Grandma and give Mom a much needed break, or relieve her so she could go rescue a friend or family member (she was always there for everyone). Then, the truly awful test began. Grandma had a stroke. Mom spent every moment at the hospital and even had Grandma transferred twice to different hospitals. She didn't miss a thing. She was determined that Grandma would not die an invalid. Two weeks after Grandma's stroke, Mom brought Grandma home. Mom had her standing and talking in record time. Then, the seizures started. Grandma's seizures lasted weeks and left her immobile and unable to talk. We could tell that she understood us and knew what was going on around her, but just couldn't express herself. Mom found ways to communicate. Mom could tell what Grandma needed or wanted just by Grandma's eye gestures. I watched mom fight and argue with doctors and hospitals over and over. None of them believed Grandma was having seizures. They thought my wonderful mother had lost her mind. The doctors didn't get to see that grandma had recovered well from her stroke before the seizures. They just though she had never recovered and mom was in denial. I watched mom take Grandma to countless doctors, none of which would listen to her once they read the previous doctors notes. Grandma's money and our money eventually ran out. Mom still didn't give up. She stayed with Grandma 24 hours a day, never getting a break (family avoided the house like the plague , an uncomfortable situation at best). Mom never slept because Grandma's seizures would cut off her airway and Mom was afraid Grandma would suffocate. She lived for those few moments every week or two that Grandma would "snap out of it" and talk to her. She started selling things online, she let the bills that she could fall behind. She was struggling to pay for two households. She never once stopped smiling. She would say that she was given a gift to be able to spend this time with Grandma, and fussing about the pitfalls was definitely not what she was going to do. Eventually, she took Grandma back to the hospital in Cookeville, TN. We all went with her this time, even Dad (Dad is a cancer victim...that's another struggle altogether and he doesn't like to talk about it.) There was a wonderful Neurologist in Cookeville (I won't mention his name because I don't have his permission yet, but if you ever come across him, trust me when I say he will give you blessings). This Neurologist turned our worlds upside down. We all went there ready to battle for Mom and Grandma. Guess what, we didn't have to. He walked into Grandma's room without us realizing it while we were doting over her. He called mom outside. Of course we followed because Mom was severely sleep deprived and we though she might need backup. He said, "I believe you and I am going to do everything I possibly can to help you and your Grandma. If it was anyone else her age, I would say it's time to let her go, but I had a chance to see the love you all feel for your grandma. She must be very special. I don't have anyone, no family, so if it were me I would say let me go. Your grandmother has quite a bit to live for." We were so shocked, and Mom looked like she had just had an enormous weight lifted from her shoulders. Our doctor from Heaven, ran several tests, each test solidifying Mom's belief about Grandma's condition. The doctor came back to us with tears in his own eyes. He said, " If there was ever a patient that I wanted to save it would be your Grandma.I believe you are right and the testing backs up your suspicions. Unfortunately, this has gone on too long. Your grandmother is 88 years old, and has been primarily immobile for the past 10 months. Her 88 year old body can not recover from that. As much as I would love to give you hope, that would be very wrong of me. I can slow her seizures down and I can keep her comfortable. I am sorry. At this point, that is the best we can hope for." Grandma went home on Hospice. Mom kept smiling. Her pep was never ending even after all this time of struggle and no sleep. She always had a happy voice and something to talk to grandma about. Sometimes, we would go to Grandma's house directly from school. All four of us sitting around her bed. My youngest sister, Emmie, would grab her chair, drag it over to Grandma's bed and sit and hold her hand for hours. She would watch TV with her, babble to her about her day like she didn't even notice Grandma's condition. We would see Grandma smile sometimes just enjoying the babbling. Sometimes she would just smile with her eyes. Grandma's health deteriorated rapidly after that. One night, my siblings and I were at Grandma's bedside. Mom was quietly trying to explain to us that Grandma was very sick and her body was very weak and that it was almost time for her to go to heaven with Grandpa where she would be strong again. My little brother, so innocent and trusting, looked up at mom with those big blue eyes filled with tears and said, " Momma, you are a nurse. You are the best nurse in the whole wide world. I know you will fix Grandma. I know you won't let Grandma die." That one comment shattered my mother. I am not sure if it was finally realizing that we were actually losing Grandma, or whether it was the fact that she knew my brother's heart was about to be broken and along with it his undying faith in my mother. Mom called her big brother that night and let him know that she believed Grandma only had days left. He was stunned. Raised in the same bubble that Mom was, he has human compassion and a whole lot of love for his Granny. He packed up his little family and came immediately to support my Mom and say goodbye to his Grandma. The entire day that he arrived, he had my mom, my grandma, and anyone else who came into Grandma's room in stitches. I don't think Grandma stopped smiling that day. Somehow, he immediately picked up on Grandma's eye gestures and knew exactly what she was saying too. None of the rest of our family ever took notice. On the rare occasion that they did visit , they only saw an old diabilitated woman in a bed and that was it. They didn't see our Grandma or take notice to her feelings. While my uncle was entertaining and showing his love, my aunt, whom is the absolute best aunt, sister-in-law, granddaughter-in-law, etc. anyone could ever ever have, was championing my mother. She was tirelessly defending her and without fear of retribution. All 5 ft nothing of my aunt (she will claim to be taller..heh heh) was not only defending my mother but telling our other family members her feelings on the matter and her opinions about the lack of support generated from them. In fact, her first words when she walked in Grandma's door weresomething to the effect of, "Where is the rest of the family? Why are you the only one here? How long has that been going on? There should be a family member camped out on each couch , in each spare bedroom, and there should be cots scattered everywhere." She looked at my Mom and said, "You should have never been alone. Well, your family is here now and you aren't alone anymore." That night my Great Grandma passed in my mother's arms with my Uncle Marc by mom's side and holding Grandmas hand the entire time. Aunt Notch was standing in the doorway giving them their space but ready just in case she was needed. That's what REAL family does. Again Mom gave the eulogy at Grandma's funeral because otherwise there would be no funeral. Mom also hired a pastor to speak out of her own empty pocket per Grandma's request. I wish I could say this was the end of the struggle for our family, but unfortunately, it was just the beginning. Two weeks after Grandma passed, Emmie, my youngest sister, the sister that would sit tirelessly at Grandma's bedside always holding her hand and telling her stories, was diagnosed with advanced Eosinophilic Esophagitis. Its a very debilitating and painful disease that causes a person's immune system to attack the body (primarily the digestive track starting at the esophagus all the way through the large intestine) when a person eats certain foods. Unfortunately for Emmie, these foods of choice are most of the foods in existence including proteins which the body can not live without. Again, Mom has been delayed going back to her much loved nursing career. Emilie has quite a bit of difficulty eating as her esophagus is closing rapidly and her pain is constant. She is like a mini-Mom in so many ways. She just keeps smiling and continues planning for the future. She has actually taught herself to be a gymnast. Taught herself! That's unheard of. She watches YouTube and practices several hours a day, sometimes before dawn. She just pushes through the pain. Mom of course, supports every effort and encourages her and is just as convinced as Emilie and the local gymnastics coaches that Emilie is headed to the Olympics one day. Emmie's disease is very very expensive. Her food alone requires most of my mother's earnings. Mom works constantly to build her business while still caring for Emilie. My siblings and I try to help Mom in any way possible. I can tell she is always tired but she still has smiles for everyone all of the time. Her pep isn't quite as peppy but it is still there. Recently, my brother has begun to show signs of that same awful disease. I thought for sure my mom would shatter when testing started, but as sweet as she is, she obviously has much more inner strength than anyone has given her credit for. So now it comes down to why I am asking for help. As I have voiced Grandma's illness had eaten all of our savings and put mom in so much debt. She has never once complained about it. Emilie's disease and the trips to the hospital and the astronomical price of her special food has eaten up most of Mom's earnings. Still, Mom doesn't complain or ask God "Why us?" The house that mom was purchasing for our family, the only dream mom has ever voiced, is several months behind in mortgage, due to all of this and my brother's possibility of pending diagnosis. My Mom has always done for anyone regardless of whom they are or where they have come from or what they look like. She just cares. If someone is suffering and she can do something about it . you can count on the fact that she will. She has rescued countless, cried with many, held the hands of people who needed it and hugged even more, smiled for everyone, and literally given the shirt off her back to help a car crash victim whom was bleeding perfusely from a gaping head wound (Yes, as she says, she took an oath, and she stops at car crashes regardless of where she is headed or how late she is running). Now she needs help. My goal is to keep my mother from losing her dream of having a home of our own. My mother never asks for help, she always offers it, so I am asking for help for her. After everything she has done in her short life to make the lives of others better, please help my Mom save our home and everything she has worked so hard for. This would mean so very much to her. I am trying to raise enough money to take this one burden off of Mom's shoulders qnd to keep the only home that my siblings remember. There is no doubt in my mind that my mother will spend the rest of her days "paying it forward" because that is who she is, and my siblings and I will also do the same, because that is how we have been raised.