Saturday, February 8, 2014

Meanwhile, a Sweet Angel Needs Us

While in the midst of processing Dave's funeral services my 39th birthday weekend/father's 80th birthday weekend, I was also processing the declining health of my cousin Amy's daughter Kaylee.  Her short six years here with us have been a neverending struggle as a Stage 4 warrior of Cystic Fibrosis.  Amy is the granddaughter of the Lucille and Clifford Long, brother of the woman who helped to raise my dad, Elsie Hinson.  Clifford and my dad grew up together in Cerro Gordo, North Carolina.  I was born when my parents took a last minute trip in my mom's pregnancy to Cerro Gordo to visit relatives.  I came two months early and was born in Whiteville. Today I hear there's some piece of writing my mom did in calligraphy still on the walls of the maternity ward at their new facility.  I'm sad to say I haven't seen it though.  It's on my list for my next extended visit.

Amy Long was one of my best friends growing up.  I so looked forward to visits to the farm to hang out with her, Erin Fowler and Angie Norris.  We'd run dirt roads in bare feet on hot summer days, shuck corn on the side porch, drive "momma's car" up and down the dirt road when older between residences to fetch each other or things our older relatives needed.  We'd bunker down during storms in the unused room in Elsie's house that no one ever went in that had the organ in it, tell stories and laugh until we hurt.  We'd walk to Mary's store for treats whenever the weather was right.  When I started driving, we'd make loops through Whiteville cruising when I would visit and shop at the Family Dollar in Chadburn (I think it was Family Dollar).

Amy (Robin behind her) on the family property.  I was always taking photos.
Amy was always a tough girl. She weathered life's storms and her childhood.  When "momma" passed, she mourned Lucille as if she'd been her momma because their bond was that strong.  To this day she still aches for her.  Amy herself became a mom early on in life with Brooke and then expanded her family close to a decade later when Kaylee joined them.  From day one Kaylee had obstacles with her health but Amy never complained or asked anyone for anything.  She just soldiered on as she always has.

I'd been married and divorced, had my own family, moved a few times to a few states.  I had not seen her for over 15 years when we finally visited briefly in September of 2012 after a house fire wherein they'd lost everything, including the family dog.  Gratefully, they weren't home for that.  I always wish to be there with them, to see their kids growing up, to make dinner and just be grown ups around each other. They are my family and life hasn't been the same without them in the years I have been away from visiting.

Fast forward to this winter and Kaylee's health began to deteriorate.  Thanks to social media I'd been able to keep up with my family down there in a way that was time conducive to Amy who rarely has a moment to herself these days. The new year started out very scary for them.  Hospitalized with 30% lung function and N1H1 was horrific for Kaylee.  As it stands right now, Kaylee's medications are causing allergies, she's not getting results from them and her lung function is not improving. Her doctors aren't pleased and they're concerned.  That in and of itself is enough to scare any parent.  No wonder they're both "out of brave."  In fact, it was the brave dialogue that made me ill to my stomach wanting to do more for them.

Again, my cousin asks for nothing. Her only quests in life are to be successful, to provide for her children, to have them with her healthy and whole, and to be a good mom and nurse.  She's a simple soul.  She knows what matters and what's important.  Kaylee's dad helps to support his family and thanks to him, they haven't lost everything yet.  Yet is the hard word to accept.  Amy can't work when she's caring for Kaylee.  They're not together and he works out of the area as most do in Columbus County.  That's just how it is in that area of the country for employment.  Many leave those they love to be able to care for them and provide basic needs.  Darrell is doing his best to try and make sure Amy doesn't lose everything, more than he's required to do for Kaylee as well.  Amy's income alone dropped 75% from 2012 to 2013 just because Kaylee was sick.  Yet they all carry on and you'd never know they've endured so much by just looking at them.

Kaylee & Momma
Amy, when Kaylee is healthy, works full-time in Urgent Care and goes to school to further her medical education.  She's never stagnate.  When Kaylee isn't well, she doesn't have a moment to breathe sometimes. Most days are run around trying to work, medical appointments, school and parenting.  She does as we all do, she goes forth into the world, smiles and pushes on for her family.  Amy doesn't put herself out there and she doesn't talk about her problems unless you ask or you're family that she's comfortable with.  Amy is one of the sweetest and most hard working people I know.  If I myself had full-time income right now, I'd be down there at least one weekend a month just being around to spread sunshine and do for them.  Go to the store, sit with them, make them laugh, give them good memories together, let her rest, etc.

January 2011, a prior hard winter in the hospital
I'm not though and because of that, when my heart dropped reading those words about bravery, I knew I had to do something.  ANYTHING.  I reached out online to my own family and friends on my private Facebook.  I asked Amy if I could go public with what was going on though, if I could seek information about survivors, what worked for them, what's working in care for pediatrics, who can help be a light, lighten the load, etc.  She was open to every person who wants to bless them.  A prayer.  A kind word.  A sweet gesture.  A survivor story.  A reminder to be hopeful.  A blessing.  Whatever God puts on a persons heart you know, just as it was put on my heart to have her cloaked in love not facing this alone.

January 10, 2014 being admitted to isolation and pushing through
So, I did what I knew how to do.  I created a Facebook community page to encourage them and surround them in love.  In a week, 800 beautiful souls have joined as one to do this work of Healing for Kaylee Meares. I'm in utter awe and have fallen in love all over again with my hometown.  Fire departments, sheriff's office personnel, moms, dads, pastors, medical personnel, realtors, and the like have come together to carry them through and Kaylee reads every word of it.  This sweet, sweet angel wanted to know all of their names so that she could pray for them too.  Amy, you've done good girl.  So, so good.

Brooke & Kaylee
Brooke is an amazing sister too.  She's your normal teenage girl with a tough upbringing.  She's been taking on as much as she can to help and be a light to her mom when she's not stressing about the situation with her sister and trying to remember to be a teenager with her friends.  She goes out and has a good time but by no means is her life easy.  She worries for her mom, something no teenager needs to do.  Teen girl life is hard enough.  She tries to never complain.  Indeed Amy, you've done really well girl with them both.

Brooke & Kaylee
This Valentine's Day, think of them and send them some love.  If you want to join her community on Facebook, follow the links herein.  One can never have too much love to see them through.  Remember that.  I love you.

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