Let me give you the back story on how this whole concept came to be. My husband, my 18-month-old daughter and I moved to Spokane 15 years ago, we only knew two people in the whole area, so it was a big change for our family.
Not long after we moved, my mom was diagnosed with stage 4 rare stomach cancer. She eventually moved up here to be close to her only grandchild while she received treatment. In September 2008 she went in for an experimental surgery that went completely wrong. She never recovered and for a year and a month, I helped with care-giving along with her husband. She was in and out of the hospital, I will spare you the details, but it was horrible. Wound care and more. I didn’t become a nurse for a reason, but apparently the universe didn’t get the memo!
At the time, I worked downtown full-time, my husband was working crazy hours and Ashlynd who was 4 was in daycare in the Valley. She was the first kid to get dropped off by me and the last kid to be picked up by me. It was horrible. I would pick her up exhausted, go grocery shopping, cook dinner and try to be present for her as much as I could. She would accompany me to daily hospital visits or visits to Mom’s house to help with caring for her. For over a year I was a zombie, feeling the most intense fear, sadness, exhaustion and guilt.
When my Mom passed at the end of October 2009, it was surreal. My employer wouldn’t give me time off and I had to go to work the day after she died. I had run out of leave, so was on LWOP for the last couple of months when I had to take time off to be with her. We were broke and I was completely broken. My employer wouldn’t let me use family leave to attend her funeral, so I missed my own mother’s funeral in our hometown of Santa Cruz, CA. I couldn’t afford more LWOP or the trip to CA. We didn’t get more than one or two meals after my Mom died, no one offered to watch Ashlynd or pick her up from daycare during that year. We were alone and I didn’t know how to ask for help. My employer was horrible, so that wasn’t helpful either, and I needed my job so I thought so I had to stay.
I remember we had a Halloween party a year after my Mom passed (it was on the actual day, I think I wanted to do something to distract myself), and my next-door neighbor that came asked how my Mom was. I didn’t even know what to say. I just said she died a year ago. I was so completely shattered, alone and grief stricken. I get sick to my stomach just writing this.
I have been dealing with the guilt of how I handled many things, the grief of not being able to have support to get me through such a heart-wrenching time and the anger as well. Why didn’t anyone help us? Why didn’t I go to my Mom’s funeral? Why didn’t I just tell my employer to “F” off and quit? Why didn’t I ask for help? I had lots of blackness in my heart for years. The last couple years, I have been working on clearing out that blackness, that hurt and that guilt. Forgiving myself, (still haven’t completely) and wanting to do something that would honor my Mom and fill my heart with the love and gratefulness it used to have.
A neighbor has a spouse fighting cancer currently and for a couple months I would drive by and think, I should call them and see if they need anything. Then I thought, they have a huge network, I am sure they are fine. Or I will call tomorrow. Well one morning, I sent her a text and asked how her husband was doing, how she was doing and if they needed a meal or anything at all. She replied that she would love a meal and no one had really done that for them, except for one person. I actually started sobbing, remembering what that felt like and started her a meal train right then!
It was a like a light appeared and a fire in my belly was lit. I had an urge to message Allison immediately, even though I had never officially met her and only knew her from the BuildU Girl Gang FB group. I followed my intuition and give her my idea, and asked if I was crazy, or if this was a legit need and concept. And here we are!
I am ashamed that it took me 11 years to figure this out, but I truly believe this happened to me so that I can go out, make a difference and help others who feel lost, alone, exhausted and don’t know how to ask for help because they are just trying to get through the day and put one foot in front of the other. I am full of gratitude for this experience. I am still working on forgiving myself, but it will come.
I am so incredibly grateful to Allison and BuildU Girl Gang for supporting me in this idea and spearheading this project! I am elated that we can help families and individuals in times of need. My heart is full, the light is back! And I know my Mom is looking down so happy and I feel she had some play in giving me the urge to randomly contact Allison. She spent her life in service to others and this would make her a proud Mama.
Side-note: I did finally quit that job a little over a year after my Mom died. I always wanted to work at my daughter’s school, and so that is what I did. I got to make up for the time I missed with her and create some wonderful memories at a wonderful school with an incredible staff. And if this situation happened now, I know I would have all the support that I need, but I think it happened when it did, how it did, so that I could make something good out of it. Sometimes the most incredible growth comes from the darkest moments. I was a little slow on the uptake I will admit, but better late than never right?!