|by Lexi Magnusson|
I watched her as she stood. She stood. The congregation stood behind her, around her. She stood, so I did.
She stood, so I can.
Never in my life have I known someone who has been through so much and was able to stand. As I watched her, a feeling tore through me that I can't explain. A pain, to be sure, but an awe and a wonder. An awe that gripped me in my bones and said to me, "Do you know how fortunate you are to have this woman in your life? Do you know her strength? If she can stand through this, you can stand." And then the feeling pushed further, "Tell her story and give her a chance to rest."
I have been friends with Kelli for over a decade now. Their family moved in across the street from us shortly after we had moved to Washington. Her two daughters babysat for me on occasion, our oldest boys were best friends and she was pregnant with her second son when I was pregnant with Peyton. She was there for me when I was pregnant with Abby. I'll never forget watching her drag baby supplies across the street for me, or how she was there for me when Abby was born, and was as enamored with her as everyone else.
I remember Kelli walking to my door that bright afternoon. "Guess what?" She said, "I got in a car accident yesterday!" "Oh my gosh! You're kidding me! Are you okay?" "Yes, they had to do some x-rays on my my knee...in order to do so, I had to take a pregnancy test. I'm pregnant. I find out the gender!" She didn't look pregnant. She didn't think she was. She thought she was in early menopause. Her baby was a girl, and we excitedly spoke of the friendship she and Abby would have after we got back from our stint on the east coast. Her whole life now was turned upside down. The distance between her oldest daughter and her youngest would be 20 years.
Kamryn was born and for the first couple of weeks she was the same kind of infant as any of their other four kids. On Christmas eve of 2011, as Kelli was changing her diaper, she noticed Kamryn's feet were cold. After a long series of twists and turns (you can read it all on her blog, here), several months in the hospital, this tiny baby would eventually have to have a heart transplant. If you've been reading my blog for the last couple of years, you may remember her story from way back when. You may have even donated to the fundraiser we did to help pay for all of the expenses they had at this time. If you remember, right before Kamryn was born, both Mike and Kelli had been laid off from their jobs.
Mike was able to get back to work, but Kelli had to stay home to care for Kamryn. It was more than a stretch on their finances, but through it all, Kelli stood.
In the years since, there have been graduations, a marriage and even a new grandbaby. Kamryn's health is fragile as she is on a lot of medications to keep her body from rejecting her heart, and to keep it beating. I'm more than sure Kelli hasn't slept through the night. They've had countless doctors visits, procedures, med changes, physical therapist appointments, etc. Last fall, Kamryn once again was admitted to the hospital very, very sick. She had the flu, and an infection they couldn't quite pin down. While there, Kamryn had a heart attack. Once again, this brave little girl rebounded. As always, Kelli stood.
Through it all, Kelli has had the sweet support of her husband, Mike. He's stood with her.
January came along with the news of her second to oldest daughter's engagement to a wonderful man. Wedding planning began and thethey were excited to visit venues for the happy day. Plans were put on hold. Mike died that morning of a heart attack.
There, in the packed church singing songs of faith as we remembered this wonderful man, Kelli stood. She stood and sung along. From the row across from hers, the strength I felt from her was almost palpable. She stood and held her daughter as Kamryn pointed to a large picture of Mike and exclaimed, "That's my Daddy!"
The memorial was amazing because Mike was amazing. He was a great father, provider and support to Kelli. He was so loved by his church, his family and his community. He was a man of great faith and has raised five amazing kids. I loved what one speaker said, "We know he's in a better place, and that's great, but I want him back here now." We all do.
I've told you only a small portion of Kelli's story. I wish there was space for all of it. To adequately explain how amazing it is that she stands after years of sleepless nights, endless worry, and unfathomable loss. How amazing she is that not only does she stand, but she stands strong. She laughs, she works, she gives. She does and does for others.
I've told you her story, now I need your help in letting her rest.
They lost their soul provider. Kamryn's immune system still requires her to have constant care. There's a wedding this summer of a beautiful daughter who has just lost her dad. Their families and church has rallied hard to raise money. A Kickstarter has been made, but is not even quite to half the goal. I want to help get them to their goal of $25,000, which still isn't near what Mike would have earned this year. Will you help me?
The Kickstarter is here: http://www.gofundme.com/
Whether or not you can give, one of the biggest things you can do is SHARE. Share her story. Share it on your social networking pages, your blogs (feel free to copy and paste this in its entirety, I don't care). If you know people in the media, please share it with them. This family needs the help, and Kelli deserves the rest.
If nothing else, remember this woman, my hero. Know that if she can stand, so can you.
With all of my heart, thank you.