On Thursday, 12/21, we welcomed another family to Apartment #2. Dad had a liver transplant the previous Saturday. Mom has been sleeping in the hospital waiting room since then. And Mary met mom at the apartment to hand over the keys. They are from North Georgia and were in desperate need for a place to live. This patient came from Piedmont Hospital, which is a first. As was the case with our first two families, mom burst into tears when she got her first glimpse of her “home away from home.” We are so incredibly grateful that we are able to provide the apartments to these families. It’s our privilege to serve them in any way possible.
On Thursday, December 14, Mary attended the funeral for Tiffany Rymer, our double lung transplant patient, whose family lived in our Apartment #2. I had only seen pictures of Tiffany during her time of suffering in the hospital after her transplant, which involved so many complications. When I saw her before her burial, I was absolutely amazed. She was a beautiful, sweet-looking young woman. Having experienced Jeff’s death, I truly believe that something amazing happens to the body between life and death. It is so evident that the suffering is OVER. From everything that was said about Tiffany, what I just said about her described her inside and out. She loved the Lord, her Savior. People talked about how she never worried or was in fear, even as she depended on the Lord for every breathe she took. She had a huge, loving family that surrounded her and I met every one of them.
Tiffany’s mom, Missy, and stepdad, Harry, along with her sweet grandma, Lola, were so incredibly appreciative of being able to live in the apartment. Every family member I met thanked me over and over and over again. And I realized that so many of them had visited Missy and Harry in the apartment, which only confirmed that what we are doing is the right thing. We LOVE that this family used the apartment in every way possible, even celebrating Thanksgiving there with each other.
Tiffany is in the presence of her Heavenly Father, no longer pulling along an oxygen tank and breathing heavenly air like never before. As her pastor said, “she’s kickin’ up gold dust!” Missy and Harry and the rest of the family are left to grieve. They will be in the Evans’ family prayers. We experienced what they are going through over 11 years ago, and we KNOW the thoughts and feelings that they are experiencing right now. It’s not easy, but like us, they have a strong faith and that faith is what will make all the difference.
So goodbye Tiffany. Your life was way too short, but you have left an incredible legacy of love for your God and love for your family and friends.
This has been a very interesting week for our foundation. It began in a very good way when we got notice from our Emory Social Worker that our first apartment patient was going to be released by his medical team on November 30th. We were so happy for Will that he was finally able to go back home. It’s been a long, five month journey for him and his wife, Melody. When Will left the apartment for the last time, he just left the keys on the dining room table, knowing that Bob and Mary would be at the apartment later that evening to begin cleaning it to get ready for our next guest.
Thursday evening…Bob and Mary arrived at the apartment and were absolutely blown away by how clean and tidy the place was. The Kirkland’s had done a thorough cleaning themselves, washing the sheets and towels, cleaning the bathrooms and kitchen, dusting and vacuuming! It was spotless. All we had to do was make up one of the beds. So we immediately contacted the social workers at all three hospitals and the Georgia Transplant Foundation to let them know the apartment was ready for someone else as early as Friday.
Thursday night, driving back home…Mary got a text from Melody, that the doctor did one more test before releasing Will, and it showed a problem. Will has to return to the hospital on Monday for further care. What would happen next? All Bob and Mary cared about was getting Will back into the apartment, but that is not up to us. So we left it in God’s hands.
Friday morning….Mary got a call from the social worker at Emory that she was doing the paper work involved with Georgia Transplant Foundation to allow Will to move back into the apartment.
Friday at noon…Mary got a call from Will and emails from GTF and Emory that everything was approved for Will to move back in. Praise God!
Friday afternoon….Mary drove back down to the apartment to return the keys to Will. She arrived before he did, and she brought a little decorated Christmas tree and a couple of other Christmas cheer-type things for the apartment. Anything to make Will happy!
Will arrive with his mom. Will looked a little down hearted (who wouldn’t), but he was so happy and relieved to be “back home.”
Our foundation literally exists to help avoid these kinds of circumstances. In other words, to make this process as worry free as possible for our patients and care givers. But this was out of our hands. Fortunately, it was in bigger hands and HE came through. We have no idea how long Will be there, but he knows that he has a place to live until he is finally released to go back to his new normal.
The family that is living in Apartment #2 are from North Georgia. Their daughter, Tiffany, is a double lung transplant patient. Her care givers are her mom, Missy, her dad, Harry, and her grandma, Lola. Mary had the opportunity to meet Harry yesterday for the first time. And he presented her with the most wonderful gift, a poem he had written straight from his heart. It expresses everything that has been in our hearts from the beginning and it expresses it SO WELL. Thank you, Harry!
With sincere happiness upon your face
you welcomed us home,
to your place.
This place before we had never seen,
so cozy and homey,
was spotlessly clean.
So difficult a journey we had to begin
was made much easier
when you welcomed us in.
Your sincere desire to help those in need
was to us far beyond
a simple good deed.
When in prayer we asked, “God what can we do?”
He answered with a miracle
and He sent it through you.
We were strangers, yet you opened your door
Our burden you lifted
we carried it no more.
For in years gone by you had traveled this road
now through you “WE FOUND REST”
with your gift of abode.
From your “hope and prayers” now we find
solace and comfort
sweet PEACE OF MIND.
The passing of your son, to you so dear
leave you memories of him
still perfectly clear.
You determined yourself with this gift to try
to give life to his memories
and never let them die.
You have chosen to ease the burden and help bear the cross
to even a stranger
who might suffer such loss.
Your help to our family and this daughter’s sweet mother
obeys CHRIST’s commandment
to love one another.
With generosity you help bind us together
in this dwelling and in our hearts.
JEFFREY “JEFF” CAMPBELL EVANS….
lives on forever.
God bless you,
With thankful heart sincerely,
Harry A. Ward
One of Jeff’s favorite places on earth was his Great Grandpa Kaarto’s cabin in Michigan on the Upper Peninsula (pictured above). He spent a very memorable summer there with his Grandpa Evans. The trip required a round-trip drive from Washington to Michigan and it included many very funny and not-to-be-forgotten moments! He also spent more than one summer vacation there with his aunts, uncles and cousins. He couldn’t have asked for more.
So in remembrance of this, Bob suggested that the next apartment be decorated like a cabin. I know Jeff would agree! When this idea was presented to Mary, she thought, “how will I ever do that?” But it turns out that it’s a pretty easy assignment. Mary has started going to her regular antique stores, consignment stores, junk stores, etc. and she’s finding all kinds of appropriate furnishings. Just today she picked up a canoe oar, which will be used in one way or another!
We hope to have Apartment #3 opened in February of 2018 at the very latest. Stay tuned for pictures of the final product!
I got an email a couple of days ago from a person I met at one of the networking events that I attend. She is a person who helps seniors move from their big homes to assisted living/senior apartments, etc., in other words seniors who are downsizing. She told me about a friend of hers who was moving and was willing to donate items that she would not be taking to her next home. So Bob and I went over there yesterday and had a VERY exciting time at doing this for the first time. She donated things like a dresser, a bed, lots of lamps, end tables, coffee tables, area rugs, the list goes on and on and on. So we have arranged with our mover, John, to pick all of these things up on December 5th to move them to storage. The reason this is so exciting is that it SAVES US MONEY! And we are all about spending our foundation’s money in the best way possible. Thank you Trish and Marsha!
We received a request on Wednesday, the 8th, from a social worker at Emory asking if the apartment was ready. I told them “yes” and asked them to go through the Georgia Transplant Foundation to get started. On the 9th we got an email from the social worker with GTF’s approval.
Mary immediately called the care giver and she wanted to move in as soon as possible. They had been offered a room at a Red Roof Inn, which they said was horrible. They actually preferred to stay in the waiting room of the hospital.
Moving day was Wednesday, November 1st, and the guys in the picture did all the work! First they stopped by our house to empty half of our garage, then on to the storage unit. They were fast, efficient, and incredibly great guys! They assembled items, fixed a couple of broken items, and best of all….they hauled off all the cardboard boxes to throw away. Thanks to JJ, Titus and Hayward . They work for a guy named John Foster, who is kind to us in that he gives us a nice break on the “travel cost” of moving. Thanks, John! Every penny saved helps.
WE JUST KEEP MEETING THE NICEST PEOPLE, PEOPLE THAT ARE SO INCREDIBLY WILLING TO HELP US
By now, anyone following our Foundation knows the story of the cashmere socks. Just in case you don’t…the story begins when Jeff was in the hospital for the last three days of his life, and his feet were always cold due to compromised circulation. All of his loved ones spent our time taking turns rubbing his feet and legs in order to make him as comfortable as possible. And we brought socks from home. After he took his last breathe, his brother turned to his mom and said, “Mom, he deserved cashmere.” In truth this was the humble beginning of our foundation. We began by promising ourselves, that we would make sure that every transplant patient that we came to know would get cashmere socks from us. That idea has morphed into our apartments, where every transplant patient that stays with us receives two pairs of cashmere socks upon their arrival.
Now came the issue of “where do we get the socks?” Cashmere socks are EXTREMELY expensive. But we had made a promise. So Mary, taking the advice of another nice person she met at a networking event, made a visit to Saks 5th Avenue at Phipps one day to see if they sold cashmere socks. She ran into one of the salesmen in the Men’s Store, Bo Carver. Bo told her that, yes, they do sell cashmere socks, but only at Christmas. From that point on, Bo became Mary’s resource about cashmere socks. Two things happened: 1) he said he would check with his manager to see if she could order socks for us; and 2) he suggested two other up-scale stores to visit to ask about these socks.
Results: 1) Yes, his manager could get us socks, but the price would still be retail; 2) Mary visited the other stores only to find out that they don’t sell cashmere socks. Then Bo really went “above and beyond.” He began researching on the web and calling on is own past experiences in the retail world.
Long story short…he found a resource that sells socks for LESS THAN HALF of what we thought we would have to pay. And he kept Mary in the loop throughout this process. So we now have a place to order socks from, which we will do immediately. And to take this a step further, Mary will pursue this particular company in an effort to make them a “partner” with our foundation and, hopefully, get socks donated in the future, or at the very least, get an even better deal!
This was truly an exercise in stepping out of the blind and beginning a process that we knew nothing about except that we wanted to do it. Through a lot of determination, birthed out of necessity (cashmere socks are now part of our “brand”), to a little leg work and a LOT of help from a great guy at Saks, we found the solution to our problem. THANK YOU, BO!!
Today Bob and Mary visited Belara Apartment Homes in North Druid Hills, just three miles from Emory and CHOA. We decided to go ahead and start the application process to rent a 2 bedroom/2 bathroom apartment from them. We will be able to move in on November 1st and, hopefully, welcome our first guests shortly after that. These are exciting times for our foundation and, more importantly, for the transplant community in Atlanta. We have had to turn away several requests for Apartment #1, which just shows that there is an urgent need for what we are doing. It just makes us SO HAPPY to know that what we are doing is needed and so very much appreciated.