Moving Mountains For Mom

On August 21, 2017,  we lost our dad— our everything. While loss, and the grief associated with loss, are something we all must eventually face, we needed to share his story. My father was our family’s biggest support system. For my mother, Kim, he was the love of her life and her caregiver. My mom was diagnosed in 2008 with stage four leukemia. They discovered this diagnosis by accident while my mother was going through the process of getting approved for a bariatric procedure. Soon after receiving this diagnosis, her health rapidly declined. Within a year’s time she was diagnosed with severe polyneuropathy, ffibromyalgia, and charcot—nerve diseases that not only cause her daily pain, but also caused her to lose her mobility and independence. Through this process of treatment and grief my father rededicated his life to my mom. He doubled his hours at work, working 60 hours a week as a utility locator, and would still find time to come home and rub my mom’s feet. The two of them found such joy together, even in their time of misfortune. Just last week my dad and mom sat on the porch and made fun of how old they were getting. You could often find my dad racing my mom down a grocery store isle in a wheel chair.

As a father he was our biggest supporter.  He was at every ball game, school event, hospital visit,  and birthday party.  To my younger sister of 12,  he is still at every ball game, school event, hospital visit (particularly with her young diabetes diagnosis), and birthday party. At the age of 52, he is still working 60+ hours a week at an ordinary job trying to give us everything. He was the life of the party—always the funniest guy in the room. His wit, sarcasm, and humor were among his greatest assets. He always joked about hating everyone, but in truth he never met a person that he didn’t get along with. Our dad was our best friend. Everyday on the way to my teaching job I would call my dad. He would laugh at my coffee order, and we would quote Seinfeld. But on that same note, he also took the time to ask me about my students. He wanted to know how they were doing, if so and so remembered to turn in that assignment, or if so and so finally got her cradle in cheer practice. He was such an involved and dedicated father.

He seemed untouchable. It was always my mom that we were so careful toward, watching her like a hawk to make sure that she was safe and healthy. We weren’t watching for my dad. On the way to go see my mom at the ER (for a foot infection) he had a heart attack. He was rushed to St. Luke’s in Milwaukee. We got to see him that night and he was stable and himself. He was joking around with his nurses and making fun of us all gathered around his hospital bed. The next morning he had an arrhythmia episode. He went through a number of complicated surgeries that were designed to save his life, and they did…they did save his life. However, he was in critical condition and stuck in a medically induced coma. Soon after, he was diagnosed with multiple system organ failure and a low chance of survival. After a week and half in this state, he passed due to another arrhythmia episode.

The aftermaths of his death are truly devastating.My mother and sister relied on his insurance and benefits just to cover the cost of her continued care and  my sister’s diabetic treatment.  The necessary cost of his funeral is a shame. My mother is left with a young daughter and no income source.My brother and his wife, and my husband and I…we’re just a bunch of kids that thought we had all this time to get our lives together. Now, we’ve been given both this blessing and this hardship of trying to fill my father’s shoes—not that anybody could.

Any support is appreciated beyond words. Know that the money will be used in the cost of the funeral and the transition of moving my mom and sister in with my husband and I.


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Organizer and beneficiary

Gabrielle Ann 
Elkhorn, WI
Kim Barrera 
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