My name is Marissa Smith (Marissa Tocco). I am fundraising for the future needs and security of my sisters children - Sophia (15) and Sebastian (10)....my niece and nephew. My sister Christina tragically and unexpectedly left us to be with the Lord on July 8, 2021. She was 43 years old. Our family wants MORE than ANYTHING to care for them EXACTLY as she would have in the days, months and YEARS to come, had she had the CHOICE to stay and raise them herself.....FOREVER.
My sister died suddenly of pneumonia due to COVID. Who would have known she would be taken SO SOON in life? She went to the hospital not feeling well and was diagnosed as positive. Her symptoms were mild so she was sent home with meds and told to hydrate and rest. One week later she was FAR WORSE. She went back....unable to catch a breath and because her oxygen saturation was in the 60's she was rushed immediately to ICU where family could no longer visit her, see her or hold her hand. She was put on a ventilator. Daily updates came that she was not getting better. Only that she kept pulling the mask off in panic due to lack of oxygen. She could never feel settled. They decided to intubate her EARLY Thursday morning (5am). At 7am we got the call that we should get to the hospital and they were preforming CPR. Her heart stopped. We rushed to the hospital as a family and were there in 15 minutes. An hour we were told they tried to keep her here but God had other plans....and our Dad (Marshall Tocco) whom we buried 5 years ago this month decided he wanted a hug in heaven. He WAS HER BIGGEST FAN (and the feeling was MUTUAL). She is gone from us on Earth. We are DEVESTATED but KNOW she LIVES on with Our Father. It's a terrible thing to deal with. Even as a 'Believer'.
She created and left for us some amazing kids to ENJOY, even though we don't know exactly our "way" at the moment OR what the future "looks like". She was a Mama Bear. She fiercely LOVED and FOUGHT for her kids to have an amazing life at every turn of life. No matter HOW HARD she had to WORK to make that a reality. NOTHING was more important than them and she was never more PROUD of anything than she was of THEM.
She became a mom when Sophia was born in 2005. Sophia is an AMAZING story FULL of miracles, determination, strength, transformation and love. She was born at 23 weeks and was NEVER expected to live. She came into this world at 1lbs. 6 oz. and immediately showed us and doctors "who" God is by SURVIVING a grade 4 brain hemorrhage with bleeding outside the brain, undeveloped lungs, eyes, bones.....EVERYTHING! My husband and I helped deliver her and had front row seats to the awe and wonder of LIFE! She was SO SMALL. They air flighted her to the NICU in Orlando. She didn't have a name yet so the chopper crew named her "Tiger Lily"....for they said she survived because "she fought to live" and is a "beautiful fighter". She came home five months later on oxygen and meds and from then on she has been nothing short of miracle after miracle as the doctors said she wouldn't walk OR talk. But she does BOTH! The years that followed were good years but also years spent at doctor visits (some routine and MANY emergency), surgeries, g-tube feedings, daily medications, seizures, walking/physical/motor therapy, IEP meetings and special needs camps. That doesn't come close to encompassing ALL Christina has done to bring Sophia to where she is TODAY but as to not be so long winded (which I would love to) THEY ARE SURVIVORS! Man, she LOVED this little girl!! Sophia STILL needs special care and attention as she is 'special needs' and some may wonder for how long? Well.....forever in some capacities. We are still waiting and watching what God continues to do in and with her and are COMMITTED to caring for her for as long as WE LIVE!
God then in 2010 decided to bless her with a son and Sophia with a brother (a protector). Sebastian has been the apple of her eye from day 1. He IS A MAMA'S boy...thru and thru! Anything he could do to help his mom HE DID! I remember countless times I'd see him at the road dragging the garbage and recycling cans to the street or back to the house when no one asked him to. Whether it was trash day OR NOT! I would be talking to her in the dining room and I'd hear the vacuum flip on and we would look at eachother like.....what is that? Oh, it's just Sebastian cleaning the play room at 5 years old when again....no one asked him to. He came out of the womb knowing "sissy" and Mom just needed him! This child and Christina are so much alike too. From their FAVORITE holiday being Halloween and the shared belief that scary movies are the best genre, to their deeply sensitive hearts and excitement for roller coasters! Sebastian is an AMAZING athlete and she NEVER missed a football or baseball game. She was his biggest (AND LOUDEST) fan. That's going to be a hard place to fill. Up until the last 6 years she was a single mom to these kids BUT they NEVER missed a thing. She ensured every day that she was enough and did enough to make up for BOTH SIDES of the parenting wheel. She was SO successful at that.
Meet Leigha. See.....God was NOT done yet. In 2015 he delivered Christina the Love of her Life, Dan! He came with 2 beautiful daughters. Shelby and Leigha. Shelby is now 19 and has launched as an independent young woman, living on her own. Leigha is still at home, part of the brood. Christina took Leigha in as her own and she called her "Mama". She is such a sweet, sensitive, loving, giving, forgiving and kind child. It's so clear that she loves her siblings with ALL HER HEART! She also loves to talk, ask questions to understand everything fully, be helpful in any way she can and do all things girly! She has brightened my own life!
This household has gone from a two income home to one. Dan will now be the sole provider for three children. Giving to the kids trust (we are creating a trust) will allow us TOGETHER to make sure their future needs are met the way Christina would have not just wanted....but ensured and demanded. The GOAL really is to NOT have their lives CHANGE any MORE than it already HAS. :( I do not know all the expenses for what's to come but I know what will be required is not just to meet the daily/weekly/monthly financial demands of raising these kids but there will also come "extras" in life that's not in the budget. There are things the kids will NEED to be involved in for growth and support. For example:
- Medical Expenses (mostly Sophia for long term)
- School Clothes/Shoes/Supplies/Field Trips and Events
- Seasonal City Sports, Sports Camps and Activities
- Sophia's Special Needs Summer Camps along with camps for the the other kids
- Extra Curricular Outings to sustain a memorable childhood the way Christina would have provided them with
- Help with their independent transportation One Day
- College Savings and Expenses
- And I know I'm missing so much more.
This request is because it's my hearts NEED to KNOW.... to the BEST of my ABILITY....that I have shouldered and done MY PART to MAKE SURE Christina's kids are cared for....for the LONG RUN. The way she would EXPECT me to! And this is but ONE WAY. My Aunt said it BEST when she told me the other day, "The more gifts He has given you, the more responsibility we are given". I will cling to that TRUTH. Thank you ALL for taking the time to read this long writing thru. I tried to shorten it as much I could but when your writing about the life of someone you love it's hard to "make it a wrap". I am forever grateful for the beautiful giving hearts you ALL have. It's evident we are NOT alone in a time that feels so alone. You all help us get up and "do what we gotta do", so our Dad would say (in his Italian voice). Love and Blessings and Peace to you ALL.....because I KNOW she touched SO MANY everywhere and you are HURTING right along with US. May you all find the same peace and comfort and guidance we are praying for! God Bless US ALL.