Daytona Ash Funeral Expenses

Hello.   We're Laura & Dennis Hollis, Jr. - the two oldest children of Dennis & Linda Hollis.  Thank you for taking the time to read our story.

We are attempting to help our sister, Brandi, meet the unexpected expenses needed for funeral arrangements to bury her daughter (and our niece), Daytona Ash.  We have included the entire story of how we got to this point, but full disclosure, Laura wrote it and she is long-winded.  If you so desire, you can scroll to the bottom and read the last few paragraphs that will explain what we are hoping to achieve.  

As if 2020 wasn't bad enough, today was one of the hardest days of our lives.  Our 24-year-old niece, Daytona Ash, passed away after a long, hard fight to save her life.  Our baby sister, Brandi Hollis, held the hand of her middle child and only daughter, summoned unimaginable strength, wiped away her tears, held her breath,  and whispered to Daytona, "It's okay to go.  You've fought so hard.   I don't want you to go, but I know it's time.  And it's okay.  I'll be okay.  Your brothers will be okay.  Your family will be okay.  And most of all, your daughter, Journey, will be okay.  We will make sure that she knows every single thing about you, is told every single story, shown every single picture, and knows without a shadow of a doubt, what an amazing woman her mother was., how much you loved being her mother, how much you loved her, and how you'll be her guardian angel watching over her for the rest of her life." 

The ventilator and other machines that were keeping her alive for the last 24 hours were turned off.  The constant beeping stopped.  Our father held our sister up and her best friend, Shannon, held Daytona's other hand. The room was suddenly silent as Daytona's body began the final stages of shutting down.   

And then she was gone.   

24 years old.  A single mother.  The girl with the best eye roll ever, the biggest smile, the best laugh.  A girl that had a heart of gold, was passionate, protective, loving, silly, funny, and could eat the hottest chili peppers on the planet without flinching.  A girl that challenged us, pushed our buttons, pushed the limits, and lived by her favorite saying, "Live the life you love.  Love the life you live."  

It wasn't COVID.  We've been asked that a thousand times.  We almost wish it was, it would be easier to explain and maybe it would make more sense to all of us.  But it wasn't and we're still trying to wrap our heads around what happened.

In March, our sister dropped Daytona off at the hospital to have her gallbladder removed - a routine outpatient surgery.  Due to the onset of COVID, our sister was not allowed into the hospital.  She would return when the hospital called later that night to get her.  A few days rest and Daytona would be good as new.  

Daytona had an auto-immune disease that affected her immune system.  And being young and invincible, she didn't take care of it as she should have.   The doctors knew this and didn't believe there would be any issues with the surgery.  A few days after surgery, Daytona wasn't as good as new and was in excruciating pain.  A return trip to the doctor and they had found some gallstones that had impacted in the ducts and she was sent off for a second surgery.  They assured my sister that this was a simple procedure and she would be out of the hospital and back to planning Journey's 1st birthday party the next day.   

Daytona never left ICU.  For 6 months, we all rode the roller coaster with her as she would go two steps forward and then 3 steps back.  The first three months Daytona fought alone in the hospital due to COVID restrictions on visitors.  Alone, scared, in constant pain.  Her low immune levels became non-existent and infection set in and things that had a 1 in a million chance of happening, started happening.  

The medicines fought against each other.  The infection was fierce and moved rapidly through her body.  She developed severe pancreatitis and they were giving her the maximum dosage of pain medicine as a light touch of her skin would send her into writhing pain.   Her body had nothing to fight with except determination and the will to live, and the entire 6 months, she gave it all she had.  Countless surgeries, her organs began to fail, she had to have a feeding tube and was put on a ventilator.  Her heart struggled to keep up, her blood pressure was incredibly low.  She was tired.  She was in pain.  She was scared.  And as hard as she fought, the infection fought harder.  

Doctors would be amazed at her progress on Monday and give us all hope.  And by Friday, she wouldn't be able to talk and was being wheeled back into the operating room.  Friends and family pitched in to take care of Journey.  Our sister (who has uncontrollable seizures) battled on from the sidelines as we all worried the stress would put her in the hospital (or worse).  And after 3 long months, visitor restrictions were lifted a bit and she was able to see her daughter for the first time.  The report back to the rest of us wasn't encouraging.  

The doctors did all they could.  They switched medicines, they changed treatments, they encouraged Daytona and they never gave up.  They were cautious but believed they could find the combination that made everything work.

When (Brandi refused to say 'if'), when Daytona was released, her life would be forever changed.  Countless health issues would plague her for the rest of her life.  She would be on dialysis for certain and the list of other 'new normals' was overwhelming.  We never got to see those new normals.  

Last Wednesday night a prayer vigil was held outside the hospital for Daytona.  Signs, people, friends, prayers, cheers.  Daytona watched in awe from a view a few stories up.  There were so many people, so much love, so much hope, so many people on her side.  She kept saying, "I can't believe they are all here for me."  She turned to her mother and told her that she was ready to fight harder.  She was going to beat this.  We all felt so hopeful and renewed.  

Saturday Daytona developed a fever.  And began a very noticeable decline.   She slept two solid days.  On Monday afternoon, the doctors informed my sister that new test results were in and they were leading us in the wrong direction.  They told my sister that Daytona probably had less than a week to live.  Her body couldn't take it.  Her organs were shutting down at a rapid pace and the infection was uncontrollable.  They were out of treatment options because she wasn't responding to anything they tried. The signs were clear, the direction was inevitable, they would keep her comfortable, and my sister should start preparing. 

We were heartbroken, numb, and in disbelief.  And thankful that by this time, Daytona's body and mind were keeping her from the truth of what we had learned.  It was a sleepless night for all of us, except Daytona, who drifted off peacefully into a  non-responsive state.  

We are not a family known for our patience and Daytona didn't disappoint.  Early Tuesday morning Brandi received a call that she needed to get to the hospital immediately, as they believed Daytona would pass away at any time.   We prayed as Brandi rushed to the hospital that she would make it safely and also make it there before Daytona left her earthly body.  And she did. 

Daytona departed this earth knowing that hundreds of people (most of which she had never met) were praying for her.  She was loved more than she could ever imagine.  And that her daughter would have a tribe of strong women to help raise her and take care of her.  

6 months ago our sister dropped her 24-year-old daughter off for a routine surgery and tomorrow she has an appointment at a funeral home to make her final arrangements.  

A mother lost her only daughter.  A baby lost her mother.  Many lost a good friend.  We lost a loved member of our family.  Our niece is gone.  It doesn't seem real and yet the heaviness in our chests assure us it's real and our hearts are indeed broken.  Our eyes are red, our phone calls are long, and our world seems a little less bright.  

Daytona was young and just starting her life.  She was a single mom that had lost her job shortly before Journey was born.   Like most of us at 24, she didn't have a will, life insurance, or plans for the end of her life, because, at that age, most of us aren't thinking about the end of life planning.  And to be honest, most of us didn't even know what that meant at 24.  Daytona was 8 months into being a first-time mom, she was still trying to master the perfect baby swaddle technique.  Thinking about planning her final days on earth, her daughter's future, her funeral expenses, was nowhere near her mind.  

Our sister and family would like to honor Daytona's wishes to be buried.   Many years ago, our mother (Linda) thankfully purchased small, life insurance policies for her grandchildren.  This policy will help to cover about half of the expenses needed to honor Daytona's life with a simple funeral and service.   Our sister is also single and on a fixed income.  And the financial burden to provide for her daughter is a struggle.  Our family is pitching in as much as possible but there is still a considerable need for financial help as this was so sudden and unexpected, it gave us almost no time to prepare or make plans.  

It is a hard reality for us and many of our friends and family have asked how they can help.  We have never done a GoFundMe, but agreed that if we were going to do one, this would be the time.  We also realize that the world around us is in a state of chaos and so many others are dealing with financial issues of their own.  We want to assure you that there is no pressure to contribute but if you would like to help ease the burden for our sister and honor Daytona's life, a donation of any size would be greatly appreciated and much more helpful at this time than flowers.  

Any funds raised above our goal will be used to help Brandi meet the financial needs of raising her grand-daughter, Journey.  

We appreciate the support you've shown our family, the messages, the prayers, the love.  We know how Daytona felt standing in the hospital window, looking out in awe, at how many people really do care.  

Thank you in advance for reading (even if you scrolled to the bottom!) and for anything that you can contribute.  We know that this will help our sister out greatly.  She has so many other things to worry about, we hope in some way, this helps ease some of the stress.  

Laura Hollis & Dennis Hollis, Jr.  

Update - we buried Daytona on Saturday, October 10 in the pouring down rain.  It was a hard day but the love and support from all of our friends and family and people we didn't even know, made it bearable.  The stories, the laughs, the tears - it was a fitting tribute to a beautiful soul. 

Thank you to everyone who has donated.  In a time when we feel such a loss, we feel so blessed for your donations.  Every one of them.  We have covered all the funeral expenses and have a little leftover to put into a mutual fund for Journey that we will give to her when she turns 18.  We will leave this open for a few more weeks and anything that comes in will go into that fund.  We (Dennis, Jr. & Laura) will be the admin for that account.  

The financial burden you have helped to lift off our family's shoulders will never be forgotten.  We simply cannot thank you enough.  

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Donations

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  • Dia Henson Henson 
    • $75 
    • 4 d
  • Shannon Nelson 
    • $100 
    • 5 d
  • Anonymous 
    • $60 
    • 8 d
  • Carlos & Cami Aurispa 
    • $75 
    • 8 d
  • Anonymous 
    • $1,000 
    • 12 d
See all

Organizer

Dennis and Laura Hollis 
Organizer
Stanley, NC
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