Life, Beautifully Unexpected

The past few days have been consumed by facts and figures, hard realities and unbelievable truths, and the truly amazing gift of the human spirit. And it's been totally unexpected.

My mother, sisters, and I are used to fighting for what we have. Nothing has ever been given to us. Growing up, we were a four-person family on a one-person income. Ashley was sick from birth and spent long spans of time in the hospital with our mama by her side. That left my older sister and I to learn to fend for ourselves and left my mother stretched taut (without ever having the luxury to actually snap).

We struggled, and we still struggle. My mama works several jobs and still has to scrimp and save to make her mortgage payment (on a house purchased in the 80s, so don't assume she's an irresponsible borrower) while also being able to help my sisters as much as she can. (My older sister battles a mental illness that prevents her from stable employment.)

And then there's Ashley, who's staring headlong at death. There's nothing she can eat thanks to gluten intolerance, medical diabetes, and her firm determination to avoid dialysis through an elimination diet. Her body hurts -- all over and all the time. She's constantly battling an intestinal bacteria that leaves her weak and wracked. Her face and body are constantly bloated from poor kidney function and the steroids she has to take so her body doesn't reject her transplanted lungs. This is her life, day after day after day.

My family has grown to expect the struggle. We're used to fighting for what we want and taking what we need by force if that's what it comes to. We take nothing for granted and our expectations are never high. Despite this, we believe our blessings outnumber our battles.

Ashley is sick, but her spirit is youthful and inspiring. Our family will be able to provide Ashley with a safety net when her health takes its next step downward. Ashley is dying, but she makes the choice every single day to make the most of her life. And she refuses to give up.

And her life continues to surprise us, to open our hearts and our minds in ways that we could never have anticipated. It happened when one woman chose to ask a question rather than offer a condolence. It's happening again and again as strangers reach out to help us however they can. This wildfire of generosity has one spark: Ashley.

There are more twists and turns coming up on Ashley's journey to health and I pray that she survives them. Until then, I cry and rejoice and give thanks that so many people have joined hands with us to help Ashley get the surgery that she so desperately needs. Our family is bowled over and breathless by the support we've been given.

This life, unexpected and tragic and beautiful all at the same time, is one I pray I'll always be able to share with my sister, who is my best friend.. Because of you (and you and you), that is looking more and more possible.

Thank you.

You can follow Ashley's journey here and click over to donate toward her kidney transplant. We're looking at a cost of $250,000, so every little bit is much encouraged and appreciated. Please take a few minutes to share her story via Twitter (#KidneyCutie), Facebook, and email.

And a special thank you to Michele Quick Photography for taking these gorgeous photos of Ashley free of charge. They do a magnificent job of capturing Ashley's spirit!


  • TKW

    She is beautiful. As are you, inside and out.

  • Anonymous

    Thank you for sharing these photos of Ashley and this snapshot of your family.

  • Bibliomama

    I don't know what to say, but I've been given a lesson recently on how it's still better to say something, so... she is beautiful. You are all beautiful. I am in awe of her, and you.

  • Anonymous

    This post inspires and touches me. Your strength and determination leave me, your reader, with only one option: hope. Your sister is blessed to have you. Thank you for this beautiful post.

  • BigLittleWolf

    "Cutie" hardly covers it. Beauty, inside and out.


  • ayala

    Kelly, I just read Big Little Wolf's post and I clicked over to donate. I don't know how I missed your post. I saw the pictures on Facebook and your sister is beautiful. Both of you are blessed to have one another. I will keep her and your family in my prayers.

  • Rudri Bhatt Patel @ Being Rudri

    Just brought me to tears. Nothing like sisterly and family love. Beautiful. Both of you.

  • Anonymous

    Thank YOU for all that you do.

  • C (Kid Things)

    This is beautiful, as is she. Thinking and praying for your family.

  • Anonymous

    Well! As I try to catch up on a month's worth of reading, I am so glad I read this tonight. I am so sorry for Ashley's struggle. She is still on our Sunday School Prayer list.

    And, I am inspired by the photography and her story. Ya'll are awesome. And, it IS a beautiful life.

  • Anonymous

    I am so inspired by the beauty and strength of your family.

  • Anonymous

    You are all incredibly beautiful. Much gratitude to all of you and healing wishes all the way. Namaste

  • Cheryl

    Your sister is beautiful, Kelly. Thank you for sharing her story. I pray that she is able to get the surgery she needs and that she'll be with you for a long time to come.

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