Emily’s Story

Just like you, I am looking forward to spring and the promise of new beginnings. I want to thank Hospice of Lansing & Stoneleigh Residence—and YOU—for supporting them, for helping me move forward. I urge you to continue to support this agency that helps so many people like me.

Here is my story.

My lovely, 6’3” daughter Emily loved dragonflies from the time she was my little girl. Spotting one, a real one, was always exciting, and she was proud to tell anyone that the dragonfly was Michigan’s “official” state insect, though many people say it should be the mosquito! 

I can still hear her laugh in my memories.

Dragonflies have amazing flying skills. They can fly backward, hover like a helicopter and zoom very fast. They have incredibly beautiful colors and flash like precious jewels in the sunlight. A dragonfly gets just a single summer to use their wings.

Emily lived her life much like those dragonflies. And at age 41 she had no place to go and she was sick. In fact, she was dying. She was homeless and out of work. The hospital discharged her because there was “nothing more they could do for her”. Having burned her bridges with me, she needed someplace to go—to die.

Your generosity created a place called Stoneleigh Residence where my dragonfly Emily landed. She was welcomed with open arms and compassion. Your support of hospice care meant she could live her short, remaining days in peace, at no cost to her or our family.

Emily was surrounded by caring people who did not question or judge her for the life choices she made before she arrived. Her past vanished when she came through the door. She was given amazing care, love, and the opportunity to find peace. The afternoon of her admittance, she was still strong enough for a short walk in the tranquil Stoneleigh garden where she discovered koi, turkey, deer and – of course – dragonflies.

Emily passed away on a beautiful summer morning in August of 2019 at the Stoneleigh Residence. I was holding her hand. It may have been the end of Emily’s journey, but it was just the beginning of mine.

I felt a tremendous wave of gratitude for everyone at Hospice of Lansing & Stoneleigh Residence who cared for Emily. They are such good people. 

Shortly, as reality hit, the wave of gratitude pulled back, and a storm of guilt and grief engulfed me. The agony of losing a child was almost more than I could bear. But to my surprise, a nice lady kept calling me.

I learned that Hospice of Lansing has a free grief support program. She gave me someone safe to talk to where I could be honest about what I was truly feeling.

Then, in February of 2020, my best friend died. A month later, the pandemic stole my husband away. I had not been allowed to visit him in the hospital and had to say good-bye over the phone. 

Grief upon grief weighed me down to the point of heavy depression.

But my phone kept ringing. It was the nice lady from Hospice of Lansing calling, asking me “How are you doing?” And she listened as I poured my heart out and helped me begin to heal. The compassion of Hospice of Lansing extended beyond the dying to their families, and I still feel today that I could call her if I needed to talk. She was a lifeline.

Thanks to YOU and your generous donations to this worthy cause, I was able to find the strength to carry on — for myself, my other children, and my grandkids (two of whom were Emily’s).

So, THANK YOU for being the safety net that caught me after I lost three people I loved so much.

We have all lost a lot this past year. Even Hospice of Lansing and Stoneleigh Residence have felt the economic pinch of COVID-19. They depend on your generosity to make ends meet and now they face additional costs to protect their staff and keep Stoneleigh Residence safe and available to those in need.

Please join me this spring by making a gift to this wonderful agency. With your help, they can continue to provide extended grief support for all the families in our community at no cost. It is the “warm hug” we all need after suffering a loss. A gift of support today shows you believe in a brighter tomorrow for everyone.

With continuing gratitude,

Barb Kowalk

Emily’s Mom & Hospice of Lansing & Stoneleigh Residence Supporter