2017 A year of growth, loss, and restoration

New Years day of 2017, I realized something. I was beginning the year like any other…resolutions, healthy eating, goals, and a newly found appreciation for the gym (for the 3rd year in a row). But 2017…I just couldn’t put my finger on it but there was going to be something special about this year. God placed it on my heart over and over again that this year would be a year of change. 


That became apparent in early April, when things went haywire at my job. I had been there almost 5 years at the time and had several run ins with my director and her floor minion (aka the office snitch). Yes, apparently adults like to wear the hall monitor sash, as well. I was determined to get out of there. So I started applying for a million different positions. Some that I was even over qualified for but nothing was working out. Why, you ask? Because God had a plan.

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Fast forward to May, when my company was going through their own rebuilding phase. They decided to completely change the business model and approached it as a start up company. Which gave me the option to either apply for a new position or take a severance. After some time discussion with Chris, my mother, and God, I decided to take the severance. I was unhappy there and needed a fresh start. May 31, 2017 was my last day there and began a brand new chapter in my life. 

leaving work

If you know me personally than you know that my mother had been battling a blood cancer called Mycosis Fungoides, for many years. So this newly found freedom wasn’t just for myself. It was about spending time with my then 3 year old, assisting my mother in anyway necessary, and getting a fresh start towards achieving some of my goals.

I was on top of the world.

My tension headaches ceased, my energy level sky rocketed, and I had a brand new lease on life and I was ready to conquer the world. Fast forward to August 5th on the day of my close friend Brittany’s wedding…when I received a voicemail from my mother. I was crazy busy that day trying to make things as least stressful for the bride, as possible. I stepped in and did some photography, assisted with minor setup, and aided the Bride in anyway I could. I was so busy I didn’t get a chance to check my phone. When I finally listened to the voicemail my mother let me know that she was at Vanderbilt. She had been dealing with an infection that had spread throughout her body. I stayed as long as I could but before the weddings end I had to leave to go and see about her. Chris drove me straight to the hospital and when I walked in the emergency room my mother was weeping. She was tired. She had been in the E.R. for several hours and hadn’t eaten anything.  She had been fighting the progression of this disease for many years. When I left her hospital room that night, I didn’t make it to the exit sign before the tears began streaming down my face. Chris, who was in the car with our daughter silently rubbed my back and held my hand, as we headed home for the night.

crying in car

This was the moment that I decided that I wouldn’t be able to go back to work for a while. I began cleaning my mother’s house twice a week, doing all of her grocery shopping, taking her to all of her appointments, while still trying to keep my own household afloat. The emotional stress, was at times unbearable. I tried daily to keep her spirits lifted and her thoughts positive. Fast forward again to the beginning of October when my mom was set to begin a new treatment. We got to Vanderbilt early, she got her labs done and we went to see her Dr. who recommended one last treatment. The treatment was an experimental Amino Acid Therapy. It was not FDA approved,  it had only a 30% chance success rate, and could possibly damage her liver and kidneys. I was not comfortable with it and asked her many times to reconsider. She wanted to try it. So we went that afternoon for her infusion. 16 hours later I received a frantic call from her. She had passed out face first in her bath tub but managed to get herself out and call me. I was at her doorstep in 12 minutes. I tried to get her in my car but could not get her to stand. I had to call 911. She was taken to Vanderbilt that day and stayed in a medical facility for the next month.


It was the longest month of my life.

So many tears were shed in that month, happy and sad. I became engaged on October 13th to my very best friend and the father our daughter, Arianna. I was ecstatic because lawd had it been a long time coming…but it was perfectly imperfect and so was our love. Mom’s condition began to decline and by the last day of October we were told that her illness was terminal. She wasn’t conscious for the majority of her last week but there was no way I could get married without my mother present. So on November 3rd I exchanged vows in the Vanderbilt ICU with the love of my life, my beautiful mother, and some of our closest family present. && became Mrs. Cole.


It was beautiful.

She passed on the morning of November 8th. My heart shattered. I felt cold inside but God knew what he was doing all along. For the first time in my life I was filled with unwavering faith, even in the midst of the greatest loss I’d ever experienced. As much as it hurt, she held on until she knew I was going to be okay and as much as it does hurt…

I am okay.

God had ordained every one of my steps from the start of this year until this very moment. None of those jobs I had applied for in April worked out because I wasn’t supposed to be working. God made it possible for me to not only leave a job that was mentally unhealthy but also made it to where I left that job with a check in hand. I was able to spend my mothers final 5 months by her side…&& when I replay this year in my mind I truly understand what being thankful is. 

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I have grown immensely. After she passed I realized that all the things that amazed me about her, I was becoming. She was without a doubt the strongest person that I’ve ever known. I always admired her ability to get things done, no matter how difficult the task, and would often ask her how?! It seemed so effortless. It seemed like second nature for her to get things handled but now I realize…most of those amazing things I seen her accomplish weren’t necessarily easy…she got it done because she had to. Because she had people counting on her, because she had three daughters to raise. 

So many people have made remarks on my strength throughout this time and as tears well inside my eyes I now understand, that it’s her. It’s always been her. She is the reason I am the woman I am today. She’s the reason I still have faith. She is the reason for my strength. 


A year ago, six months ago, or even a couple of months ago, I would have never been able to handle a loss of this magnitude. As my moms condition began to decline it was almost as if she was giving me pieces of herself. && while I still feel as though I have suffered a great loss, I understand that she has won. Her faith in God and her healing has placed her exactly where she needed to be…in the arms of her father, no longer hurting, and eternally restored. 


From the moment this year started God has been preparing me. In hindsight I can see every phase of his perfect plan and how it ended with restoration for my beautiful mother and myself. I am not the person I began this year as. I am stronger, wiser, and more courageous than I have ever been…but at the same time I am still very much myself. Just a better version.

I have a new lease on life and the ability to start a brand new journey that will be pleasing to both God and my new angel. I want to start each new year with a promise to be the best possible version of myself. I want to make her proud.


Thank you, mommy. You have given me more than you will ever know. You will always be held on the highest pedestal in my heart. && I will honor your loving memory until my final breath. You now live inside of me, my sisters, and all your grand children. 

Thank you, to my support system. To my husband who has worked ridiculously hard this last several months, so I could take care of my mother. To my best friend and inner circle for constantly praying with and for me. To my family for pulling together to make mommy’s last days as comfortable as possible. 

2018 will be the most amazing year of my life because I have all of you by my side and I have her in my heart.


In loving memory of

Kathy Lee Brooks

Sunrise June 20, 1959 – Sunset November 8, 017

8 thoughts on “2017 A year of growth, loss, and restoration

  1. I am a total wreck right now. Can’t stop crying as I think about all Kathy went through, the fact that she’s no longer suffering, how God blessed you to be able to be there for her, how strong both of you are, what a good & supportive man Chris is…This is a heck of a testimony of how God is always busy behind the scenes even when we don’t realize it at the time. I love you and I’m keeping you, your sisters , Chris , Ari and the rest of your family in prayer.


  2. A year of growth. How remarkable this was. It was your sermon, and a amazing one at that. Please tell your family to love one another, because I do believe you all will be together again. God bless you all.


  3. My my my! What satan meant for bad, God meant for good. Ashley, this blessed me more than you’ll ever know. You are where your mom always wanted you to be, a place where you see God’s presence, plan, peace and providence. His grace is sufficient and we know Him better and more intimately through suffering because He’s right there with us. Everything is better in heaven. If you think your mom was beautiful before, wait till you see her in heaven. Continue to seek God with all your heart and continue to grow in wisdom and love. I love you so much! Unca’ Dale


    1. This is such a great personal reflection Ashlee! Just beautiful! I am crying as I type 😥. I love you and may God continue to bless you and your family. Aunt Kathy is truly missed and I love her so very much!❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️


  4. Such a great personal reflection you have shared to remind us of our purpose in life. To seek understanding and embrace our ever changing roles in our life. Your Mom is so proud of you to know you received her strength, love and sacrifrice for your family. God Speed Yvonne and everlasting love and admiration to our Angel.


  5. Yvonne, your words are beautifully written.
    You are blessed because you will see your mother again in a joyous place. She is with The Lord, completely healed in her full beauty.
    She was/is a beautiful flower growing on a hill for all to see, that God love and make beautiful things.
    “Remembering Kathy poetically”
    George Youmas


  6. Awww! that was just beautiful Ashle. i truly love you and you sisters and as you know your mom I am so proud of how you have become a beautiful loving and spirit filled young woman. Keep inspiring through your Journey


  7. My heart if flowing with Joy just reading this. My Beautiful, Sweet Childhood friend. We met at the tender age of 11 in grammer school and then went onto High School at Charlotte in Rochester NY when she introduced me to my frist boyfriend Maurice Coney.. And thru the Grace of God Facebook we were reunited us again. She courageously shared her story with me. step by step over the last years years. Oh how her her voice lit up when she talked about her grandchildren and her three beautiful daughters. She told me she would surely win this battle and be victorious. After reading your story my soul says Yes Lord.. Because she indeed was victorious and she indeed win her battle. What a wonderful gift to receive everlasting life with Christ! Thank you so much for sharing your story and all that Kathy accomplished. She left her mark in this world and it will be forever seen through her greatest gifts to us. (Her children). God Bless.


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