December 14, 2020
Making Memories With Her Children & Grandchildren: Toni Johnson
It had been three years since Toni Johnson had seen her son who lives in Michigan, and nearly a year since she'd seen her daughter who lives in Nevada. But with the assistance of her EveryStep Hospice team and the EveryStep Foundation, Toni was able to spend a week with her children and grandchildren in October.
"It was truly a gift," she said of the reunion. "My plan had been to get better and to go see my son and his family, then drive to Reno to see my daughter and her family. But I had gotten so bad, I knew it wasn't a possibility, that it was off the table."
Toni, who was diagnosed with terminal cancer in 2018, became an EveryStep Hospice patient earlier this year when her cancer metastasized.
"I knew this had gotten beyond my control and I needed help," she said. "EveryStep has swooped in and gotten me everything I needed. They are just taking care of everyone's needs."
And that includes facilitating Toni's wish to see her children and grandchildren - including a new baby she'd never met - one more time. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, both of her children were having a difficult time finding the resources to make a trip back to the Mount Pleasant area.
"I was so scared I was going to leave this planet without seeing them," she said. "I knew they were the ones I needed to see. Katie (EveryStep Hospice social worker) said there was a foundation that sponsored wishes and I didn't want to say it was a wish, but this was progressing fast. I didn't want them to see me in my final days."
Katie, with the help of the EveryStep Foundation, was able to help Toni's children arrange for a trip home. The Foundation was able to fund - generously provided by the Women 4 Women organization which assists female cancer patients in Henry County - hotel stay, gas cards and dinner for the family.
Toni's family arrived October 14 and stayed until October 20, giving her time to make new memories with her grandchildren, while reminiscing and looking through photos with her children, Josh and Candice.
During the reunion, Toni and her family visited a pumpkin patch and orchard, dine at a favorite restaurant and simply spend time together.
"They wore me out," Toni recalls. "To have a relationship with my grandkids was wonderful, absolutely wonderful. I was sitting in the hallway and I overheard them saying 'I love coming out and hanging out with Grandma Toni.' To hear that, it just was so incredibly special."
Toni recalls another night looking at photos with her children. She hadn't had much time with her son's youngest child, a little boy who was about 3 years old.
"The next thing I know, little Ace has a book and is jabbing at me, that was it. After that he was so sweet with me," she said.
Toni hopes the special trip helps her grandchildren remember her as a "pretty cool" grandma, while providing closure for her children.
"It never would have happened without the Foundation," Toni said. "I'm so thankful and my kids are so thankful."
Toni hopes that others will be able to experience similar memories with the help of EveryStep Foundation.
"I think that maybe people will wait too long," she said. "I don't really know, it's an incredible experience. What an amazing gift to have a wish, something that you know isn't possible, then to have it possible. There's not words to describe that feeling to see your children when you don't think you'll see them again."
In addition to making her reunion wish a reality, Toni can't say enough good things about her EveryStep Hospice care team.
"What a perfect fit for me," she said of her nurse and aides. "Their hearts are just lovely. They could not be doing anything better than they are right now."
To help fund patient wishes and their quality of life, please consider a gift to EveryStep Foundation on our donation page.