Molly’s Story

My mother wrote this last year on the 4th anniversary of Molly’s death. She tells the story of my sister in a way that nobody else can, because she loved my sister in a way that nobody else could.

Around 6:15 a.m., 4 years ago today, my life and my family’s lives changed forever.  This sad story is like a Jodi Picoult novel or a Lifetime channel movie.
Unlike a movie or a novel that sometimes lingers in my thoughts, this story occupies my waking thoughts constantly.  It is the true story of a special young lady, Molly, my daughter,  and her 18 years, 1 month and 9 days of life.

Molly was my third child.  She followed Griffin and Emily.  They were 14 and almost 11 when she was born.  Needless to say, it was always crazy here with a teenager, a preteen and a baby.  Molly didn’t arrive here in the “usual” way.
She was delivered into my arms in our driveway by her dad 5 days after her birth.  Griffin and Emily arrived here by c-sections.  Molly arrived in an attorney’s car.  By now, you know she was adopted. To all of us, that meant nothing different.  Although I could not physically hold her for five days, she was a part of us from the moment the call came that she had arrived.

To say Molly was a joy is such an understatement.  She was a good baby and was the missing piece to our family.  Her childhood was easy.  She arrived here after some tough years with her brother and sister.  Molly’s sister was diagnosed with retinoblastoma at 9 months.  Emily’s first five years were spent in and out of the hospital.  She lost the vision in her right eye.  When Emily made her 5 year cancer free milestone, Griffin suffered a life threatening head injury in an accident.  He died once in the ambulance and twice in the helicopter en route to Egleston.  Joyfully, Griffin and Emily survived.  They are adults now.  They are rival graduates of Alabama and Auburn . Wayne, my husband and I often laughed and said Molly’s childhood was like constantly being in Disney World.  She sat up at 4 months, crawled at 5 months, stood at 6 months and walked at 9 months.
She was such an independent little person.  After surviving such health and accident scares with Griffin and Emily,  Molly’s childhood was almost carefree.
She was very healthy.  She loved to play outside, loved animals, flowers, moving furniture and was obsessed with “The Wizard of Oz” which she called “Peter “Pan” movie.  To this day , I still don’t know why.

Molly grew up to be a great teenager.  School was not as easy for her as it was for Griffin and Emily.  She was by far, the most organized, determined and hard working person I knew.  Griffin didn’t think homework was necessary.  Emily always waited to the last minute and in a panic would manage to get it done.  Molly liked to have things done before the deadline.  After church, the fall of her senior year, Molly complained about her Sunday School class praying about filling out college applications.  In her mind, you just sat down, filled them out, wrote your essays and got it done.

The only chronic health problem Molly ever had was a recurring dislocated shoulder.  In seventh grade, during a summer riding camp, she was thrown as she made a jump and landed on her left shoulder.  The next summer, while playing tennis, it dislocated.  This began a series of painful episodes, misdiagnoses, emergency room visits, physical therapy, going to school to manipulate her shoulder back into place and a visit with a cruel orthopedic surgeon in Atlanta (a highly recommended, wonderful credentials but missed the class on compassion ).  Finally, after much therapy and getting with the right doctor, Molly’s shoulder began to settle down.  She was able to play tennis again and soccer.  A year later, while running down the soccer field, it dislocated again.  Her dad and I were in France and Molly’s big sister was staying with her.  She ended up in the ER and then again was hospitalized the next day.  Emily and Griffin thought they could take care of Molly without worrying us.  Long story short, they had Molly carried by ambulance to Scottish Rite where finally the correct diagnosis was made.  A month later, Molly had surgery on her shoulder for a torn labrum.  Molly was rolled back to her hospital room by her anesthesiologist.  He introduced himself and told us that he had never rolled a patient back but he thought Molly was so special that he wanted to meet her parents.  She had that effect on people.  Molly was always for the underdog.  I remember one of her teachers telling me how Molly was the only one that was kind to a new student that was a little different from most of the other kids.  Molly didn’t mind getting dirty and working hard.

She never wanted to be in the spotlight.  Her next to last Christmas, she wanted to go to Target and buy the Christmas gifts for our “Angel Tree” child.
I agreed.  Later, Molly’s big brother called and asked me how much she was supposed to have spent.  I told him an amount.  Griffin laughed and told me she had spent over 3 times that amount and he could barely get it all in his car.
Panicked, I called Molly and told her we had to go through the things and choose a reasonable amount of gifts.  I made her take the things back to Target by herself.  To this day,  I so regret that I made her return these by herself.

That same year, Molly’s Sunday School class left on December 27, 2008 for a mission trip to Kenya.  It was a trip of a lifetime for her.  She spent time in the slums of Nairobi and witnessing and loving the orphans at a special orphanage called Strong Tower.  Molly returned 2 weeks later with a burning desire to return there.  While looking at colleges, that was always a question, “Do you have a program in Kenya?”.   I feared she would end up living there one day.  She often talked about how simple life was there and that although they had nothing materially, the people were so happy and peaceful.

At the end of April,  early in the evening, Molly left to do an errand.  She was gone a little longer than expected when Wayne’s cellphone rang.  A young man told Wayne that Molly had been in a car accident but was okay.  It was less than a mile from the house.  In a curve, Molly’s car had gone off the road and turned over in a creek.  She had climbed out a broken window, climbed up a bank and tried to get help.  Wet and disheveled, a group of University of West Georgia students and another couple stopped to help her.  Her guardian angel and ours, a Carrollton police officer, came to the scene.  After a thorough exam and tests, Molly came home from the hospital, bruised and sore, but so lucky.  For weeks she wanted to sleep with me and kept asking me if  I thought God was trying to punish her.  By early June, she was still not her usual self.  I made her an appointment with her doctor.  She again was given a thorough exam.  Nothing remarkable showed up but her doctor prescribed 10 days of an anti anxiety medication to get Molly back in a normal sleep pattern.  Summer rocked along.  We made lots of college visits……. Senior year started, college applications were sent in.  Molly loved her classes.  She began working at our veterinarian’s office in August (where she would manage to bring home extra pets).  There still seemed to be a little of the usual Molly missing.  Several times I asked her if she would like to talk to a psychologist.  Each time she convinced me that she was okay.  She had several sinus infections and a cracked foot that fall.  Her foot mysteriously swelled.  College acceptances started coming in.  Molly’s boyfriend was being recruited by several college football teams so she spent weekends with his family going to games.  Despite the fact that Molly’s grades were not stellar, one private college offered her an incredible scholarship and another out of state college invited her to do a mission/study program in Spain for the summer before her freshman year was to begin.  Looking back, I am sure Molly’s essays made this realize what a joy and special person she was.
Fall rocked on.  Molly’s brother and wife had found out that a baby was coming in May.  There were some problems on my side of the family.  There was a political mess and witch hunt in the county government and although Molly’s dad was involved in city government, mud was being thrown at him also.
It was a stressful fall.  That Thanksgiving,  Emily was home from Nashville.
After a big/little sister conversation on the front porch, Molly agreed to go see a psychologist that we knew and loved.  We had met him after Griffin’s head injury.  An appointment was made for the first week of December.
On December 8th, with pictures in my car to order our family Christmas card,
I was at a Christmas bunco lunch when my son called to tell me my dad was in the ER having suffered a heart attack.  My dad was stabilized.  The next afternoon,  Molly and I went for her appointment.  The visit went well and it was decided that Molly was anxious about graduating, college decisions, and was upset about some of the political flack in Carrollton.  Living in a small town, political fishbowl was getting to her.  We made an appointment to have another visit at 11 a.m. December 22nd.  My dad was transferred to Piedmont for open heart surgery the following Monday.  Instead of immediate surgery, they kept postponing the surgery.   I remember one day outside my dad’s room, Griffin asked me if I thought Grandaddy was going to die.  I replied that one of us might die before him……little did I know.  Finally,  December 21st, they began prepping him early for surgery.  For some reason, it did not begin until about 3:30 p.m.  About 4, his surgeon came out to tell us that the surgery was stopped because a valve problem was detected.  Because my dad was of sound mind, we were not allowed to authorize that repair so the surgery was cancelled.  He had to come out of all the drugs and anesthesia to be told what happened, give his permission and start the process all over.  The next morning, when my dad was lucid, he refused to let them try it again.  Later that morning as I drove to get us some lunch, my cellphone rang.  It was Molly’s psychologist.  I had forgotten her return appointment.  After I told him what all was going and that Molly seemed better, we decided to reschedule in early January.  My dad stayed in the hospital until December 27.  Christmas was spent quiet fully at home with Wayne, Griffin, Emily, Emily (daughter in law), Molly and in utero grandson.   Christmas Eve was spent going to early evening communion at church  (irreverently laughing about something which we were prone to do), eating something for dinner, playing Apples to Apples with Griffin and sister Em aggravating Molly and me reading the Cajun version of the night before Christmas.  It was a simple night.  The next day Griifin, Molly and Wayne visited my dad and mom at Piedmont.  Emily and I were sick from a bug we picked up at the hospital.  On Sunday, the 27th, Piedmont finally sent my dad home that night.  Since I was still sick, Molly, as usual stepped in to do errands the next day and take her grandparents’ dog home.  She and her boyfriend spent the day there……going to buy groceries, running to pick up prescriptions, etc.
Late that afternoon, they returned to Carrollton.  They went to the movies to see “The Princess and the Frog”.  Molly called me from the theater bathroom and asked me to make sure front door was unlocked.  She told me she was having a female issue and was teasing about having her sister’s coat on. It was about 9:30 when they got home.  Molly went to Walgreen’s to get a few things and was back home by 10.  Still not feeling well, I went on to bed.  Molly said that she was going to watch tv down in the den.  Off and on that night our elderly Golden Retriever was restless.  She kept getting up and down, going to the front door and just couldn’t settle down.  Finally around 2a.m. I let her out the front door.  She stayed out for awhile and wouldn’t come back.  I went out and tried to call for her with my hoarse, sore throat.  Molly heard all the commotion and walked into the foyer with a blanket wrapped around.  She was laughing because Flower would not come back in for me.  As soon as Molly called her, she came right in.  By this time, Emily had come to see what was going on.  We all laughed, said “Night, I love you”.  Em went back to her room, I went to mine and Molly went back to the den (at the other end of a sprawling, spread out house). 

About 4:30. Wayne woke up and went to the study which is next to the den.  He peeked in on Molly and shut the French doors to that room and he returned to our bedroom on the other side of our house.  I woke up at 6:15 with a foreboding feeling that something was wrong.  At first I thought something had happened to one of our pets.  I walked to the study and sat down for a minute.  I could hear the tv playing in the den so I went to turn it off. When I opened the doors, I could hear a moaning sound.  Molly’s dog Sassy was asleep on floor beside her on the sofa.  I thought it was the sound of dog dreams.  As I got closer, I realized Molly was making the sounds.  The only light was coming from the streetlight streaming in from the window.  I started trying to rouse Molly……I could not wake her up.  There is a side entrance to the den.  At first, I thought someone had come in and attacked her.  As I continued to try and wake her I felt something that felt like a baby doll.  I ran down the hall to get Wayne.  I had this sad and sick realization what had been wrong with Molly.

Wayne ran to the den.  911 was called.  Firemen, policemen, and EMT workers filled our house.  These were people that loved Molly.  At this point, I was not allowed to go in while they worked on her.  A neighbor came in and stood with me until Molly was stabilized to leave for the hospital.  Wayne told me that a police officer was going to take me to the hospital and he would be there in a little while.  I called my best friend and giving her no details, I told her to meet me at ER.  While riding to the hospital, the police officer in her kind voice told me that Molly had given birth to twin daughters.  In shock, I was thinking Molly would have surgery, we would move to our house in North Carolina, she could finish high school, get extensive counseling and go on to college and began anew.  This was all in a short 5 minute ride to hospital.  I remember the look on the young police officer in the backseat.  Later, I would learn it was his first week on the job. At the hospital, things moved quickly.  Molly was taken to one of the treatment rooms.  She still was not conscious.  Many of the faces in the ER were friends, neighbors, and co-workers of Emily’s.  Over the years, our family were frequent visitors to this emergency room.  I read so much sadness and disbelief in their eyes.  Suddenly, Molly was moved into the main trauma room at the front of the ER.  I knew this was not good from Emily’s time working here.  They moved me to the private family room where we had waited many years earlier when they told us that Griffin most likely would not survive his head injury.  By now, my best friend is with me and she had convinced me to call my minister.   The ER doctor started coming in the room asking me questions and informing of different complications that Molly had developed.

By 7:30, Wayne got to the hospital.  The look of devastation on his face told me everything.  Molly was transferred to ICU.  As we’re quickly going to that part of the hospital, I thought, “We are coming here for Molly to die.”  When my dad had been in ICU here a few weeks earlier, one of the patient advocate/angels there was a mother whose daughter had died.  My mind quickly raced thinking that she is here to be with me when my daughter dies.

Molly was hooked up to so many machines.  Emily and Griffin were brought to the hospital.  Family members, friends, neighbors, people in our community filled the halls.  Molly died peacefully a few hours later surrounded by us singing to her, loving her and sadly giving her back to God.  She was a wonderful book that we were just in the middle of reading, when it was slammed shut without warning.  Hundreds of people filled our house with food, love and sadness. Her funeral was attended by hundreds of people.  Her brother was given a standing ovation at the eulogy given for her (I must admit I was the first one to stand).  For 17 nights, friends took turns spending the night with us.

Today, it is 4 years later.  We have survived.  We learned so much from Molly.  There have been so many signs and messages, but those are stories to be told later.  Still today, when I see a mean girl or a rude or unkind teenager, I ask God “What in the world were you thinking?”  The main person I blame is myself.
This past fall, during the political season when I would see the CHOOSE LIFE signs, I thought that yes, I would choose life, the life of my child who didn’t know what to do but turn it over to God as we teach them to do in as they grow up in a Christian home and church.  We would have embraced and loved the babies and Molly through this bump in the road but she did not want to disappoint us. A year and a half later, a prayer Molly wrote fell out of one of her Bibles.  She was telling God that she had made a life changing mistake and that she did not want to hurt me, her dad, her brother and sister.  She begged for a second chance.  For awhile, I hated God.  It has been a struggle between us but He has stuck with me.  To quote Molly’s sister Emily’s Facebook post last night:  “At the top of things for which I am grateful: 4 years ago tonight I shared a late night conversation that included laughter and concluded with I love you.  When I woke to learn I had to say goodbye, there was nothing left to say.  Love your children, love your parents, love your siblings, and tell them that you do”.



  1. Pingback: What nobody tells you about grief…. #1 of infinity | MollyROCK (Radical Open Conversation and Kindess..
  2. vickiebarber · December 15, 2014

    You have a beautiful, soul Jerri Garner. That was painful to read. Thank you for sharing. You are brave. Much love,
    Vickie Barber

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Tina · December 15, 2014

    Wow, what an amazing family you are! Thank you so much for sharing your stories. It is with tears streaming down my face that I say I am so sorry for the pain and fear Molly was feeling. I too made the choice when I was 18 to put myself in a position where I was date-raped and a pregnancy came was the result. I was only 18 with Catholic parents who were NOT happy with me. I felt like such a disappointment to them and to God. I did go through with the pregnancy, but was told by my parents that, if I left the hospital with a baby in my arms, that I would not be welcome into their home. They did not want to raise another child they said, nor help me raise mine. So, I had an emergency c-section at 7 1/2 months and gave birth to a 3 lb 10 oz baby boy. I begged for them to let me keep him, but they refused. He ended up in the loving arms of an amazing adoptive family. God couldn’t have given him a better family! It was a closed adoption but I was able to meet him 10 years ago, when he turned 19. We have a great relationship now, although it is very tough for us to get together, as he lives in Utah and I in Georgia. I really wish I knew Molly… really. If somehow she would have confided in me I could have talk to her about how things would be okay and how the Lord gave her such an amazing family to lean on. I’m so, so sorry for your loss. But, I am also so happy for you that you were able to have Molly’s love in your life for all the years you did – she sounds like a beautiful soul! Hugs and prayers for you and your family. Thank you to Kathy Wesley for sharing your story!


  4. Lindy Farr Spinks · December 18, 2014

    Thank you for sharing this. What a beautiful tribute to your daughter. Prayers for you this Christmas and all through the years.


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