Continuing in Faith…The Journey To Opening An Angel’s Foundation

The “Nina Moments leading up to the opening of her foundation have been at times spiritually unbelievable…except for continued faith. Please allow me to share with you these Nina Moments.

Our foundation, honoring our daughter and sister, started out as a plan, but whose plan? Our Christina went to heaven unexpectedly. The grief for our family was unbearable, as it is for anyone who loses a loved one.

Father Jude (Center)

Nina Moment… Father Jude, was the celebrant for the Celebration of Christina’s Life. I had told him when my grief was so unbearable that a yellow butterfly would appear out of nowhere he told me that Our Heavenly Father allows our loved ones to come through the veil to try and bring comfort because they see our sadness. I told him, “We are lost Father Jude,” he told me  “Josephine, you must listen, for our Heavenly Father will tell you what your next journey will be.”  I can’t tell you how I held those words close to my aching mom heart in FAITH that He would and through Nina Moments, Our Heavenly Father did.

Nina Moment… Barely six months had passed since Christina had gone to heaven, that my caring neighbor and friend Sue Winegarden sent me an email telling me about Grief Share at Moody Methodist Church. It’s a special weekly support group for people grieving the death of a loved one. There I met Larry & Kerrie Highley church members of Moody Methodist they themselves had lost their beautiful daughter, Emily. Together they are an amazing blessed couple that opened their hearts to those seeking comfort.

I am not one for support groups even when Nina was born, but I had reached the point of feeling like I was crawling out of my skin with desperation just to see her to touch her to just to wake up and this not be happening. What an amazing gift Sue gave to me.  It is a 13 week session a place where you can be around people who understand the pain of a loss. They are held throughout the US, Canada and in over 10 other countries. To learn more, go to griefshare.org. Maybe by sharing this information with you can in turn can help someone else.

Nina Moment… I met a woman who had lost her mother, and after the group session she came up to me and I hugged her and not long after we were crying and amidst the tears she told me that her granddaughter was much like Christina, and she was about to lose SSI and her daughter didn’t know what she was going to do. I pushed her away with a smile on my face, wiped away my tears and said with a smile “I can help you with that!” Another Nina Moment. So, I drove home a little faster, rushing to tell Craig of the “aha” moment that had been given to me that night by our Heavenly Father. He had that look in his eyes like “Oh know now what is she thinking”. I told him, who of all people could help others in need of compassion dealing with a loved one who requires so much and with everything we endured making sure she had all she needed in her almost 33 years of her precious life. We were listening and so the journey began…

Nina Moment… Weeks had gone by and were on our usual run and walk on the Seawall. Before we had gotten out of the car we both started crying. When I got back in the car Craig hadn’t made it back yet I was looking out over the gulf waters and started yelling at the top of my lungs, calling out for my daughter, “Where are you, Mommy? Daddy and I are lost.” That same day, we had to hurry back home, because Gloria, lovingly known as Glowi (started out as caregiver, then became a loving second mom and a loving member of our family for over 27 years) was picking up a wheelchair of Nina’s that we were donating to a family.

As we started to place the wheelchair in her car she began to cry. In consoling her, I began to cry, Craig put his arms around us and soon we were all in tears. Craig said, “Nina, is watching over us always.”  Gloria wiped away her tears, closed the hatch and said, “Sissy, look up!” I looked up! Above us floated a set of clouds in the shape of an angel. It was actually saying to us, I am happy & I am okay, and I am watching over you all. Spiritually it was overwhelming, the sign we had been given that day. Another Nina Moment… from this blessed event came the strokes of creative love from her brother Christian. He took the angel cloud and the yellow butterfly that is now his sister’s foundation’s logo.

From Left to Right: Billy Garrison, Gayle Monsour, Christian Sullivan, Tony Brown (Back), Lissette Brown, Kristie Garrison

Nina Moment… Time passed and our son was having an art showing for Art Walk in Galveston. The Garrison Family Bill, Kristie & Billy a very special family that when we moved back to Galveston made us feel very loved and welcomed us into their family, brought some of their friends along. She said, “Beep, you remember Lissette we all went to school together at O’Connell.” It was so good to see her again and to meet her husband, Tony. He came up to
me, and we just started talking about Christina, I wanted to share everything that had happened from the yellow butterflies appearing in places she had once been—twice on the handicap railing where she once sat at TCU’s stadium, where she attended football games with her family, and once inside the passenger window of Craig’s car—to the woman at grief share and her granddaughter, and taking out my phone, I showed him the angel cloud that appeared in the sky. All of these were Nina Moments. I then said to him, we are trying to build a foundation that assists brain-injured children, adults and their families. He looked at me and he said, “Beep, I’m an attorney and I would like our firm (McLeod, Alexander, Powell and Apffel. PC) to file a 501(c)3 Non-profit for you, Craig and Christian honoring Christina, pro-bono.” I was speechless immediately thinking it was my beautiful daughter again; I was overjoyed just so thankful for Tony Brown’s incredible Act of Kindness to a complete stranger.

Nina Moment… The next step was to go to his office and sign papers.  He said a CPA by the name of Ann Masel wanted to talk to us about offering her services. She told us about her husband, who was very interested in what we had to offer to brain injured individuals because he is Dr. Brent Masel a Neurologist who founded the Transitional Learning Center in 1982 with The Non-Profit Moody Foundation, which deals with acute brain injury after Moody’s son, Russel Moody, was involved in a serious motor-vehicle accident that resulted in a brain injury. Currently, Dr. Brent Masel is part of the staff at University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) and is also the National Medical Director for the Brain Injury Association of America. Craig, Christian and I met with him on several occasions about the foundation and it’s mission to help severely brain injured individuals and their families.  Another Nina Moment…

We are honored that Dr. Masel is a member of the board of directors of the Christina Grillo Sullivan Foundation.

The Christina Grillo Sullivan Foundation is a “Network of Guardians for Hope & Guidance” Assisting Individuals with brain injury their families and care givers in all fifty states providing them with a network of resources and hope.

Although she is not with us here on this earth she is all around us through the lives she continues to touch through her foundation. I reflect back to what our dear friend Brother Al of the Catholic Marianist Order spiritually said, “Instead of praying for Christina… We now can pray to her.” I will always keep an open heart and watch for the next Nina Moment.

He will give them to you, all your needs, if you give Him first place in your life as He wants you to…Matthew 6:33,34

 

 

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