It is there, on the one-year anniversary of her parents’ death, in front of family and close friends, that she will spread part of her parents’ ashes.
A year ago her, life was very different.
The 911 call came in as a car wreck.
A neighbor on a quiet county road saw a bloody woman walking up his driveway pleading for help and, assuming she had been in a wreck, called for the ambulance.
The bleeding woman was Reshay. She made her way into his house and grabbed a piece of paper and wrote down she had been shot.
She was the survivor of a double homicide/suicide that claimed the lives of both of her parents and her estranged husband.
Awoke in the hospital
She woke up in the hospital and her first thought was her daughter, Layel. She said she was unable to speak because her mouth was wired shut.
The first thing she remembers writing when she got out of surgery is ‘Where is Layel?’
“She (Layel) is all I thought about in my struggle for life. I just had her in my mind and I just thought I wanted to see my baby girl,” she said.
Reshay was in intensive care during part of her stay in the hospital and unfortunately babies were not allowed in intensive care.
“Family members were taking videos and photos of (Layel) while she was in the hospital and that kind of kept me going,” Reshay said.
Immediately after being released from the hospital, Reshay moved in with her brother Ryan and sister in-law Kristi.
She said they opened their home to her and Layel and were an integral part of her recovery.
Along with her own recovery was Layel’s continued treatment. Layel was born with arthogryposis, a condition that limits movement of multiple joints within the body. She receives treatments at a Shriners Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia.
Less than a month after Reshay’s ordeal, she made the trip to Philadelphia to take Layel to see her doctor.
Reshay was Layel’s only parent now.
“I decided I was going to keep on pressing on with life and she’s got to be taken care of and these are her needs,” Reshay said. “My brother opted to go with me to Philadelphia and we got her taken care of.”
When she returned, the recovery continued for both of them.
Returning her smile
Reshay has endured three facial surgeries since she was shot and still has two more to go. Along with the surgeries was one serious infection and months of not eating because of her mouth being closed.
She is skin and bones for such a tall person. She has lost 20 pounds due to not being able to eat for months at a time after the surgeries. She has learned to love protein shakes because that is all she could have.
However, she said she has persevered and kept her head up.
A mother’s advice
She said the most important thing that her parents taught her was “to love, forgive and keep a smile on your face.”
She said her daughter keeps her going every day but there are other people that she has become close to in the last year that have really helped her keep moving forward.
One of those people is Traci Tomlin.
“Traci approached me at a get-together that we were having and she looked at me and said, ‘You look like you could use some help and if you’ll allow me to help you, I really want to help you so you can try to get back to life,’ and soon after that there she was,” Reshay said. “We have become extremely close. I go to her. She is the person who wipes away my tears when I am having those hard days.”
Tomlin and her family opened their home to Reshay and Layel at one point and they lived with the Tomlins for six weeks.
“It has been a healing process for me to have them in my life,” she said. “Every time I was in the hospital she took care of Layel and she was just so uplifting for me.”
Reshay’s life-changing experience not only brought Tomlin into her life as a dear friend but made her closer to her own brother and sister-in-law.
“I think once you realize what if you don’t have tomorrow, you think more about what you would like to do today. Because tomorrow’s never guaranteed. I take every day as a gift now,” she said.
Reshay said Layel is a constant in her life and keeps her getting out of bed every morning. She can hear her down the hall talking or crying and knows it is time to get up.
Layel’s condition has kept her from walking but Reshay remains optimistic that it will happen one day.
“That is why I continue to strive and try to do anything that I can to get her there,” she explained. “That is why we make all those countless trips to Philadelphia to see her specialist there. For me there are no limits when it comes to Layel.”
Her face lights up when she tells of how during their trip to Philadelphia last week Layel took her first steps in a walker.
A change in outlook
Both Reshay and her daughter have endured a lot the past year and it has caused her outlook on life to change.
“I think I have had to go through so much to be here, to survive and struggle and I see what my daughter has to go through every day and my outlook on life has completely changed because I don’t take things for granted anymore. I would say as individuals we all take things for granted at some point but you never know when something can happen.”
Though she has moved past what happened, she doesn’t see a life path yet.
“I feel like since the day Layel was born, even before, I have dedicated my life to her and her disorder, and trying to get her where she needs to be,” Reshay said.
While a mother is her main job and she feels it always will be, she has tossed around other ideas such as a motivational speaker or even an author.
“I feel like if only just one person in the room (heard my story) got it and listened and that helped them to make a change in their life...that’s the biggest thing for me,” she said.
Prayer as a comfort
Prayer also has been a guiding light through all of this.
Reshay has grown close to Pastor Jesse Berthold at New Life Church in Beeville. Not only was he her father’s best friend, but he has helped to guide Reshay spiritually.
“I have gotten through this because I have prayed about it,” she said.
When Reshay describes how she gets through her day, there is a certain amount of truth and certainty in her voice. She lives what she preaches and it works for her.
She encourages not just prayer but pure positive thought.
“Look around and look at all the wonderful things that there are in life.
“You’ve got your health. You’ve got your family. Everything may not be perfect and it’s never going to be perfect but just stop and think about all the things you do have instead of all things that you don’t have,” she said.
“There are just too many good things out there to be thankful for.”
It’s not over yet
She will have another surgery next month. Doctors will inject a substance into where her jawbone once was. Over a one-year period, bone will grow there. The final step will be placing in new teeth. That step is still more than a year away.
“They told me from the beginning, ‘You are going to have to have a lot of patience,’” she said.
Patience is something she is not short on. It has been a long year for her.
She said part of her healing process was moving back into her parents’ home.
“I made the decision to make peace, and what happened, it did happen in that house, but my parents are my guardian angels and they watch me,” she said.
Part of moving back in the home included remodeling.
“When I concrete stained the floors, I had two crosses engraved.”
The crosses are in front of the door where her mother’s body was found.
“I felt like I made their house my and Layel’s home and in my heart I felt my parents would have wanted that,” Reshay said.
“I want people to know there is life after what I have been through and no, it hasn’t been easy but in life we make a choice to either be positive and have a good life or we can sit around and feel sorry for ourselves.
“In my case I went with choice A,” she said.