On the day Avery Neill died, Shelly Wenzel helped Emily Neill wrap the girl in a blanket.

She held Avery and Emily for a long time.

“I want you to turn around and go right to Andy’s arms, OK?” she finally told her. “Hold on to each other. I’ve got her.

“I’ve got her.”

Every time the hospice nurse works with a family in crisis, she says a quick prayer: Give me the words, and show me what I need to do.

That’s what she did on Mother’s Day, when she carried Avery’s body down to a waiting vehicle.

“If we can go into a home and support everybody through this end-of-life process, we are giving holistic care for the entire family,” she says. “We are by their side through all of it, especially the scariest parts.”

Shelly, who’s been a nurse for 27 years, is able to set aside her feelings during those times.

“It’s not about me,” she says. “Since I was a little girl, I wanted to be a nurse. It’s absolutely the path God wanted me to take.”

Shelly, a case manager for Transitions Kids, says that her team provides seamless support to families. “No parent should do this alone.”

Team members continue support during the grieving process, she says. “There are milestones that you miss, and there’s a gaping hole that will never be filled.”

Shelly and Emily are working through Avery’s death together, she says. Emily knows that someone is out there who will go through her deepest, darkest moments with her.

“Those kind of experiences make me who I am,” Shelly says.

And when Shelly told Emily, “I’ve got her,” Shelly knew that her co-workers were, in turn, supporting her. “I carried Avery, but they carried me. Nobody is as fortunate as I am to work with a team as incredible as we have.”

— by Susan Shinn Turner
Freelance writer Susan Shinn Turner lives in Raleigh.