Loss is never an easy thing to overcome. For Letitia Nalley, loss left an indescribable void that she would later seek to fill.
Letitia’s son, Jeremy, passed away when he was just 26 years old. Jeremy bravely battled IPEX syndrome, which involves the development of multiple autoimmune disorders.
“When you care for someone every day, and they go away, you’re lost,” said Letitia.
Healing from that loss felt impossible for Letitia, her partner Glen, and the whole family. They couldn’t imagine life without Jeremy. But for them, healing came in the form of a new family member, Tammy. Before Jeremy passed away, he was part of Roanoke’s Opening People to Individual Opportunities in a Network of Support day support program, or OPTIONS. Tammy was, too. A couple months after Jeremy’s death, Letitia learned that Tammy’s dad, her caregiver, was sick and unable to care for her. She had nowhere to go, so Letitia and her family—which included two daughters adopted in 2011— opened their home and their hearts to Tammy, hoping it would help them heal.
After welcoming Tammy into her home, Letitia began taking her to OPTIONS. That’s where she heard about DePaul’s Sponsored Residential program. Once it was certain Tammy could not live with her dad again, Letitia and Glen became sponsored residential providers. Caring for Jeremy was completely different than caring for Tammy, but the feelings were the same—commitment, love, trust. The family adjusted to their new normal with Tammy, who they call “a real blessing, a real sweetheart.” The family even brought Tammy’s dad from the nursing home for visits.
As the days and months passed and the family grew closer, an idea started to emerge. “What if we could bring another person in need home?” Letitia thought.
With the help of DePaul, Cindy came home in 2018. She and Tammy were complete opposites. Cindy is quiet and more reserved. Spontaneous as opposed to structured. It was a big change and a big responsibility, but Letitia and Glen say the reward was bigger than those combined.
“Caring for Tammy and Cindy is very fulfilling. They really do become family,” said Glen.
These days, Glen and Letitia rely on a routine. They work as a team and give Tammy and Cindy the best care they can. Letitia takes them for “Girls’ Day Out.” Tammy still goes to OPTIONS one day a week, while Cindy prefers to stay home and watch her soap operas.
“It’s amazing. It’s heartwarming. They both are just so grateful,” said Letitia.
Letitia says she and her family are still healing from the loss of Jeremy. Nothing, not even time, can erase the memories of Jeremy or the pain they felt when he left this world. But today, Letitia and Glen are happy, even in their grief because they have been able to provide a safe and loving home for two women who need them.