How One Family’s Loss Reminded My Community We Need A Year-Round Giving Season

One family helped change my daughter's life, now I'm trying to give back.

Kathy Manochi's smile always makes me smile. Not just responsively, but in my heart first.

No matter my mood. No matter the weather. Kathy always has a smile filled with genuine love and kindness. Kathy drives my first grader's school bus and she has since my daughter's first big step up onto one as a 4-year-old preschooler.

Kathy has been there through our transition to full-day school, through a move to a new house, and through my first baby turning into a big girl first grader. Kathy has been a consistent source of support for both my daughter and for me.

Every single parent I've ever talked to about Kathy feels this same way. She's somehow a family member in every child's family she's ever worked with, but we're not completely sure if she knows it.

Our family took a blow recently. Our entire community — all of these parents and school staff and neighbors who know Kathy's honest smile, dedication, and generosity — have been shaken by the sudden death of her husband David. And while our "family" is taking this hard, Kathy and her three children with Dave were the ones really hit with a crisis.

The Manochi family
The Manochi family

Crushing shock, overwhelming grief, and the devastating loss of her soulmate were weighted further by financial disaster. Mere days after Thanksgiving and their father's death, Kathy and Dave's kids started a GoFundMe campaign to share what Kathy now faces. And to ask for help.

On the morning of November 30th, 2017, just days after our holiday family get together, we unexpectedly lost our father, David Manochi, to a sudden and tragic heart attack at the age of 60. He had many health struggles in his life, including multiple back surgeries and knee replacements, but his doctors always said he had a strong heart. We're all still in shock and disbelief that he is gone.

We affectionately called him Papa Bear, and we were his bear cubs. He was truly a family man, and all he wanted was to provide the best possible life and opportunities for his wife and children. He loved us all unconditionally and would go to any length to help us accomplish our goals. We will forever miss his laugh, the faces he made, the sparkle in his eyes, his epic beard, his confidence to fix anything, and his hugs, the best hugs in the world.

This has been beyond difficult for all of us, but its been especially crushing for our mother, Kathy Manochi. They knew they were soulmates from the very beginning, and they were each other's world. Through thick and thin, sickness and health, they never lost that feeling for each other. They were so proud of what they had, and accepting assistance from others has always been difficult for them. Unfortunately, due in part to medical bills for his back and knee surgeries over the years, they have been unable to afford life insurance for quite some time. Our mother could use as much financial support as possible to assist with the expenses of his passing and with the repairs of their home in preparation of now having to sell. If you'd like to donate, any amount you can give would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you so much,

Angie, Nichole, Ryan, and Kathy.

Ryan, Nichole, and Angie are doing everything they can to help earn enough money to help their mother financially survive this, let alone begin to process the survival of a broken heart, while going through their own trauma.

Nichole says she didn't want her mom's story to end this way.

"This is all just still overwhelming as a family and individually," Nichole shared. "It hardly feels real still, in so many ways. It's hard to accept what our mom has to deal with financially, while feeling completely lost and scared of the world without her soulmate. It's also hard to accept that he won't be at any more birthdays, holidays, or just here to chat with or ask advice. He never got to walk his daughters down the aisle or be a grandpa…Our mom has always worked so hard, with multiple jobs to keep up with all the bills, including medical bills for all the surgeries and recovering our dad had to go through. She took care of him, did anything she could to make him happy or more comfortable. Our mom always put others first. Always offered a helping hand. Always showed love, not hate. She deserved to grow old with our dad and live out their dreams." She adds, "I'd do anything to have him back."

As I take in these memories and descriptions of people who love one another more than anything else in the world, I feel their brightness — this inherited optimism and dedication — grow and build.

I have a child who loves school and looks forward to each morning when she gets to walk up the stairs on the bus, thanks to Kathy. Every single parent I've spoken to has experienced this same osmosis of her motivation, deep joy and fulfillment, and, when truly needed — like a gift — perseverance.

My daughter misses Kathy on the bus, in these absent days following such a tragic pause. She wants to have her back and to have life continue as before.

How do you explain to a child how deeply life will never be the same? How do you articulate to a child someone we love isn't OK in their heart when even we adults can't process it? One day, she asked exactly what we, our community, have been doing for Miss Kathy. I told her simply, "We're trying to change the end of her story."

This new ending is surreal, unwanted, and unplanned. But what if we can help her with this new start?

Giving back to this shining example of whom many of us try to be — hardworking, gracious, sincere — doesn't feel selfless. It feels necessary.

"Going through this has also helped open my eyes to things I need to work on, like not procrastinating, and finishing things I start, and living life to the fullest," Ryan said, "because there's no guarantee of tomorrow."

Click here to donate to the David Manochi Memorial Fund for his wife, Kathy.

Jennifer White is an A Plus contributor. This post originally appeared on her blog here


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