Disclaimer: This family is near and dear to me. They are near and dear to many, many people. My heart is breaking for them and I am using this blog as a forum to share their story and ask for help.
When I first met the Merrills, I instantly fell in love with Roland’s quick wit and Patti’s calm demeanor. Then I discovered Patti was expecting twins and I thought they were downright crazy. I was young and immature and didn’t understand that sometimes things just happen. I didn’t understand then that we are merely voyagers on a journey with God at the helm. Through my developing friendship with the Merrills, I have learned so many amazing life lessons and grown up a little (Ah, it’s nice to mature and gain wisdom as an adult through friends and mentors. Agreed?) I was so so so naive and narrow in my twenties. That was almost 13 years ago. Since then our families have developed an amazing friendship. Patti helped me fall head-over-heals in love with photography. She helped me transition my kids into their roles as big brothers every time a new little one made a showing, causing me to be a better mom. Patti helped me to trust in the Lord and let things just be. Roland was an answer to prayer for my husband on so many levels. Through Patti and Roland we scored BIG time!
When I look at these pictures of this family, memories flood into my mind of so many good times. I feel an enormous amount of strength from them that grounds me like an anchor. This family has seen its share of sorrow and joy. In the words of my husband: “We met them not long after the loss of one of their young daughters to a drowning accident. Roland, would later have back problems and underwent three major back surgeries leaving him in severe pain for years, and without the ability to work. Patti pursued several job options and her love of photography to help provide for the family needs.
“These times of financial and health challenges lasted over five years, during which time they were constantly struggling to make ends meet, dealing with large medical bills and providing for their 7 children. One of the most amazing things about Patti and Roland is how they constantly help others … giving their time, talents and money to help. They are always first to offer assistance and a friendly handshake, followed by a warm meal, a helping hand or a place to stay.
“The Merrills helped several families who were in need of child care, and Roland continued to risk his injured back by helping people move, performing general home repairs and even repairing vehicles for those in need. Once when I was in a particularly difficult financial situation, Roland offered to take out a second mortgage on his home to help me out. Although I declined his generosity, I was amazed at his kindness and willingness to put his needs aside and completely give everything to help. The Merrill family has done this for dozens and dozens of other families that stand in need, always offering to take in the needy, help the stranded or offer friendship to the downhearted.” ~ Jeb Morgenegg
Can you get over the good genes? Each and every one of them is so good looking. I always felt like this family were the models for Lilo and Stitch. I also for the longest time thought they were Hawaiian, until I met Patti’s mom who is 100% Japanese. Ah hah! See, my twenties were kind of a growth period for me 😉
Crazy how things can flip on a dime: Last Tuesday night this happened, as told from Erika (pictured above) …
“On Tuesday November 25th my husband, two young boys, 17 yr old sister and I were traveling from Provo, Utah, to Aurora, Colorado, for Thanksgiving. We hit black ice in Wyoming. The car rolled three times when hitting the dry gravel. The investigators estimated that at the time the car rolled we were going 40mph. All the side windows were broken out and none of the doors would open.
When the car stopped rolling I felt like I just had the wind knocked out of me. I don’t think I was unconscious at all. I immediately turned the car’s engine off and turned the hazard lifts on. After pulling clothing out of suitcases and burying my two babies to keep them warm I jumped out of the broken driver’s side window to start searching for my husband and sister who were no longer in the vehicle. Right away I found my sister Naomi maybe 20 ft away from the car. After covering her up with some clothing I continued yelling at the top of my lungs for my sweet husband.
I could not find him anywhere. I couldn’t find anyone’s cell phones. I was going off the little light there was from the hazard lights on our car and anything else there might have been from the moon or maybe a street light. I remember it being very dark and freezing cold. I needed to stop someone driving by before conditions got worse and time continued to pass. I was so worried my husband was under the car.
I ran as quickly and as carefully to the road as I could. I stood part way into the lane closest to me waving my arms above my head in a white jacket against the black road and sky behind me. No one would pull over and help me. The thought came to my mind that no one was going to stop. I needed to go back to my car and find a phone. After searching frantically and reassuring Kadon that his Daddy was not dead, just missing and I would find him I decided to return back to the road.
After quite a few cars passed me by yet again finally a car pulled over with two men that had been working on the rail road that night. These men called 911 for me and immediately started searching for Kevin with large bright flashlights they had. They found Kevin a long ways from our car laying on his back, head up against a fence. He, like Naomi was unconscious.
Shortly after finding him a hwy trooper arrived bring us more blankets we covered Naomi and Kevin with. The trooper immediately loaded my boys into his patrol car out if the mist, wind and cold. Not too much longer after that three ambulances arrived to take us to the nearest hospital 30-45 minutes away.
I remember not feeling my little baby moving anymore and my stomach contracting a ton. I was so sure I had lost my baby and would have to deliver an 8 month old still born on top of everything that had just happened…
I am so incredibly thankful for all the things that went right in this terrible accident. I’m thankful my boys were without a scratch and my unborn son is healthy and fine. I’m thankful our car landed right side up. I’m so very thankful that I was wearing my seatbelt and was conscious and able to get my family the help they needed. I’m so thankful for the wonderful men who helped me call 911 and find my sweet husband. I’m thankful for all of the prayers and support from everyone all around the world. Please keep it coming. We still have a long, hard road ahead of us.”
Instead of spending awesome time together as family over Thanksgiving,Roland and Patti immediately rushed to Wyoming to join their injured loved ones. Patti hopped on a life-flight plane with Naomi and Kevin bound for Salt Lake City, the closest major trauma hospital.
The kids who remained at home in the capable hands of their siblings spent Thanksgiving not knowing if their sister was going to live or die or if their beloved brother-in-law was going to see the birth of his third son. So much was uncertain.
Erika remained in Wyoming for two days following the accident. She sustained major bruising across her neck and swollen abdomen. Her contractions stopped and her unborn baby stayed safe and sound inside her tummy.
The car. Notice the roof stayed up for the passengers in the back.
I titled this post Ripple Effects because that is a defining term that comes to mind when I think of the Merrills. Love and kindness spreads from this family and not only envelops all who know them, but creates a momentum that compels others to carry forward that spirit. To some they have given shelter. To others they have given food. And to all they have given love, comfort, safety and joy. The ripple that emanates from their amazing core radiates beyond any borders and touches and blesses countless lives.
I look forward to the time when I can see them all together and smiling again, but for now I take comfort in knowing that, due to the generosity of some dear friends, the remaining children were able to travel from Denver to Salt Lake over the weekend. Their family is together again.
Erika’s husband, Kevin is self-employed and does not have health insurance. Patti and Roland will be missing a lot of work. The bills will be astronomical. Friends of the Merrill family have begun taking donations through the “give forward” website. The need to help cover their bills will be great.
Please donate if you can and help this sweet family. They could be your family, they could be anyone’s family.
The Donation site set up for the family is https://www.giveforward.com/fundraiser/4mp6/support-the-merrill-amp-grow-family
Verification of this story can be found at these sites:
Patti Merrill https://www.facebook.com/patti.g.merrill?fref=nf
Roland Merrill https://www.facebook.com/roland.merrill.7?pnref=lhc