Before I get into money, I want to say this. I felt The Lord at every moment in that courtroom. For example, the judge that normally presides in Sumter, for some reason that I can’t remember, swapped time with our judge. So having a mother as a judge made me feel so much better. I remember her warm smile. Her name was The Honorable Paula H. Thomas. We ultimately give God all the praise and glory in our journey. His blessings have been abundant and we are humbled.
I was teaching fourth grade and I loved it. I would still be teaching and would be in my 16th year had Lizzy been born without complications. We would live in a normal sized home just like our other teacher friends. I worked with so many wonderful women (and a few men) that supported me throughout this journey. I will always be grateful for their friendship and love. I miss them. I loved my Wilder Family!!
Damon and I decided that because Lizzy was starting preschool in the public school at 3 years old and just having Emily, it would be best for me to stay home. Going from two incomes to one was extremely difficult. This was in 2002. Three years before our trial.
We went back to court two more times before we would receive Lizzy’s money. It wasn’t until 2006 that we had it. All of it has been invested. My astro van died picking up Emily from preschool in 2005. We traded it in for a beautiful brand new Honda Odyssey. It was perfect. It was this year that Damon made me trade it in. It had 170,000 miles on it. I cried over that van. It was perfect for Lizzy. We did get another Odyssey, but it’s not the same. However, I have stopped crying over it.
We had a home built in 2007. Damon had an idea of what he wanted for Lizzy. We definitely wanted a therapy gym for her, her own ADA (Americans with Disability Act) bathroom, and a good size bedroom for her to move around in. Lizzy is legally blind so it wasn’t going to be glamorous because that isn’t what she needs. In fact, nothing in our life is or has ever been glamorous. So with Damon’s idea drawn out, along with our builder (who is our neighbor) our home was planned. If you were to pull up to our home, you won’t see pillars or lion statues. Nothing fancy, in fact, one of our garage doors isn’t working.
Damon still has his 2005 Toyota Tundra. It just hit 100,000 miles.
Last year (2014) we purchased a 2007 motor home. We would take a family vacation and Lizzy would have to stay back because of travel issues. I would cry every time and say “this isn’t a family vacation when one of us isn’t here.” I was so sad. So Damon said a few years back, this is something we need. We will save a little and then get it. Hands down, the best purchase we ever made and one of the best decisions!!!!
We had a life care planner help with what we would need for Lizzy for the future. Basically, we went to court to receive a stipend each month to care for Lizzy. With what we won for Lizzy, we can care for her for the rest of her life. We fought tooth and nail for that little girl.
We said from the very beginning that this was Lizzy’s money. We want to use it in a way that she would be proud of us. And we have done just that. We are a charitable family. We see a need; we will help fill that need. That is what Lizzy would want, I’m sure of that. We try to be good stewards of her money.
We know that people are curious and have always answered questions honestly and openly. We have never flaunted or been showy about it. Damon and I are the same people that we were before we won that day. We just have, like, five more dollars in the bankJ
We have experienced people who are “jealous” of what we have. Some of them didn’t know about Lizzy and some of them did. For those that did know, we would give every cent back to have our Lizzy say “I love you,” or “hey dad”. In a heartbeat, every penny!!!! I would also say to them, “let’s trade lives for just an hour.” You can tell when someone is genuine and sincere. They ask about Lizzy and really want to know how she is.
Lizzy will be 16 this year. We are ready.
Side note: I asked Damon to read over this for me and add or take out anything he wanted. He says it has a different feel to it. It’s a little edgy. Let me say this. I would never want to offend or hurt anyone with anything that I say. Our focus has always been about Lizzy.