In August of 2018, Liz’s brother-in-law (the father of her two nieces and one nephew) unexpectedly, and tragically, passed away at the age of 40, leaving behind his three young children and wife (Liz’s sister, Brooke) who was battling stage four breast cancer.
Waves of shock and despair ripped through our community as many who either knew Brooke personally or knew her story watched as the unfathomable became reality. Liz, her husband, Jon, and their three children immediately left behind their lives in Florida to make Columbia their new home.
Liz and Jon devoted themselves to caring for Brooke through her treatments, helping with their nieces and nephew, and began cultivating new jobs, new schools, new lives here in the Midlands. And when Liz’s sister passed away, she and her husband Jon took in Brooke’s children as their own.
With six children at home, ranging from ages seven to ten, there is rarely a dull moment in the Fisher house. In fact, they recently bought a new home out in the country – a home to add on to, fill with animals (Liz is an animal lover), and to enjoy as the children grow. It’s a home where happy memories of Brooke and Justin dwell, where kids have plenty of room to run and explore, and where the already tight bond between siblings and cousins can be made that much deeper.
Nearly a thousand times a day Liz Fisher hears her name called, whether it’s “mom” or “Aunt B.” And she wouldn’t have it any other way.
We all know that being a parent comes with its own unique set of challenging circumstances, whatever they may be, but when life takes you to a place you never expected to be, with trials you never imagined – how do you respond?
I wanted to find out more about how Liz has been able to so graciously walk this unfamiliar road; one where grief and the beauty of an unfailing spirit intersect. So I recently sat down with her to ask her about her experience.
What was your career before coming to Columbia?
Until January of 2020 I worked in supply chain for an oil and gas company. A career that I’ve had since graduating with my MBA in 2008. I took a leave of absence in 2020 as Brooke’s health was rapidly declining. Then after her passing, knowing how difficult the upcoming months would be (but not knowing about the pandemic), I left the workforce altogether. It was extremely difficult leaving the workforce, and there is a part of me that has really missed that element of my life.
How do you navigate raising three children who have experienced such profound grief, while you yourself are still grieving the loss of your sister and brother-in-law?
This is very difficult, though I think parenting the three Turner children is a huge comfort to my grief. I mean that in the sense that I feel pieces of Brooke and Justin live on within the kids, and also the joy I see from these kids despite their horrific few years is validation to me of God’s love and faithfulness. One thing I’ve realized is that the grieving process for all of us – but especially the kids – started five years ago when Brooke was diagnosed. Brooke poured into them for all of those years, especially after Justin died, and I feel like the Lord has given them a peace that passeth all that we can understand…
How do you maintain your identity as a mom/aunt of six?
This may be the most difficult. My identity has so much been that as a mom, especially since I have left the workforce. But there’s also a big part of me, one that goes back even to childhood, that finds myself trying to merge my identity with that of Brooke’s. And God has been working on me in this. There are ways that I am fundamentally different than my sister and God has made me that way and specifically knitted me together with full knowledge of what was to pass in my lifetime. I feel the move to the farm is helping me a lot-it is a part of me that has been put on the back burner for so many years with the kids. Now I feel that a lot of the ‘true me’ is coming out as I enjoy a lot more time out in nature on our property.
How do you weave in memories, and the legacy Brooke and Justin would want for their children?
This is something that happens organically. We always talk about them..very openly. Jon or I will ask them questions about their lives before (when we weren’t around), and I’ll share memories from my childhood and the pre-kid years with Brooke. We tell stories about our shenanigans as newlyweds. We’ve so often said, “What would Brooke and Justin want in THIS situation?” And one consistent answer is pointing them to Jesus and demonstrating the love God has demonstrated to us.
Liz and I discussed a few other topics in regard to their family life as I was trying to understand the dynamics and how they play out; how the different hearts have been intertwined through grief, through big transitions, and through the added everyday responsibility from outgrown tennis shoes to appointments, and birthdays.
I ended up coming to the conclusion that it’s something far more simple, yet profound that has enabled this sweet family to not only survive; but thrive: the love they have for God and each other: Rooted, secure, deep.
Moms to See in the 803 is a series highlighting local moms who are making a difference in our community or in business. Want to tell us about an inspiring mom who is doing something great? Send us an email!