May 9, 2009
Mother working on series of short stories to honor daughter
Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
Michelle Marshall-King lost her daughter, Jessica King, two years ago. Marshall-King is working on a series of short stories related to her daughter’s life.
Michelle Marshall-King hopes people who knew her daughter can help offer a broader perspective for a series of short stories she intends to write.
Marshall-King’s daughter Jessica died April 2, 2007, of a rare childhood disease, alternating hemiplegia of childhood syndrome. It causes seizures and periods of paralysis throughout the body. There is no known cure.
Jessica was 20 years old when she died, but doctors had not expected her to live past her fifth birthday.
Marshall-King, of 25 Pendleton St., wants anyone who met or spent time with Jessica to share with her a story about their experiences with her daughter.
She wants to use those perspectives to help craft a series of short stories geared for handicapped young children and their parents, but that could also be used for any child. It would be called the “Ms. Miracle” series, the name of which is also engraved on Jessica’s headstone.
Doctors could not provide her with any medical reason for what kept Jessica alive for 20 years.
“They said it was the bond between her and I that kept her alive,” Marshall-King said.
While she has many fond memories of her daughter, Marshall-King said Jessica had many facets to her character and treated everyone she knew in a unique way.
Each story would feature Jessica as the character and focus on different experiences, including real photos of her. She plans to first circulate the stories to the Michigan-based AHC Foundation, a volunteer organization which was founded in 1993.
Marshall-King said the stories would hopefully be a reminder for people not to give up hope, even when their lives seem bleak. She said Jessica, despite her illness, never lost a sense of humor.
“She never let it take her spirit,” Marshall-King said.
Jessica was still eager to do her chores and help out around the house. On Halloween, her job was to hand out candy to trick-or-treaters, Marshall-King said.
Taking care of Jessica became a full-time commitment, but Marshall-King said it allowed her to become closer with Jessica.
Marshall-King closed her local medical billing business, 1-Step Ahead, about four years before Jessica died so she could give full attention to her daughter.
Marshall-King completed her master’s degree in business administration at SUNY Cortland this year.
She works as a marketing representative at the Cortland Area Tribune, a bi-weekly community newspaper based in Dryden.
Jessica’s disease caused her to have seizures on an almost daily basis, which could be triggered by anything including television, eating chocolate, or a passing car, Marshall-King said. The seizures began when Jessica was only six hours old.
It was not unusual for Jessica to spend two weeks in the hospital, her mother said.
Medications could sometimes bring Jessica out of those seizures, but Marshall-King said humor was a stronger medicine, especially in the last four years before Jessica’s death.
“I used humor, making funny faces, anything to get her to laugh would help,” Marshall-King said.
Now Marshall-King is hoping to make up for lost time with her
17-year-old daughter Ashley, who will be attending Syracuse University next year for music therapy. She also sings opera.
Ashley said her sister Jessica helped inspire her to pursue music as a career.
Once when Ashley was 12 years old, Jessica held her sister, rocking her gently and humming to calm her as she suffered a seizure.
“You feel helpless,” she said.
But as she hummed a musical tune, Jessica was slowly able to recover from the seizure and did not need to go to the hospital.
“Whenever I’m singing, it’s like she’s got her hand on my shoulder,” Ashley said.
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