Camille's Story: 'The end' was really the beginning

"What I thought was the end, was the beginning." 

These are the words of Camille M. Her new beginning began when she came to the Julia Greeley Home in 2016. The years before had been a brutal succession of deaths and family losses. She was already raw from painful conditions of arthritis and fibromyalgia. The pile-on of physical and emotional pressures had become unbearable. The talented and capable office manager could no longer work, and eventually she lost her home. 

Camille’s story shows how quickly life can collapse even for talented, bright, independent career women. Our society is harsh and unforgiving when a person becomes even temporarily vulnerable. That’s why the Julia Greeley Home was founded. For Camille, all seemed lost — until she found the Julia Greeley Home.

Today, Camille says, “What I thought was ‘the end’  when I came here, turned out to be the beginning.”

Here is Camille’s story. It’s based on an interview she gave to writer Anna Chase:

“I might cry, so bear with me. My life began to unravel in July 2009 at, of all things, a family barbecue. We were all having a good time, when my brother-in-law, Ken, suddenly collapsed. We frantically tried to revive him with CPR but he died at the hospital. We were very close, and the sudden unexpectedness of his death deeply disturbed me. Then  six months later, my sister Toni, who was just one year older than I am, died of kidney failure. The following July, my son, Vincent, passed away at the age of 24 from complications of an enlarged heart. We were very close. But the shocks weren’t over. About a year after that, my mother Margaret died at the age of 82.  

Obviously, these deaths didn’t just weigh on my heart, they also took a toll on my body. I have suffered with fibromyalgia syndrome since 1995, in addition to general arthritis throughout my body. The added stress and grief was like adding another layer of physical pain on top of the excruciating daily pressure of physical pain. I could barely get out of bed. 

That’s when my professional life began to suffer, and things really began to spiral downward.

"For 15 years I had a challenging and fulfilling career with the federal government in Boulder, and I loved the work. Then, just as I was trying to deal with my grief and physical pain, some new supervisors were brought into our division. During that shake-up period, a woman I had worked with for many years and who had never liked me, saw a chance to get rid of me. I needed to miss a lot of work because of my declining health, and she used that fact to force me to go on probation. The scheme worked. I ended up losing my job in the federal government. 

So there I was — 54 years old, unemployed, almost immobilized with pain, and still emotionally devastated over the loss of my son, and so many other people I loved! When I lost my financial support, it wasn’t long before I lost my home, too. I really didn’t know what I was going to do. Then a friend of mine, who I used to work with in Boulder, called one day. He had a friend whose mother was the director at two women’s homes in Arvada. He suggested I give her a call.

So that’s how I ended up coming to the Julia Greeley Home. The most important thing that I’ve learned about myself is that no matter how bad I think things are I always end up in a good place. The safety and stability I found here, plus the love of the staff, was something I hadn’t really gotten anywhere else.  It gave me time to see things more clearly. 

Today, I tell other women undergoing similar struggles that they need to focus on themselves and remember that they are valuable, worthwhile human beings. There is always somebody there to help. They only have to look and ask — and not be afraid to ask. And they need to know they are going to be okay.”

Camille is now putting her managerial expertise to work as house manager and liaison for the Julia Greeley Home and for Shannon’s Hope, the beautiful ministry for pregnant women whose home we share.