Kim Leon was twelve the day she sat in the kitchen watching her mom make dinner – then, the phone rang. Her mom screamed. And Kim’s world careened onto another path.
The caller called to report that someone had run a stop sign and hit the car carrying Kim’s brothers and dad. Both cars exploded and all occupants were incinerated. At the time, Kim’s dad was 40 and brothers, John and Joe were 16 and 18.
In the months that followed, healing came through the warmth and care of a family friend named Bill Oliver. But quickly, the friendship moved to courtship and Kim’s mom soon married Bill in 1982.
While Kim appreciated Bill’s interest in her mother, she still “put a wall up” refusing to allow Bill more than simply a guardian role.
Bill tried reaching out. He wanted to adopt Kim. “In my heart I appreciated his attempts,” admits Kim, “but I wasn’t in that place yet.”
“But, the older she got, the more I loved her — and obviously her mother,” he added. “I always felt like she was my own daughter. And when the timing was right, I felt that she’d be able to call me dad. I knew I couldn’t replace her biological father, but perhaps she’d see me as her father in spirit.”
But the spirit was slow to move. At 18, Kim left home for good. Her choices would take her down some risky roads as she experimented with drugs and alcohol. Even after her marriage in 1992, and the births of her sons, Joseph in 1994, Jacob in 1996, Kim continued to fight many of the demons feeding from that 1980 car fire.
Finally, in 1997, when Kim woke up from a birthday celebration, she realized that it was time to seek sobriety. Kim sought a renewal of her faith in Christ. Through counseling and prayer, she began an earnest search for a spiritual center that would help her to deal with the outcome of that 1980 accident.
In 2002, the phone rang again. It was her mother with another life-changing message. “Bill still wants to adopt you,” she confided.
“He told me that he loved me,” says Kim, “and that he’d like to make it official.
“So, in the spring of 2002, we went to the courthouse. He was 68 and I was 34. We signed all the papers and got pictures. We got everything but the t-shirt.”
In the judge’s chambers Bill remembers “the joy and emotion flooded right through to my soul. It really was like watching a rebirth – she was now coming into the world as one of my own children.”
That Easter, at a family gathering, Bill surprised Kim with a very special speech. “He spoke of his love for her and how he’d always wanted to adopt her. His love would be for eternity, he promised. And then, reaching for her right hand, he placed a band of eternal diamonds on her ring finger.
“Our lives were torn apart until Bill came,” she says. “I always tell him that he’s our hero.’ ‘No, ‘he says,’ You saved my life!’
Now, Bill’s love has netted him more than three. He has Kim’s husband, John for a son – and two grandkids.
And these days Bill> ‘> s love is being tested once again — his grandson, Joseph has a brain cancer known as medullablastoma. “It’s treatable,” says Kim, “and has a 70% success rate – unless it comes back.” ‘ We’ll be in chemotherapy through May of next year.”
“She’s a wonderful girl, wife and mother. She’s such a strong person for what she’s gone through in life, ” says Bill. We don’t try to erase memories; we share memories of her father and brothers and how wonderful they were. And one day she’ll see them again.”
“Kim and her mother lost something, but they turned around and saved my life – emotionally and spiritually, just the two of them. “