In 2008, the population of the farming community of Sweet, Idaho measured just over 1,100 residents. A close-knit community, no one could foresee the tragedy and loss that would send a ripple effect through the small Town.
“The day of the accident, we were headed over to the cemetery for community clean-up day,” Emily remembered.
She and her family took pride in caring for the upkeep of the cemetery now that her father’s grave was there. “Nine months earlier, my dad had died from a massive stroke,” she said.
As Emily and her 10-month-old daughter drove to the cemetery, she remembered she had to stop to get more diapers. Driving in a separate car, her husband of ten years and three older daughters followed her.
“They were behind me and never showed up,” Graves said.
Friends who owned a ranch in the area, had two of their teenage sons driving a pipe trailer on the main road through Town. Unexpectedly, the trailer came off its hitch, hitting in the lane with her husband’s car.
“It was a loose trailer and shot his truck over,” she continued, “They went down and rolled into a canal…the canal was full from May water run off and they were under water for quite a while.”
It was a miracle that her youngest daughter, Taylor, survived the accident. She had been submerged in the water for quite some time. “She was under water, best we can figure, for 40 minutes.”
But surrounded by love and prayer, Emily was able to come to terms with the accident and forgive. “It just happens to be that’s what happened that day. I’m totally at peace with that.”
She knew she had to be there for her daughter as she recovered in the hospital. While Emily waited for Taylor to regain consciousness, she decided to have doctors take a look at the lumps developing in her neck. “They discovered that I had stage two Hodgkins Lymphoma,” she said.
Emily decided to have surgery and Doctors quickly responded by removing the tumors in her lymph nodes. “I thought, I have to do what I need to to be there for my girls,” Emily remembered. “The Lord gave me strength for them.” And after the few months of chemotherapy that followed, Emily was Cancer free.
Time continued to heal Emily and her family. Then, in 2010, some friends had the idea to set up an introduction with another friend. Having also experienced the tragic loss of a spouse and children, four years prior, they hoped Curtis Graves might be someone she could develop a relationship with.
That the time Emily still lived in Idaho and Curtis lived in Colorado. They began connecting through email and phone calls, finally deciding to meet in person. “I had a short layover in Denver and Curtis decided to drive up and meet me for a burger,” Emily recalled. “We really hit it off.”
Their bond quickly solidified and their long distance relationship became serious. “The Lord puts people around us to help us heal and to get through everything,” she smiled. “Just to talk to someone else that has had a similar experience made the difference for us,” she remarked.
Three months later she made the move to Colorado and they were engaged, finally tying the knot in May of 2010. “The way I look at it, all the bad things seem to turn into good things,” commented Emily. “It’s all in your perspective.”
The Graves, who now have three children — Emily’s surviving daughters and a four-year-old son they had together — have since made a good life for themselves. They bought some horse property in southeast Castle Rock, naming it Sunshine 7 Ranch. “We named it that because I love the sunshine here — even in the winter — and the seven comes from the loved ones we lost,” she said.
Finding happiness again, ideas began to stir inside Emily and Curtis to somehow pay it forward. “We thought, how can we use what we’ve been through to give back in some tiny way?” she said.
Built with their love and gratitude, the Barn Boutique at the Sunshine 7 Ranch has a mission to support families in need in Castle Rock.
Past events have brought local vendors together with community members for two days of shopping and fundraising at the barn store. “Instead of donating to a charity, we wanted to make an impact to one family,” said Graves.
Ove the past few years, the boutique has successfully raised money for three different families. “The first fundraiser went to helping a family who had lost their home to a fire,” she said.
The second and third events went to help two children fight aggressive Leukemia. “Besides the money we raised we wanted it to be a token to let them know that they are loved and that there are people rallying around them,” said Graves.
And by going through the process of organizing and raising money to help others, the Barn Boutique has served to also heal Emily and her blended family. “I can now say, I’m still here, life goes on and there are blessings that will still come,” she said.
It is her faith that allows her to have hope, continually inspiring her to help others in need. “It’s a responsibility that I think all of us have — to be there for other people,” she continued. “When I went through what I did, it was those other people who made all the difference for me.”