Caring for grandmother shows a new path


A funny thing happened to Liz Emery on her way to becoming a doctor: She became a clothing designer instead.

I should say a clothing designer with a purpose, inspired by a chapter of life that so many of us can relate to — caring for your favorite person in the world in their final days.

“My Nanny was the most incredible woman,” Liz told me over the phone. I could hear her glow with love as she talked about her beloved grandmother. “She was a woman ahead of her time. She was an independent businesswoman all the way up to her 88th birthday.”

That was the day Ethel Goldberg suffered a devastating stroke. How cruel that this independent, vibrant woman now needed help with all the basics of daily living, things like eating and dressing.

Liz was watching this unfold from afar, pursuing what she always thought was her destiny, to go to medical school. Only now, it was time to listen to her own heart and make a drastic move.

“I left medical school, moved home and became my grandmother’s primary caregiver,” she told me.

That’s when she got a crash course in what millions of you already know: Caregiving for a sick relative is not for the faint of heart.

There is the pain of watching the person you love suffer indignity. “I wanted to do everything with the intention of giving my grandmother dignity,” Liz said.

Not easy when changing diapers.

Not easy even when feeding her.

“The fact is, my grandmother needed a bib.” A bib? “How humiliating. This woman who took such pride in her appearance and clothing.”

Last April, Liz’ Nanny Ethel died at home in Liz’ arms. Just as Ethel held Liz in her arms when she was a baby, Ethel was in her granddaughter’s arms when she passed. “Getting to care for her in her final days was one of the greatest honors of my life,” she said.

I’m at a stage in my life where I understand that. There’s so much fuss over a baby entering our lives; yet so little done to honor our loved ones as they get ready to transition.

What an amazing chapter we skip and avoid, perhaps because we’re scared.

Liz Emery shows me differently. And how that journey together can keep going, even after one passes.

Seems Liz just couldn’t get the image of her beloved Nanny Ett having to wear a bib.

She could hear her grandmother’s voice in her head, “Bibs are for babies, smocks are for ladies.”

So Liz got to doodling, to learning to sew, and finally to designing.

That’s how Smock Frocks were born.

“It’s the chic alternative to the adult bib,” Liz shines. “Goes on like a smock, but looks like a dress.”

You can find them at her company website, Yes, granddaughter goes into business with the spirit of her grandmother by her side.

“What about medical school?” I had to ask.

“That was always my big plan,” Liz said. “Truth is, this business is a much better fit for me.”

Funny how that works. A young woman who is focused on creating the perfect fit for her grandmother, only to have Grandma help her find the perfect fit for her.

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