Crazy Love

Post on Facebook page prompts hundreds to help Ashlee Littell and her family

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Ashlee Littell with her 5-year-old son Jordyn and infant daughter Rylin in their hospital room.

Ashlee Littell affected hundreds of people in the weeks before her death.

Most of them had never heard of the 24-year-old Rathdrum woman before. Most never met the mother of two.

But a single, desperate paragraph she posted on a Facebook page, a scared and lonely plea for help tossed to the oblivion of the Internet, incited a mass of strangers to suit up for her cause.

In the end, there were roughly 500 across the country praying for Ashlee, estimate those involved. More than 100 were supporting her family with meals, baby-sitting and company as she fought the congestive heart failure she succumbed to on Sunday.

Through it all, her impromptu army was betting on her to come out alive.

Most will remember Littell for that, for rallying so many with so few words. For reaching them without them ever hearing her voice, or seeing her hug her children.

"It's funny because the Internet so oftentimes is referred to as this impersonal thing that keeps people from making real relationships," said Dorene Russell, co-creator of the Facebook page that rallied so many for Ashlee's cause. "But we're making relationships with people we've never seen before and may never see."

Ashlee's fiance, Jeremy Post, called Ashlee loving and independent. While she had struggles in her life, he said, the stay-at-home mom was devoted to her children.

"She always had a smile," Post said.

It was a shock when her recent pregnancy resulted in heart issues. After giving birth in December to the couple's daughter, Rylin, Ashlee faced a form of cardiomyopathy that Post said is found in women late in a pregnancy.

"It was obviously a stressful time," said Post, who had been with Ashlee for two years. "All we tried to do was remain hopeful."

There were many concerns, like providing care for her newborn and her 5-year-old son, Jordyn.

Unbeknownst to Post at the time, Ashlee posted a message on Facebook page CDA Crazy Love.

"My name is Ashlee and I'm posting here because I'm currently in the ICU. I just recently had a baby and was told I have congestive heart failure. Please pray for me to get better. I'm only 24."

She couldn't have predicted what would follow.

Russell had created the CDA Crazy Love page with her daughter, Kelly Cottier, she said, as a venue for locals to ask for prayers, advice and support.

"Basically what it is, we've been falling way short of following the kind of love Christ wanted us to," the Coeur d'Alene woman explained. "His love was a pretty radical, crazy kind of love."

Members of the page had responded to strangers' posts before, Russell said, but not in the way they did to Ashlee's.

"It drew everybody in. Her post was not real detailed, but you could see she was crying out for help," Russell said. "She was scared, and rightly so."

The first to respond was Carolyn Shewfelt, program manager at the Community Action Partnership.

After reading Ashlee's posting, "I knew I was the one who was supposed to do it," Shewfelt said.

By do it, she meant be by Ashlee's side.

She visited Ashlee that day to pray with her, and continued to visit every day, even when Ashlee was transferred to Sacred Heart hospital in Spokane.

She brought Ashlee a Bible, books. She bought and wrapped Christmas gifts for Ashlee's children.

"She stole my heart," Shewfelt said. "She was just a young mom who wanted to get home to both her kids. She had a full life ahead of her."

Other strangers followed suit.

Through CDA Crazy Love, volunteers teamed up to help Ashlee walk and exercise her heart.

Hayden resident Tammy Pardick, who like Shewfelt had never met Ashlee, arranged a meal train. People connected only through the Facebook page cooked hot meals for Ashlee's family daily.

Pardick even took 5-year-old Jordyn into her home, while Ashlee was in the hospital.

"I just tried to do for him what I hope somebody would do for my children, if I were the same," said Pardick, adding that she took Jordyn to school and to visit his mother at the hospital. "We just tried to keep his life as normal we could."

Post said he was blown away by the surge of generosity.

"I had no idea," he said of strangers' dogoodery. "People have been dropping off meals at my door every night since this all happened, and I never met any of them. They would just come over, say their condolences, and they'd just leave."

It's not surprising that so many came together, Russell said.

"It's that radical crazy love," she said. "People just going beyond what you would imagine any stranger would do."

Even if she had qualified, Ashlee passed before a transplant was available, Post said.

"With her age, I think it's important people realize that things can happen, and you've got to live each day in a Godly way," he said. "The Crazy people showed that's how they live every single day."

The impact Ashlee had is evident in the CDA Crazy Love postings.

The statements not only support Ashlee and her family, but all who rallied to help.

"My life has forever been changed," wrote Nancy Herold. "We have come together as Jesus has asked us to and gave until we had no more to give. I have never met most of you but I am looking forward to making new friendships with all of you... Ashlee Littell, I will see you again."

Cynthia Bueno Goodbrake wrote that it was bittersweet, hearing about Ashlee's passing.

"I have found a belief and something else that was missing... My faith," she wrote.

Kathy Manchego-Martin wrote, "I see Ashlee accomplished one more thing before she left. She helped band together and united all you Crazy Love Warriors."

Crazy Love members haven't stopped helping. They have created a fundraiser, Ashlee's Angels at YouCaring.com, to support Ashlee's children.

They are also organizing to bring food for Ashlee's funeral, scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday at Real Life Ministries in Post Falls.

Pardick is planning Jordyn's sixth birthday party, approaching in a few days.

Shewfelt is also organizing a group, Ashlee Walks, where volunteers help patients exercise at the hospital, like folks did for Ashlee.

"Just to help them and encourage them, and (volunteers) can tell them Ashlee's story and why they're doing it," she said. "Just to keep her in the forefront of our minds."

It doesn't matter that Shewfelt only knew Ashlee briefly, she said. Just like it doesn't matter that others who helped never met her at all.

Ashlee has impacted them all, she said.

"I'm changed forever," Shewfelt said. "She just really rocked my world."

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