“A mother’s love endures through all.” — Washington IrvingThe drive out Stone Church Road to Dallas, West Virginia, is a picturesque one, particularly in autumn. Drivers are surrounded by gorgeous views of nature as they travel the twists and turns of the country road.
But a mother grieving the loss of her child doesn’t notice the beauty of this drive, especially if she’s taking it to visit the final resting place of her beloved daughter.
JAMIE, THE WOMAN
Jody Usenick is that mama. Her only child, Jamie Lynn Orth Taylor, died in June 2018 at the young age of 31 following a valiant four-year fight against stage 4 colon cancer.
In the wake of Jamie’s untimely passing, her mom Jody, dad Tom Orth and husband John Taylor were consumed by their tragic loss. They felt compelled to share Jamie’s story in order to channel their grief into something positive and to keep the memory of their sweet Jamie alive.
To that end, Jody, Tom and John, along with Jody’s friends, Stephanie Russell and Stacie DeSantis, established Jamie’s Warriors, a non-profit group whose mission is to raise awareness about colon cancer and help other victims as they battle this beast.
Jamie’s Warriors has provided dozens of patients with “chemo care” bags filled with comfort supplies to ease the physical and emotional trauma of chemotherapy treatment.
In addition, they have assisted a number of patients financially by awarding them monetary grants to help defray the many costs associated with cancer treatment. The group also participates in several local efforts to spread awareness about colon cancer, such as the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life.
JAMIE, THE WINE
Jody visits Jamie’s grave frequently, making the journey to Dallas via Stone Church Road, where Jamie lived until she was a teenager. Trips to the cemetery are heart-wrenching for Jody. Though it’s a sacred space where she feels close to her baby girl, it’s also a constant reminder of the physical distance between them that can never again be bridged.
On one of these emotional drives home from the cemetery, a sign for Moss Farms Winery along Stone Church Road caught Jody’s eye. Having been a wine aficionado for years, Jody now harbored a secret dream of creating a special wine in memory of her daughter. Jody began stopping at the winery after her visits to Jamie’s grave. “To ease my heart in those scenic hills,” Jody says.
As her visits to the winery became a comforting ritual, Jody struck up a friendship with Traci Mason and her mom, Susan Murphy, who own and operate Moss Farms Winery.
“During one of our chats, the dream I had tucked away for a wine named after Jamie was casually mentioned,” remembers Jody.
To her surprise, Traci was receptive to her idea and said that a memorial wine fit beautifully into the winery’s plans for expansion and growth. And as fate would have it (or perhaps as Jamie would have it!), Traci revealed that Susan had just come up with a new wine that had not yet been christened with a name.
The rest is history — and serendipity. The unnamed wine had been created by what Susan terms a “happy accident” at Jody’s favorite winery, which is nestled along the road connecting her sweet daughter’s childhood home and the spot where she now forever rests.
“All of those signs are my validation that Jamie herself is behind the fulfillment of my dream for my ‘Sweet Jamie’ rosé wine,” Jody smiles.
Last month, Moss Farms Winery and Jamie’s Warriors premiered the wine at a sold-out VIP event. Each attendee received a bottle of the wine as well as a keepsake wine glass in which to enjoy it while remembering Jamie with every sip.
Jody, Tom and John were overwhelmed with joy at the initial support that “Sweet Jamie” rosé wine received from friends and acquaintances. Proceeds from wine sales will benefit other colon cancer patients through the ongoing work of Jamie’s Warriors.
A unique wine deserves an equally special label, and this one is a personalized labor of love. The artwork on the label was a collaborative effort that resulted in a beautifully personal tribute to sweet Jamie.
Jody’s nephew, Jay Henderson, designed the label’s logo. The “J” in Jamie forms a blue colon cancer awareness ribbon.
“The ribbon serves as a reminder for all who see it to listen to their bodies and stay current on their check-ups,” Jody states. Below Jamie’s name is a tiny, discreet dachshund, representing Jamie’s four fur babies — Charlie, Sam, Dudley and Henry — whom she adored. Finishing artistic touches to the label were added by Clare McDonald and Daria Wood, and “Sweet Jamie” rosé was ready for distribution.
“Sweet Jamie” rosé wine is currently available exclusively at Moss Farms Winery. Jody is in the process of securing additional retail locations for distribution of “Sweet Jamie.” For updates on availability, visit Jamie’s Warriors Facebook page by clicking here or contact Moss Farms Winery at 304-231-4876 for more information.
Jamie’s all-too-brief time here touched countless other lives, perhaps none more deeply than her mom’s. Jody says that the creation of “Sweet Jamie” rosé wine helps her feel her daughter’s presence in the unimaginable void that losing Jamie left in the depths of her very soul.
No wonder so many of us love wine — it clearly has the power to warm both the body and the spirit.
• A lifelong Wheeling resident, Ellen Brafford McCroskey is a proud graduate of Wheeling Park High School and the former Wheeling Jesuit College. By day, she works for an international law firm; by night, (and often on her lunch breaks and weekends) she enjoys moonlighting as a part-time writer. Please note that the views expressed in her writing are solely her own and do not necessarily reflect those of anyone else, including her full-time employer. Through her writing, Ellen aims to enlighten others on causes close to her heart, particularly addiction, recovery and equal rights. She and her husband Doug reside in Warwood with their clowder of rescued cats, each of whom is a direct consequence of his job as the Ohio County Dog Warden. Their family includes four adult children, their spouses and several grandkids.