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Tuesday, June 6, 2023

In Praise of Sisterly Love One Courageous Woman’s Story of Becoming a Mother Figure to Her Biological Sister

As the landscape of American family life continues to change, the number of non-traditional mothers who deserve recognition during Mother’s Day and beyond is increasing.  Jessica Jones is one example of a caring sibling who stepped up to raise a sister in April of 2012, after a devastating emergency was thrown into her family’s lap.

Jessica Jones—a native Annapolitan who resides on the Eastern Shore— never cared about statistics extracted from studies or naysayers who did not believe that she could successfully parent her little sister, Imani Wilson. She immediately embraced a parental role when Sandra Wilson‘s life ended unexpectedly due to cancer. Wilson was the mother of Jones and Imani. To complicate matters, their father, Jesse Wilson, passed away when Jones was a freshman attending Washington College in Chestertown. Imani was left without a living parent who could rear her. Jones regarded the experience as “scary,” but she “never looked back” and “hit the ground running,” when extenuating circumstances led to parenting her sibling.

“I was 21 when my mom got sick, so when she passed away, I was 22.  I’ve had legal guardianship of my sister (Imani) since I was 22,” Jones said. “It was hard because… I had no idea that my mom was dying until she got into the ICU (intensive care unit).”

Imani discovered that her mother passed away at the age of 13 years old, when family members picked her up from school. Since she lives with a learning disability, Sandra’s unfortunate death was even more challenging for her to process. Jessica married Darnell Jones in 2019. However, the couple was together when Sandra passed away. Jessica had Darnell’s support with caring for her mother and sister.

“My mom didn’t really tell us how sick she was,” Jessica said. “She kind of just… didn’t want to hurt us because we were all that she had.”

Today, Imani is nearly 25 years old. She acknowledges that her sister had a major role in raising her.

“Although no one can ever take my mom’s place, Jes has been a second mom to me by stepping into my mom’s shoes without hesitation. I never had to worry about the what ifs because she took care of everything and has always had my back,” Imani said. 

Imani and Jessica illustrate what family unity looks like. Although extensive research is lacking about older siblings who volunteer to pick up pieces after parental death, exploration of the topic is no less significant. An older sibling who becomes a caretaker for a fellow brother or sister deviates from what appears to be commonplace. Jessica still figured out how to balance the delicate role of serving as a mother figure and sister. She specifically mentioned that Imani never gave trouble, despite what happened to their parents.

“Emotionally, I think that the strength that she showed during that time for a 13-year-old… is completely unmatched,” Jones said.

A couple years after Sandra’s passing, Jessica became a Towson University graduate. Additionally, her journey to become a wedding planner who also specializes in decor began because she accepted employment to help with bills, when her mother became ill.

Jessica Jones, Imani Wilson, and Darnell Jones celebrate Imani
Wilson’s graduation from Severna Park High in 2016. Photo courtesy of Jessica Jones

“My part time job was as a florist. I got really good at floral design. It became a passion that I didn’t know I had,” Jessica said. “And I just got randomly thrown into a wedding styled shoot. The girl asked me to do bouquets for the styled shoot that she was photographing. And then honestly after that, it was like a blessing fell into my lap. People just started booking me for weddings.”

Jessica continued the journey by establishing Jessica Jones Events. Sandy Oath Destinations is named after her mother. Through the second business endeavor, Jessica provides destination wedding planning services for clients all over the country.

Jessica Jones, left, and Imani Wilson, right,
share a special moment in 2019. Imani was
her big sister’s bridesmaid. She describes
Jones as selfless, loving, resilient and caring.
Photo by Texas Charm Photography

While cleaning up financial challenges after the deaths of both parents, Jessica was paying for everything from graduation expenses to putting herself through college again, and even saving her home from foreclosure.

“That’s why I always worked for myself, because I knew that if I work for myself, there’s no salary cap,” Jessica said.

The entrepreneur was driven to honor the path God called her to walk while learning about giving unconditional love as a young adult.

“I would not be who I am today if I did not go through that,” Jessica said. “I also wouldn’t be who I am today without Imani because everything that I did, I did with her in mind.”

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