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Jessica Molina: Teacher, mom of 4 mourning husband

Nicole Villalpando
Austin American-Statesman
Jessica Molina, 39, helps her son, Juan, 10, with his math homework in their Pflugerville home. When school started this year, she was helping all four kids get onto their online classes while teaching her own preschool class and caring for her husband, Juan, who died a few days after school started of kidney cancer.

The start of this school year was stressful for Jessica Molina, 39. She was running around her Pflugerville home trying to get her four children onto their virtual classes.

She was answering calls from the parents of her prekindergarten students at Delco Elementary School in the Pflugerville Independent School District and FaceTiming with them to help them get onto her virtual class and the platform where she posted all their assignments.

And she was caring for her husband, Juan, 41, who was in a hospital bed in their living room. Juan was dying from kidney cancer that had spread first to his lungs and then to his brain in the last seven years.

“I felt overwhelmed,” she says.

She believes that Juan knew this. “The beginning of the year was always stressful,” she says. “This year was even more so due to the pandemic.”

That Saturday, Aug. 15, after she had made it through the first two days of school, as Juan mostly slept, something was different. He asked for a sip of water. He wanted to assure her it was going to be OK, she says.

Then she noticed he looked different. There was no sound. He had passed.

This was the guy who followed her around their freshman year of college at Southwestern Assemblies of God University in Waxahachie.

After she blew him off that first day, every day after that, he kept coming back. “He wanted to go on a prayer walk with me; he wanted to take me to class,” she says.

Two weeks later, he asked her, “Do you want to be my girlfriend?”

“I don’t really know you,” she told him.

But he told her that she had to say yes.

They were married two years later, and then had Julie 18, Jennifer, 15, Jordan, 12, and Juan, 10, whom they affectionately called Juanito.

Now that guy who was always there, who bought her clothes so they could match when they went out, was gone. She would have to raise their kids without him and remind them that they just can’t do all the things they want to do without his income as a restaurant manager at Pok-E-Jo’s.

"Some days the kids are emotional; some days I’m emotional,“ she says.

They talk to each other about their father. They’ll say, “Don’t do that because Dad wouldn’t allow it,” she says. Or, “Don’t listen to that music because Dad wouldn’t like it.”

Sometimes they talk to their friends about their dad’s death, but sometimes they are afraid to tell them that he died.

They all struggled in school those first nine weeks, but Molina, who had always been the softer one, had to remind herself what Juan would have wanted: for his kids to be a success. She grounded them and took their phones away, “Because that’s what Juan would do.”

The kids, except Jordan, are still doing school virtually. Molina is back in person with half her students in class with her and half logging in virtually.

She worries about what will happen if she gets sick with the coronavirus. When she comes home from teaching each day, she tells the kids not to hug her before she can change her clothes and sanitize her hands.

“I have to be strong,” she says. “I’m their only parent.”

More Season for Caring.

The Molina family’s wishes:

Assistance with rent and utilities, medical bills, funeral expenses; gift cards to H-E-B; gift cards to Kohl’s for clothing, shoes and coats, especially for Jessica, who needs professional clothing; Target and Walmart gift cards for supplies for Jessica’s classroom; bikes and helmets for the family; an above-ground pool; braces for Jordan and help paying off Jennifer’s braces; Jessica would like an implant for a tooth that had to be removed; driver’s education for Jennifer; FFA expenses including a hutch, food and fees for rabbits for Julie; sports fees for Juan; help with college expenses for Julie next year; for Christmas, the kids would like Marvel or “Stranger Things” Legos and an electric scooter for Juan; boxing punching bag and a laptop for Jordan; James Avery charms including a fish, a doughnut, boots, 2023 and a Whataburger for Jennifer; new pillows, sheets and comforter and room decor in purple and Crocs for Julie; a massage and a manicure for Jessica. The family would also like a fishing trip to Galveston and gift cards to Chick-fil-A, Cheddar’s, Olive Garden, Raising Cane’s and Texas Roadhouse.

Wish list available at Amazon.

Nominated by: Hospice Austin, 4107 Spicewood Springs Road, Austin, TX 78759. 512-342-4726,

Its mission: Hospice Austin eases the physical, emotional and spiritual pain of any person in our community facing the final months of a serious illness.