Sometimes when I get phone calls I think and hope it’s my mom, everything reminds me of her. It seems like I just lost her. :( Nothing in life matters except family. RIP mom.
– A Jessa Molina Facebook post
When South senior Jessa Molina steps onto the basketball court at Koch Arena sometime before 3 this afternoon, there will be the inevitable thrill and nervousness of playing in her first Class 6A tournament game. But there will also be a little something missing inside.
Maybe she’ll look into the stands, searching for her mother, even though she knows she’s not there. Hasn’t been there all season.
Molina won’t be alone. She’ll have her teammates, and she’ll have friends. She has strong family ties, so when she goes home, her dad, Jeff, will be there for her, just like always. Her grandma, Sharon Sobba, will probably have dinner ready, just like she always does.
But her mom, Shannon, won’t be there. She died on Oct. 28 at age 46 of an enlarged heart.
There’s been a lot of “won’t evers” with Molina since her dad called her upstairs and away from her friends to break the news of her mom’s death.
“I could tell something was really, really wrong, by his face,” Molina said. “He said it was my mom, and I just broke down because I knew.”
She knew her mom won’t ever see her go to Binghamton (N.Y.), where Molina she has signed to play college basketball. Won’t ever see her get married, have children, start her career as, hopefully, an orthodontist.
“I was heartbroken,” Molina said. “I really had never felt pain like that before. I never thought it would go away.”
Losing her mom, just three weeks before the first basketball practice, hit Molina hard. Already a quiet, unassuming sort, she withdrew a little more. Her mom was a wonderful listener who had an uncanny ability to make her feel better, no matter the difficulty of the topic.
“When you would talk to her, my sisters all agreed, you would feel 100-percent better,” Molina said.
But she hasn’t talked about it much, not to her dad or her grandma Sharon, Shannon’s mom.
Jeff Molina knows it’s because Jessa has never been one to talk too much.
“She’s quiet, she’s caring,” he said. “When the girls were little, the others might wander off, but she’d stay right there next to us.”
He raised his three daughters after he and Shannon divorced when Jessa was a third-grader, and theirs is a close family.
“I look up to my dad, really, for everything,” Jessa Molina said. “I think he’s one of the greatest people. He does so much for me and my sisters. He gives everything for us.”
Sobba has maintained her connection through the years. When the girls — Kellsey is 21, Sheree 16 — were young, Sobba was there for them after school. She still makes dinner most nights.
Those relationships were important as the girls watched their mom battle an addiction to prescription drugs.
Molina felt so strongly about her mother’s addiction that she wrote about it for an entrance essay to Binghamton. She wrote about burying the pain, never letting her emotions show. She wrote about seeing her mom unresponsive while in a drugged state.
“I realized how every decision affects your life, it will not only affect your life, but everyone around you,” she said.
As she watched her mom battle depression, Molina could have acted out. Or made her own poor decisions.
Instead, she maintained her focus.
It wasn’t always easy, even while playing basketball.
“I was just so sad,” Molina said. “The whole season I struggled with trying to focus and trying to do what I needed to do for the team and for myself. A lot of times I was just, I couldn’t find the motivation. Toward the end of the season, I really saw what my mom would want me to do.”
Her mom told her she wanted her daughter to get a college degree, become the first in her family to do so. Told her to be successful, to have a family, to be happy.
So Molina increased her basketball workouts and narrowed her focus. She’s averaging 8.9 points.
“I just try to remember the positives and keep positive about it,” she said. “I try to remember my mom and remember what she wanted in life for me and how she wanted me to be successful.
“I know she is watching over me.”