San Jose mom's holiday display honors terminally-ill son, inspires community

Amanda del Castillo Image
Saturday, December 24, 2022
SJ mom's holiday display honors terminally-ill son
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A San Jose mother is inspiring an entire community with her winter wonderland holiday display to bring joy to her terminally-ill son.

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- In the South Bay, more than a holiday display, a San Jose mother is inspiring an entire community with her grand gesture to bring joy to her terminally-ill son.

On the 1300 block of Vernon Ave. in San Jose's Willow Glen neighborhood, people will notice a herd of holiday reindeer and a lot of twinkling lights. It's all a labor of love for Shelly Jimenez.

"I really rushed with this one," she said, standing in front of a fully decorated lawn. "Chris was in the hospital and we almost lost him."

Her son Chris, 27, is terminally-ill. His condition has only worsened since we saw him back in October, in front of Jimenez's massive Halloween display.

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She said Chris is displaying symptoms of early on-set dementia - he's having difficulty breathing and he recently spent some time in the ICU.

"Every day is difficult, it really is," she admitted. "We're in the house with him. One of us has to be sitting next to him 24/7. So, our existence is totally inside."

Between hospital trips and creating comfort inside her home, Jimenez found the time to transform the family's front lawn. Her elaborate and deeply meaningful Halloween and holiday displays have become a community staple.

ABC7 News was there in 2019, when Jimenez first used bright lights and loud audio to create lasting memories for Chris as his vision was diminishing. He lost his sight the following Halloween.

FROM 2019: South Bay mom creates elaborate Halloween display on front lawn for terminally-ill son

"I don't think we could get through as much as we have without the love and the prayers that are sent our way," she said.

"I don't see him here another 10 years," Jimenez shared. "We just take it one day at a time. We look for the little blessings that we can. And today, I'm grateful that he's here. And we're looking forward to celebrating Christmas with him."

From October's scarecrow pumpkin patch to Friday's ski winter wonderland, neighbors have traveled from near and far.

"My husband would love this right now," Vicki Sourile said from her car, as she drove by on Friday.

Beyond enjoying the holiday spectacle, she empathizes with the family. Sourile also has a son with disabilities and has followed the Jimenez's journey.

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She said this year's display offers a bright spot in an otherwise dark time.

"For my husband, he just loved it," she reflected. "He just loved it. And he passed away six months ago. But we continue to come by."

It's an undeniable impact.

And although Chris can no longer see, Jimenez is hopeful her son can feel the community behind him.

"I know that he's getting tired," she told ABC7 News. "I don't know how long he has left. We take it day by day and we just cherish every day."

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