When I was a little girl, I wanted to be a nun. You can go ahead and laugh now.
I know it sounds crazy to anyone who knows me but I can remember sitting on the floor during a mission trip in high school and feeling a calling on my heart. A “calling” clearly meant I was destined to wear a habit, or so my 15 year old self thought.
Throughout life I dropped the sister act, (see what I did there?). But I’ve always felt this inner light inside my heart to find the joy, be the joy, give the joy. I used to say the word so often it became an immediate eye roll from Joe as he’d smirk that sly little smile that said, ‘here she goes again’.
Our life has been anything put pure joy, I often worry I only show our highlight reel when I really should be showing you what is left on the cutting room floor. I just prefer the happy faces, the warm and fuzzies– the joy.
I look back at the dates and feel nothing but sorrow. Two years ago, our big surgery, #JoeStrong covered the hearts of so many pulling out there strongest prayers to see us through the hardest days.
One year ago, the day I found Joe on the bathroom floor. My shaky voice calling 911 as I tried to explain that my husband had cancer and was having seizures.
Please hurry, don’t put him to the bottom of your list because I said cancer. Please say this isn’t over. Please look at me Joe, please look at me.
There are days I think I’d be much better off if I’d wipe my hands of all of this. I no longer need to go to the chemo floor or stress about appointments. I sleep through the night instead of worrying about if my husband is comfortable or needs to take his meds. There are so many parts of me that want to be done.
But then I feel that calling. That reminder in my heart that tells me even though my journey is done, so many are only beginning.
I thumbed through an old notebook as I waited for a meeting today and I came across a list I’d made. The pros and cons of quitting my job to stay home with my husband and daughter.
I read down the lines and can feel the fear in each letter that makes up the words that raced around my mind.
Pro- time with Joe.
Con- Amanda mental health
Con- extra expenses.
In the end, I walked away from my TV job and winged eye liner and put on my yoga pants and never missed another appointment. I am so thankful I made the decision I did and still amazed at all of the people who had pulled together to help give me the freedom to do it.
I have not a single regret.
As, I walked through the doors of the hospital for the first time since Joe was gone I could hear those same fears all around me. I had a quick moment my knees went weak and I was sure I’d made a mistake to ever walk back into this building when I didn’t have to. I swung my arm around Joe’s mom as we got into the elevator, I wasn’t sure if either of us could do it.
I smacked on a smile to do what I do best and decided I’d fake it though the day for Joe’s birthday. I would hand out these 32 gift cards and one by one I walked into the tiny chemo rooms I’d sat in so many times before.
I locked eyes with the patients and told them who I was, who Joe was, that they aren’t alone. I touched their arms and saw the tears swell into their loved ones eyes.
A father in a camouflaged hat every bit of the image of tough, sat with silent tears down his cheeks. A husband next to his smiling wife, her head wrapped in a turban to hide the smooth skin below. For a moment, we were one. I was them, they were me.
I left that day lighter than it had started. There was healing in going back and holding the hands of someone on this journey.
It brought me back to something a friend had said and I had nearly forgotten. ‘Your ministry is in your misery’. So crazy and so true.
To simply walk away from the hardest days would be the easy way, but not the right way.
I’ve seen too much, and there was so much power in our shared journey.
I would trade anything to have Joe with me today, to spend a Sunday in our pajamas watching Mira terrorize the house. I’d love to never meet another person with cancer or watch another family struggle. If it was only that simple.
I’m glad I listened to my heart as a little girl, to find the joy but I’m also glad I won’t forget my misery. I can’t and I won’t.