I filmed our lives for two-and-a-half years. I don’t know why, I just did.
Like writing this blog, something told me that I needed to capture that time of our lives on film. To have it forever. To be able to remember it and share it with others. I had no idea how important it would be.
Especially to me.
When we got home from Indiana in early March, after Joey had passed away, the girls and I resumed the life we had before. The life that we had lived before the cancer grew larger and my wife grew smaller. Before the words, chemotherapy, and radiation were written in ink on our calendar. When Joey was alive and in full bloom, like the knock-out roses that she planted beside her garden shed are.
I thought I would be able to remember the good times we had and the love we shared here at our farm... the amazing thirteen years of life we had together. But I couldn’t. It was gone. All I could remember of her was the end. The five months of dying. The Joey that had no hair and couldn’t get out of bed. The mother that could barely hold the baby she loved. And the life we held together by a song, in the brick house by the Gaither’s pond.
I guess the intensity of that time overtook everything else and wiped it from my memory. I can see how it could. Living out of a suitcase with Indiana’s crib beside my bed, Joey in the next room sleeping. Hurting. Vanishing right before our eyes. But she was also living. Living in such a strong and brave way, that it’s the image of her that remained in my mind. Even when we came home. That is the only ‘her’ I could see. I couldn’t remember Joey before that time. I could not remember her alive. All of the pictures on our mantle and music videos online seemed like something from a photo album. Ours I guess. But long ago.
For a month it was that way. I was scared that’s how it might always be. That the Joey I met and married and fell in love with—the one that I had a beautiful baby with—was gone from my memory forever.
But late one evening, in a metal box on the desk in our bedroom...
I found her.
In January of 2014, when Joey and I decided to take a year off, I not only started writing this blog... I started filming our life. Pushing record on my Canon 70D and capturing the smallest and biggest moments as they happened. Every day. Week after week and month after month. And I kept doing it for two-and-a-half years. What I filmed wasn’t important at the time. It was just daily life. Intimate moments that were shared with the woman I love and the baby that came a month later.
But it turns out that it was important. It is important.
Joey and I believed that God was going to give us a great story, and we wanted to film it, so we could look back and remember that year. We thought the story was going to be about taking time off from our music careers. About homesteading and growing a community garden with our neighbors. And about having a new baby and raising her. Yes, those things are part of the story, but there was so much more that happened. So, so much more.
As I sat at my desk in mid-April and plugged in the hard drive that held six terabytes of our lives—hundreds of hours of footage, I wasn’t sure I could watch it. That I could bear looking at our lives before. I thought it would be too painful. Too hard. But the moment I pushed play, something happened...
My wife came to life.
In full color on the big screen of my iMac, Joey became alive again... filled with love and joy and hope and passion for me and for the life God had given us.
And I remembered how incredibly beautiful she was. How kind and how special of a person she was. For days, I watched and I watched. And pretty soon... I could not remember the Joey that was on hospice in Indiana. The one that was frail and dying. ‘That’ Joey had been replaced by one that is alive and well. One that was excited about our newborn that lay in her arms and the future that lay in store. We both were.
I have only watched a few months of what I filmed so far, but it is truly amazing. And it’s been so very healing for me. To see my wife come to life again. To see the love in her eyes. This footage is from only a week or two after the baby was born. It’s an afternoon in our life in late winter of 2014. A regular day, when Joey was giving me a haircut (she is the only one who ever gave me a haircut in the 14 years of our marriage), and holding and singing to Indiana. I cry every time I watch it. And I laugh so hard.
It is so special…
Life was perfect that day. So was Joey. Completely unaware of the difficult news that was in store for her in just a few weeks, and the beautiful, tragic end that would come 18 months later. And unaware also that her story would be shared and followed by millions of people who would love and pray for her and for us.
It’s a moment in time, that stands still. A moment that remains, even though time has moved on. I love that. There are hundreds of these moments that I captured. Maybe more. And they all add up to a bigger story that God was telling with our lives. A story that I hope to have the chance to share later this summer or fall. I know how special and how healing it has already been for me. Maybe it can be that way for others.
As our life was unfolding and I continued to film, right up til the end... Joey and I often talked about what the footage would one day become. Why and what was it that we were filming? Was it a story about down-syndrome... about our little girl? Or a story about cancer and learning to really live, even while your life is slipping away? Or a story about love and how hope never really dies? We never answered that question while Joey was alive and now that I’ve had a little time to look at it... to wrap my head around some of the footage... I think that maybe it’s a story about all those things.
Whatever it is. It’s a gift from heaven for me these days. To see my beautiful bride once more... alive and well.
I still have much, much more of our lives to look through. A thousand little clips to watch and try to piece together. And I will get to see Joey live through it all. And I will not see her fight and lose her battle with cancer until I get to that part... and then, maybe then... watching it unfold on film in front of me... I will better understand how we got there. How we got here. And maybe even why.
Probably not. But maybe.