I am fiercely protective of my wife.
Any man would be. With all she’s going through, I only want her to be seen in a good light. So, though I’m only an amateur with a camera, I try to use my lens and words to lift Joey up. Like any woman, my wife is self-conscious about what cancer has done to her. Who she sees in the mirror these days looks like someone else... not the woman that she feels like she is inside. And it hurts her deeply.
I know that. So, I carefully choose what I share. It would break my heart to have the thousands of ‘before’ photos out there of her looking beautiful and healthy all these years... be replaced in people’s minds and hearts by a single ‘after’ photo of what cancer has done.
She wants to be remembered as a singer of songs. A devoted wife. A loving mother. Not a cancer patient.
And so I have tried to be very careful. To honor her.
But my wife is braver than me.
A few days ago, she asked me to close the door and sit beside her. We talked for a long time about where we are and where this was most likely leading. Then she asked me to show her some of the pictures and videos that I had been taking lately. I honestly didn’t want to show her, but I did. She looked and watched—and like too many times these days, her tears fell.
Then she wiped our tears and asked me questions. Lots of questions. I did my best to answer them. She wanted to know what was being said outside of this house. Out in the real world.
I told her. I told her what was happening. At least what I thought seemed to be happening. That somehow, people—a lot of people—have been following her story. Our story. And how she was inspiring others with her courage. And how what I’ve been writing has been encouraging others in ways too.
And we talked about how much is too much to share. How honest do we really want to be?
It’s like questioning God about the twists and turns he’s brought into our lives in the last few years... and asking Him “how much is too much?" Sometimes I feel like shouting, “we get it God... you’re in control. Life is fragile and all we have is today.” But He just keeps bringing more story and more pain, and more beauty... all at the exact same time.
So together, we made some decisions. This is our life. It’s what He has given us to live. And share.
Sharing what we’re going through with others is really all we have to give. If you share what you’re going through with me... maybe I’ll be able to draw something good from it if I am one day in your shoes.
I want to try to shine a light on something first though.
The word ‘hospice’ makes us all think the worst. The end. Or at least, the end is very close. I think, like me, most people probably think when they hear that word that it means that the family must be gathered around their loved one... watching them say their final words and breathing their last breath. And I’m sure in some cases, it probably happens that way.
But last year when my mother was dying of cancer—after hospice was brought in... Mom lived another three or four more months before she breathed her last. I’ve since heard that it’s not uncommon for people to be on hospice for six months, or longer.
And so that’s where we are. A hospice nurse comes once or twice a week and she helps to make sure that Joey’s pain is under control—that her morphine drip is working properly—and to see if she and we, her caregivers, need anything.
But God chooses the appointed time. Not us. Not hospice.
My wife is strong. Very very strong. So is her will to live. Especially with a little one who gets excited every morning to see her.
There isn’t a day that goes by that she doesn’t look me and her family in the eye and say “I’m gonna beat this," or “I’m getting better, I believe that.” And she asks me if I believe it, and I do.
I choose to.
For the most part, Joey’s time in hospice so far has been a roller coaster. One moment her light is very dim and she sleeps all the time and is struggling with the simplest of things. And we (along with the doctors and hospice) believe that the time must be very near...
And then, she’ll awaken one day and start talking and we’ll see that familiar spark in her eye. And she will be so crystal-clear with her thoughts, we will gather in the next room and say, “maybe, just maybe…?”
And then she will take another downturn. Then an upturn. Back and forth. Sometimes many times in just one day. But today and the last few days have been incredible. Part of us once again believes that God is answering Joey’s prayer by healing her body and taking the cancer away, despite all the odds.
Though now, she can no longer get out of bed—she is so sharp and clear and her pain, for the most part, is so under control by the medicine that talking to her—you would think she’s her normal self. Thinner. Much thinner. And with a hip new hairdo.
But she is beautiful. So so so beautiful.
When God begins to take the light from the outside... the light inside just shines all that much brighter.
It’s amazing. She’s amazing.
A few days ago, on the last day Joey walked, I took her in my arms in the living room and once more put her hand in mine and we danced. She steadied with her cane and I softly moved her across the room singing George Strait’s “You Look So Good In Love” in her ear. In the middle of the song though, as I was being careful not to step on her toes—she stopped and looked up at me and said, “How about if I lead?” And I followed her lead as we slowly two-stepped on her mama’s living room floor.
Like dancing, she wants to do this right, or not do it at all... to share the good, the bad, and the beautiful.
And so we will.