There is a right time to say goodbye. Today isn’t that day.
Joey’s best friend Julie has been here for a week and was supposed to leave this evening and fly back home to Oregon where she and her husband Joe live. But this morning as I sat beside my wife, and Julie started packing her things... Joey’s tears began to fall.
She was inconsolable.
I put my arms around her and asked what was wrong. As her lips quivered and she tried to catch her breath, the tears streamed her cheeks and Joey said, “I don’t think I will ever see her again”...
Julie showed up in our lives about seven or eight years ago. I think it was at our first “Bib & Buckle Festival”—an outdoor concert that invites fans from all across the country to spend an evening in concert with us where we live. There were a few hundred people that came to that first festival and Joe and Julie Zamboldi were part of that group. In the coming years, we would see them at other concerts that we played all around the country. They would have traveled from their home in Washington State to Utah, California, Wyoming, or some other far-off place, just to see us perform.
It is safe to say that Julie is our biggest fan.
In time, we got to know Joe and Julie and we all became friends. We would invite them to private events and even to stay with us when they were in Tennessee. It turns out that Julie had lost two of her best girlfriends to cancer and it had hurt and scarred her, and somehow our music was a part of her healing.
Through the years my wife and Julie became very close.
A couple of years ago, when we decided to take a year off, we asked Julie to run our fan club and she is who has kept everyone online updated on our behalf during that time and since. She posts the music business stuff on Facebook that I don’t feel comfortable sharing. Julie has been at pretty much every home Farmhouse Concert that we’ve played and she is the one who mails out our newsletters and Christmas cards and has not only worked hard on behalf... she also loves us deeply.
Like an angel from heaven, it was as if God sent Julie to us. To her. But none of us exactly knew why, until the cancer showed up again this summer.
In October, when we made the important trip to bring Joey up here to Indiana to get to see her family for a few days (that has turned into almost 3 months), Julie was on the bus. And a month later as Joey’s conditioned worsened, she was still right by Joey’s side.
When Joey’s sisters and Daddy cut their hair off to support her... it was Julie who handed me the clippers and sat in the chair and asked me to “make her hair fall off” first.
Julie is Joey’s best friend.
I didn’t know that for a long time, but she is.
When I was writing one of the first difficult blog posts about Joey’s chemo and radiation not working... I wrote about Joey’s best friend, Julie. I labored over the ‘best‘ part of that line for a long time. As I’ve mentioned, I’m fiercely protective of my wife, and Joey has many close friends who love her and would do anything for her, not to mention her three sisters. So to choose one person and write ‘best friend’ for her was difficult for me—I didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings when they would possibly read the post and I also didn’t want to choose Joey’s best friend for her. But I remember walking down the road with our manager Aaron and telling him my concerns and him just listening for a long time. Then, he stopped and looked at me and said, “Rory, Julie’s traveled 2,500 miles... put her life on hold... and sat by Joey’s side for weeks and weeks at a time—if that isn’t what a best friend does, I don’t know what is.”
He was right. So so right.
And now, here we are. Months later and as Joey’s condition has continued to improve, then worsen, again and again... Julie has made three trips home to Washington and is back here with us again. She’s been here all week, helping Joey’s sister Jody take care of my wife and me and everyone else. She cooks, she cleans, changes the baby’s diaper, and does any and everything else that she can find to do that needs to be done while we’re living here out of suitcases
… not waiting for someone we love to die. But helping the woman we all love to live.
And so at the Indianapolis airport this evening, a plane will take off and Saint Jules (as Joey’s daddy calls her) won’t be on it. Instead, she will be with her best friend.
And as God would have it, the tables have turned and now it’s easy to see...
Joey and I are Julie’s biggest fans.