Joe says it was all he could think of to say. And it was the truth.
He reached for the words to comfort an old friend who stood in front of him, tears in his eyes. It was a teammate of Joe’s from his junior high school baseball days. His friend stood a foot taller than Joe, but poured his heart out to say it was Joe he looked up to.
It was like a funeral, but you were still alive. It was amazing, overwhelming and what everyone deserves. You should know how much you are loved before it’s too late.
The news was out about Joe’s cancer, and what doctors have said. The room quickly filled with familiar faces to tell Joe how they felt. Friends who grew up on his street, college roommates and plenty of old girlfriends (I mean, plenty). Even friends from his first job out of school showed up, he has told me the stories about how he was an arrogant 23 year old who said in his interview he wanted the job because he wanted to buy a car. He must not have been too bad because years later, here they were.
You’d see it on their faces as they approached him, wondering if this would be the only chance to tell him what an impact he’s made in their life. Heavy hearts even when he’s standing before them. They wanted to share a laugh, an old memory and a way Joe touched their life and made them who they are today.
I kept telling Joe that night, in between people bombarding him with hugs and kisses, that he should say something. I told him he should stand up on a chair and thank everyone for what they’ve done to help us. I always give Joe a nudge to give the family speeches and toasts. He’s amazing with words, but tonight, he couldn’t. He said he’d fall apart and didn’t know what to say.
It at the airport, on our way home, when I talked to him about it again. I felt bad we didn’t address the crowd. We didn’t give a speech or a special thank you. I worried people left feeling empty.
Joe hates that cancer is what has put him at the center of attention. He wishes it was his business skills or fast pitch that brought him the spotlight. But Joe has been given a gift in a way. I told him, “This is your legacy. People are listening.”
He’s given the chance to do what he has to do. They’re morbid thoughts but they give him peace. He’s spending time writing Mira 18 birthday cards, from her dad. He’s making sure we’ll be okay. He doesn’t feel like he is dying but he’s living like he knows he could.
A funeral when you’re alive.
I don’t feel like he’s dying, but I know he knows how much he is loved before he does.