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It was completely unexpected. He had been having “heart burn” for the last few weeks but the EKG in his doctor’s office showed nothing. He had made an appointment with the heart specialist for the afternoon of the day he died. He was gone by the time the ambulance arrived and I knew it. A strange peace and grace covered me even then.
Here I am–just a few weeks later–trying to make sense of it all. It still doesn’t seem possible. Joe was only 41 and so healthy and strong; he was my soul mate…my other half. We had the kind of marriage other people dream about having.
I grasp on to the lessons Joe taught me while he was alive and I choose to honor him by following them:
- Live in the moment. Joe knew that the past was over and the future was not in his control, so he consciously chose to live in the moment. He taught me to breathe deeply of the fresh air…to notice the soaring hawk…to feel the luxury of a soft bed beneath me and a beloved book in my hand.
- Love instead of judge. Joe spent his days counseling and teaching troubled teens at his job. They loved him because he loved them….as-is. Joe didn’t try to “fix them” or even inspire them. He just let them be. He listened. He loved. And in the listening–in that loving–he helped them change their lives.
- Follow my gut. Joe never parroted a book, a pastor, a politician or an “important person.” Joe formed his own opinions by listening to his spirit. He was so wise because of that. He gave me permission to make my own decisions and ideas and not to feel compelled to do or say or think as others did or said or thought.
- Be one with nature. Whenever Joe felt stressed or confused, he went outside. We sat on the porch, drank our coffee and talked about the things that meant so much to us. We sat in the metal chairs in our back yard and watched the chickens and the pet pigs playing in the pasture. We walked through our woods, holding hands and smelling the wild roses. Joe stood on the back deck and looked at the night stars. Many of his students have told me how important it was to them that Joe took them on a walk every class period; he stressed the importance of being outdoors.
Joe, I thank you for loving me fully and being my teacher. I will love you always…miss you the rest of my life….remember you daily.