Updated: Mar 30, 2020
Over the course of Joe’s three-year cancer journey, he was forced to give up many things: driving, marital arts, long hikes, leading worship, sugar, employment, reading… His eyesight deteriorated, mental clarity was affected, balance was a problem…
As I’ve written before, I don’t think I ever heard Joe complain about any of this (with the exception of the mental fog—he really hated not being able to think clearly). With each loss, he adapted as best as he could. But even though he didn’t say much about it, I could tell his new limitations frustrated him.
He often asked one of us to play chess with him. Unfortunately for him, I was often the only one available during the day, and I wasn’t much of a challenge! He did brain development activities online as long as he could see well enough. He worked through Spanish lessons online and dabbled in other languages. He had us read to him from C.S. Lewis and G.K. Chesterton. I so admire his tenacity; his attention span was affected and it was so hard for him to concentrate on anything for long. But he forced himself to keep trying.
While he obligingly gave up many things (see above) and adopted new behaviors for my sake (taking supplements, drinking kale-apple juice), every now and then he dug in his heels, so to speak. He was a good son, helpful and respectful, but I think he got his mom’s quiet stubborn streak. And he continually challenged himself, sometimes pushing himself beyond his capabilities. Despite my requests, he usually refused to use a cane—he didn’t want people to feel they had to make way for him. And he certainly didn’t want anyone’s pity!
On more than one occasion, he took his guitar and climbed the local hill to sit and play music and watch the sun set. He was unstable on his feet, even on flat ground, so hiking up the hill—carrying a guitar, no less—was extremely difficult, but he was determined. When I couldn’t talk him out of it, I would invite myself along, staying a few feet behind in case he slipped. It was a bit stressful for me, but if I could hike up the hill with him one more time, I would savor every minute.
I sure do miss my boy.