The past few weeks have been full of reflection. When we moved into our home, like most people, we met and got to know our neighbors. Some neighbors you get to know a little better than others. It seems that you get to know those neighbors a little better that might have children the same age as yours, or go to the same church, or even share a hobby.
The family that lived across the street at the time, had four boys of which two were the same ages as our two boys. Our youngest son became friends with Jason (the third son) and are still best friends to this day. We learned that the family were missionaries to Jordan, and that their youngest son Joseph had leukemia.
Joseph battled his cancer for nearly six years, and from the time we met the family he was in and out of the Arnold Palmer Children’s Hospital in Orlando. So often he just wanted to go outside and play, but the doctors wouldn’t allow it. He love legos, and pirates, and professional wrestling, and Jesus. He got to come over to our house a few times and played Wii sports with us, and he was pretty good too. I also remember carrying him to his bed because he was too weak to walk, while he instructed me just how to carry him. Joseph had more of an eternal perspective at the age of 8 then I sometimes wonder if I ever will.
At the hospital, he was known as Dr. Joseph. He had been there so often that he knew the doctor’s vernacular, and could see the symptoms in the other kids. He would met the other children that were new and let them know how it was all going to go down. They even made up a little doctor’s coat with “Dr. Joseph” on it.
I can’t imagine the emotional torture that a family goes through when dealing with such a devastating disease. The ups of believing the disease has been defeated to the ultimate down of watching them draw their last breath.
There’s an organization called Base Camp that helps families walk through the difficult journey of having a child with cancer. They take them meals on treatment days, have birthday parties, and organize various events for them. They try to bring a little normalcy to what is otherwise a very difficult and and gut wrenching time.
Earlier this month marked the two year anniversary of Dr. Joseph walking through the gates of heaven. Dr. Joseph’s mom has since become involved with Base Camp. She routinely delivers cupcakes to the kids on their chemo days and has become affectionately known as The Cupcake Lady by all the kids. My wife goes along each week as well just to help and love where she can.
While I knew that they would go to the hospital, I have to confess that I didn’t really know the name of the Base Camp organization. Our office manager had sent me an email to attend a celebrity waiter luncheon event. In my busyness, I didn’t read through the email and was going to pass on this one. Thankfully she came down to my office to explain and asked again if I would go. Once I made the connection there was no option but to attend. Also, two of my co-workers ended up not being able to attend, so I was able to take my wife and Joseph’s mom.
The way these events are set up, to raise money, and in order to eat your lunch you can bribe your waiter to get your silverware back. There are challenges for others to do crazy things, and items get auctioned off. Well my sweet wife and her friend decided to collaborate and challenge me to rap in front of about 300 people for $50. I knew there was no getting out of this when she said “do it for Joseph”. I can’t even explain how far out of my comfort zone I was. I did take the opportunity to introduce the crowd to my little neighbor, Dr. Joseph, his battle, and just how the Base Camp organization had impacted his family. I explained to the crowd that if I couldn’t get out of this by out bidding my wife – I would except matches to the $50, for them to watch a white guy with no rhyming skills freestyle rap for them. We turned that $50 into $600 and I lived up to expectations! They raised close to $9000 that day and I think over $40000 for the event.
This past saturday was the 5K walk/run that they held at UCF. Of course, we were signed up for this as well. We were part of Team Dr. Joseph and had the team name along with a picture of a cupcake put on the back of the event T-shirt.
If you know me, I’m a person of routine. For instance, I get up early run before it gets hot out, eat my breakfast and drink my coffee while I cool down, and then get ready for the day. Well last Saturday everything was out of order. Since the run didn’t start until 9 AM, I had to eat first (and have a cup of coffee). It was already 80 degrees by then, and I do not like to run in the heat at all. I’m a serious whimp when it comes to this. My wife, while not a runner, wanted to try and run the whole way without stopping. I quipped “That’s great, Joseph never stopped”.
Those words would ring through my thoughts the entire 3.1 miles. What do you do when you can’t stop? Dr. Joseph couldn’t stop. The answer – you keep going. As the heat and breakfast were trying to convince me to slow down and walk a bit, I would have this self-dialogue of “What do you do when you can’t quit?” So I pressed on; and ended up finishing 3rd overall with a new PR. Before you get too impressed there were only about 100 people in the event and many of them were walkers. It’s probably the only time in my life I will ever make the podium.
So it’s been a good month to reflect, and consider the harder things in life. It’s also been good to be pushed outside of my comfort zone mentally, emotionally, and physically. We must push beyond the the shallows of comfort in order to find the deep waters of our character.
In honor of Dr. Joseph, who is still teaching me life lessons, here is a video of his 8th and last birthday party (thrown by Base Camp) just 22 days before he died. He’s the best pirate to ever put on the eye patch!