My dream job, like if I could do ANYTHING on this earth, is to hear the story of every person I come in contact with…no one is a stranger to me and everyone matters. It would be kind of like Brandon Stanton, founder of HONY, except I’d just be myself, obviously, and it would be humans of wherever (HOW?), asking questions and listening, even when, and maybe especially when, it’s hard. We would exchange stories, and in doing so, further make known God’s love, first because of what Jesus did for mankind, second because we defied the darkness and went ahead and shared our stories, all the messes included.
I always say if a smarter thought pops into your head than you could think of, that was God talking. Well, over the last few years that’s been the case with a friend from high school and his wife. I will be driving along and their names or faces will come to mind, so I pray. Some of those times I’ve reached out to his wife to just let her know she was on my heart. So, when I found myself driving around our new city of Nashville recently, coming up with full interview questions for them, I first thought, “Well, maybe Jay and Mandy don’t really want to talk about their journey, or her cancer diagnosis, or the fact that hospice is just around the bend…” Then I remembered my dad’s words, “It never hurts to ask,” and so I reached out to them…
…it started like this, “Hey guys! I just wanted to shoot you two and email and let you know that I literally think about you guys every day….” And then I shared a lot more with them, including the interview questions. Quickly I got this response from Jay, “Wow, when I read that first line I was thinking “Ade is not only Mother Theresa, she’s Dr. Kevorkian too!”
At first I thought, well, I’m for sure no Mother Theresa…and I’m not afraid to be around death but I guess I never compared myself to Kevorkian?! Then I reread my initial email and sent back some cry-laughing and eyes wide emoji’s because, ahem, clearly I meant “AN email” rather than “shoot you two AND email.” I include this because one thing I’ve experienced in my 10 years since losing our son is, as inappropriate as it may seem, somehow sense of humor is always woven into pain and grief, and from Jay’s response, I knew he knew this, too.
With Mandy and Jay’s permission, I will be publishing portions of some of their story they shared with me here on the blog over the next couple weeks. The questions I sent to them are the same, but they decided to take time and answer them separately. To learn their different responses, as well as those that overlapped, was a beautiful part of this interview for me. I invite you to walk into this sacred space not only to “meet” them, but to encourage your own heart to draw near, not away, when someone you know is facing death, sooner than later.
Jay Smith and I went to high school together in Scottsdale, Arizona, back in the late 80’s. He and I were both captains of our swim team and also played basketball for our school. What I remember about Jay was his kind demeanor and dry sense of humor, plus I think he was a little bit country?! As is with many people from high school, we all moved onto new roads after graduation and lost touch over time. At some point, Jay and I reconnected over Facebook and I got to “meet” his wife, Mandy, as well. Mandy has a blog and would post occasionally, so I would head over and read to know these guys a little more. It didn’t take long to discover they were the best of friends, had hilarious senses of humor, loved the outdoors and creation, and had also walked through some very hard times, namely, Mandy’s on and off and on again diagnoses with cancer less than a year into their marriage, over 21 years ago.
(Mandy) Without hesitating, jot down your most favorite things about YOURSELF:
- I love deeply & for always
- Sarcastic (that’s just my favorite – certainly not a favorite of a lot of people)
(Jay) What is something that makes your heart soar, your dimples run deep, and brings joy to the deepest part of you?
In one word, Sarcasm. My wife is beautifully sarcastic and I love her for it. I was raised by one of the most sarcastically funny men I have ever known and he always kept me on my toes as to how I said things or answered him. You could ask a thousand people, maybe more, and I bet they would not answer this question with “sarcasm!”
I find joy in not taking life too seriously, however, most of the time I do. My wife says I was “born old.” I don’t have the inner child in me who giggles and does silly things. So, when life gets too serious, Mandy can usually bring me back to reality just with a sarcastic comment, most of the time about me, which really makes me do an attitude adjustment. It will be one of the things that I will miss the most.
Mandy and I have spent so much time together over the last 21 years of marriage without interruption. When you don’t have kids to interrupt you or family close by that you can run to for support, you find everything you need in each other. And that is exactly what we have done our whole marriage. MANDY MAKES MY HEART SOAR, MY DIMPLES RUN DEEP, AND BRINGS JOY TO THE DEEPEST PART OF ME!
(Jay) Without hesitating, jot down your most favorite things about YOURSELF:
I’m loyal, trustworthy, honest, and try to work hard every day. So, apparently I’m a Golden Retriever. I do tend to drool at dinnertime, but my wife is a rocking chef!
I love the outdoors and to spend time hiking, camping and dong outdoorsy things. It makes me happy and I believe nature was my first love. When I was only five years old, I would spend hours alone, in the woods behind our house and just “be.” My mom’s only rule was to stay in eyesight of our house so she could see me.
I like to help people, it makes me feel good to use my talents to help others. My problem is that I tend to take over and think that I know what is best to do and how best to help someone. As I grow older, I hope to do better at just helping and not forcing my will onto others.
(Mandy) What is something that makes your heart soar, your dimples run deep, and brings joy to the deepest part of you?
- Sitting around with family and friends just sharing life – sharing stories. Over cups of coffee or glasses of wine – just sharing and bring real and close. My heart literally flip flops inside my chest when I am with my loves and we are laughing so hard we can’t catch our breath.
- Bluebirds – I know that seems random, but at my saddest most confusing times over the past few years, God has sent bluebirds. I don’t see them every day, but when I do, I know who sent them and my heart leaps and I can’t help but smile and praise Him.
Friend, this one’s for you: