Four years ago I received a call from my Aunt Tina that one of her preschool families were moving to Charlotte. She wanted me to send the mother of the family, Maggie an email to answer any questions she had about the area. Maggie and I exchanged a few emails with hopes of grabbing coffee when they arrived. Not too long after that I received a call from my aunt explaining that their youngest child, Joey, then age 2 was diagnosed with stage 4 neuroblastoma and taken to Levine Children's Hospital. My aunt asked if I would go and offer her support there.
I remember being so nervous. At the time I did not have any children and had no idea what I would say to this family who had just learned such awful news about the fate of their small child. Within minutes of meeting Maggie I had no doubt that God had prepared this friendship for me and had set up this divine appointment.
Over the next four years Matt and Maggie have become second family to LD and I as we both lived previously in Michigan and also have no family in the area. We have spent so many holidays, celebrations, dinners and just quick bites to eat over the last four years that I could not begin to count. During those four years, Joey became not just a sweet two year old who was fighting a disease, but a little boy that we personally knew. A little boy who took up residence in our hearts and left memories in our minds.
When Clare was born, her and Joey created a very quick sibling type relationship. When Clare was little she always wanted to be at the computer with Joey and he did not always want this little toddler bothering him. Just a month ago when they were over for dinner Joey and Clare were working on a puzzle together on the floor. Joey gave Clare a section to do and when she got sidetracked he was so frustrated with her for quitting on the job. They shared a very sweet relationship. The last time Clare spent with Joey a little over 2 weeks ago, Clare climbed up on the couch next to Joey to share pretzels with him and I just tried to etch the two of them watching tv together into my mind.
Joey was so tender hearted. We left Elle with Matt and Maggie on new years eve while we went to the movies with Clare and when we got back Joey told me he helped with Elle and earned some coins from his parents in the process. Joey loved to play make-believe with little boy toys like guns, masks and lots of running around. I remember being at their house and Matt, LD and Joey having a nerf gun fight throughout the house while Maggie and I attempted to talk. From early on Joey loved LD and when I would walk in the door the first words I heard from Joey was, "Where is Mr. LD?" while he looked at me with annoyance that I would show up without his playmate.
I am so blessed that Matt and Maggie allowed us to walk this journey with them so we could grow in our own relationship with Christ while watching the way they modeled theirs. I am so incredibly grateful that I was a part of Joey's Journey and when I get to heaven I have no doubt Joey will be smiling ear to ear, waiting to greet me! At his funeral yesterday someone said that Joey is up in heaven playing more legos than he knows what to do with...and I have no doubt he is in all his 6 year old glory, loving every minute of it.
Joey will be missed so very much. It's so easy for me to get caught up in questions of how this could happen to a family like the Aquaros who display such rock solid faith or how this could happen at all to any sweet little child. But I know the heart of my Heavenly Father and I know that He is good. So in these days of desiring to ease the pain of our dear friends while easing our own sadness I trust that in the days to come God will show His Glory on this earth!