Last week was a hard week.
I've been pretty stressed out. There's a lot of stuff going on with Twila, I've been under the weather, and Joe's been in a lot more pain than we anticipated following the surgery. It is so hard to see him in pain. I wish I could do anything to take it away. There have been a lot of times this past week where I've felt like I've been losing my strength. Times where I've felt weaker and more tired than I have in a long time. Times where I start to wander down that awful rabbit hole of 'why us?' Why did this happen to Joe? He's one of the greatest people I know, he doesn't deserve this. But you can't think like that.
For some reason, this is his journey. This is our journey.
And despite how hard it might be for us sometimes, I know a huge reason of why this is Joey's journey. His character is so incredibly charismatic. He can makes friends anywhere and relate to anyone. His amazing attitude, even in his weakest, darkest times, is better than some people's on a regular day. He's so strong and has been able to handle everything this life has thrown at him.
He is an inspiration. A voice. An advocate. All of these things that God built within him from the beginning are why he is able to inspire so many others to change their lives and has brought a positive aspect to the amputee community. He's mentored so many others through the same things that caused him so much pain. He's incredible in how he uses his hardships to help others.
This is Ayden.
He's an amazing boy from Pennsylvania whom Joe and I had the pleasure of meeting last summer. Ayden's mom, Lori, found Joe through his Facebook page. Ayden has Fibular Hemimelia and Club Foot and has had 10 surgeries to try and help his leg, but since nothing has truly helped, Ayden is getting his left foot amputated this coming summer. We were able to meet this wonderful family and talk with them about every aspect of the surgery and recovery. Afterwards, Ayden wrote a paper for one of his classes and here's a small insert of what he said:
After talking to [Joe], I felt more confident in my decision [to amputate]. He said he would be my mentor and be there for me. I like Joe because he’s a nice guy with a good attitude. I got the idea for my [adventures] because Joe viewed his situation as an adventure. It’s better to look at everything you do in life as an adventure rather than an obstacle.
I mean, wow! At such a young age (If I remember correctly, Ayden is around 12), this is such a profound way to look at life. Even I have trouble looking at life like this and I'm over twice his age. Even when the days are tough, the pain is terrible and both of us just want to break down, it is stories like this that help us through. The support we get from our families and the Facebook group, and the stories we hear of how much Joe's story has helped them...that makes all of this worth it for us.
These past few months, we've had the opportunity to watch Ayden as he goes on his adventures before his surgery. He went to Disney last month, did a Skycoaster at Kennywood Park, and has been paintballing. His list has been changing and their adventures continue until his surgery in June. His mom's been emailing us and asked for some advice, and here's the biggest piece that Joe gave her that can really be applied to anything.
This isn't the LAST of your adventures.
"Something I tried to remember during my adventures that helped me through the tough times: You are going to be able to do all these adventures again, however [there] will be with nothing holding you back. As fun as everything is now, it will be amazing to run around Disney and kick butt in paintball with a fully-functioning prosthetic. I would always think 'Hey, this is really fun now and all, but I cannot WAIT until I can do this to the best of my ability, without a bad leg holding me back!'"
I know. We've been calling it 'the Last Adventures' for so long, but when you really sit and think about it, it isn't the last one at all. But this is the absolute best thing to remember through any tough situation. No matter how endless those dark days can seem, how hard things get or how much you want to give up, it's not the end. This work that we do day in and day out is for a bigger reason and it's laying the ground work for better adventures.
As I try to keep moving forward and keep my strength up this week, I am going to keep telling myself this:
This isn't the last of your adventures.