I believe the best relationships, and friendships for that matter, occur when you do not even try to find them. As the saying goes, “when you least expect it…”. And so it happened for me.
Now as one friend likes to tell the story, Josephine and I “met” on Facebook. I am not going to make fun of anyone who has met and developed a relationship on Facebook, Match.com, Plenty of Fish, or whatever internet dating site. As I mentioned yesterday, I am not interested in any kind of internet dating, blind dating. I would prefer to meet someone, or develop a relationship with a natural progression, let it just happen. Let someone come into my life, and find out about the many issues, and baggage that I deal with on a daily basis. If I present myself in a way, that lets someone know that I am not going to draw them into my drama, which is different than being supportive of someone during their drama, then at the very least, I will have found and made a very good friend. And if anything were to develop beyond that, at least it was something that was allowed to develop naturally. That is just me. That is how I want a relationship.
And that is the way things have worked so far for Josephine and I.
Josephine is going to be a familiar name on “Paul’s Heart” because I first actually introduced her with the story, “Meet Michael”. That story is posted in the archives in September as well as a page on this site. I met Josephine through her son, Michael.
Michael had just been diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, at the age of 23. Just one of several coincidences that he and I shared. Another, our birthdays are just one day apart. As many cancer patients are prone to do upon the diagnosis of cancer, he reached out to the internet for support and information about the road that he was going to be travelling down. A friend of his family was aware of a Lymphoma Facebook page. Michael was drawn to the number of posts of information that I was contributing.
Eventually, Michael would “friend” me as would his mother for more personal support with his own diagnosis and treatment. They would ask questions about testing, ask for help to interpret results, and more importantly, how to react to side effects whether they were minor or major. In 24 years, I have only witnessed such strong familial support rarely. And just as rare, the courage and strength of someone to get through such a life threatening battle.
Over time, Michael would learn a lot about my history as well, and soon, he would make comments that he too “was a survivor” even before he finished his last treatment. It was during his last two treatments, that through technology, Facetime, he would invite me along to his final chemo treatments. It was during this time, unbeknownst to me, that invitation would end up preparing me for the day I would set foot inside of a chemotherapy suite for the first time in 25 years as I cared for my father. But through that screen, as I had seen him in his home, more than a thousand miles away, I would see him in his chemo chair, eating pizza, seeing the bright and decorative background behind him, and his mother and father by his side. This was definitely not the way I remembered my days in the chemo suite.
In the meantime, I had been looking to take “Paul’s Heart” to the next level, in book form. I have been doing public speaking as a cancer advocate for as long as I have been a survivor and with my 25th anniversary coming up in two years, I wanted to lay the ground work for a national speaking tour, combined with publishing the book on my survival.
Josephine knew that I was interested in pursuing this direction, and offered to help me. It was her gratitude for supporting Michael and their family. The area where they live would be an excellent area to network and possibly find financial support for my two projects. Coincidently, there was going to be a breast cancer fundraiser there that would be a great starting point to develop this support. But this would end up being more than just a networking opportunity. I had arranged with Josephine, to meet her son who was as much an inspiration to me for his courage during his battle, as I was to him for longevity since my diagnosis.
I spent the weekend getting to know Michael and his family.
But shortly after that visit, things went horribly wrong for Michael. His treatment had caused a terminal condition with his young heart.
Again, I would be leaned on for support, emotionally and technically. Admittedly this would go beyond anything I had ever witnessed as a patient or survivor. But all of them, mother, father, sister, extended family, and friends, all needed help and hope for Michael.
All the while, I was going through my own issues at home. I was in the middle of my divorce. My dog’s health was failing. And my father’s health was also ailing. But one of my biggest flaws is that I always put the needs of others before myself, no matter what. And this was no exception.
Michael passed away just after the new year, just shortly after turning 24 years old. My father passed away this past May.
There were other circumstances that contributed to the one of the biggest decisions in my life at that point. But as I often make my decisions based on familiarity, as well as support, I made a decision to relocate. And it was that natural progression, that has led to something more than just a friendship. We do not necessarily have an official name for it, because we both have been clear that we are not interested in getting married, ever again, both of us having dealt with difficult divorces.
But in Josephine, I have found more than just a friend. And it has happened naturally. As I wrote yesterday, if I were actively pursuing a relationship, at what point would I have the discussion that I had cancer, and all of the other medical issues I have to live with? And after all this time, and in spite of the circumstances, knowing everything about me health wise, and experiencing what her son went through, we have gone beyond being friends.
In each other, we have found unwavering support, as she and her former husband deal with the daily struggles with the loss of their son. Josephine gives me daily encouragement as I begin to rebuild my life, a better life that I want to build for my daughters. In spite of the fears from her son’s death, she courageously supports and encourages a healthy living for me, through diet and exercise, that in spite of all the health issues I deal with, I am going to live a long life if she has anything to say about it.
What is happening between Josephine and I is a lot more complicated that just having “met on Facebook.” But however you want to say it, what we have between each other has happened part in fate, but also because neither of us were looking for anything or anyone. Where ever we end up though, I owe the most thanks to the one person I cannot do so anymore, and that is her son, Michael.
Josephine is not only a beautiful woman, but has a beautiful heart, a kind heart. She is a friend to every one she meets, no matter age, no matter any difference.
My children got to meet Josephine this past summer when they came to visit me, and they adore her. Josephine adores them as well.
My ex has rekindled an old relationship and is happy as well, and the girls have met him also, and like him.
And so you have it, it happens. People get divorced, and move on to hopefully better times which is best for all involved.