Today was the first day of a new journey for Milo and I. I have to admit I am scared, overwhelmed, and uncertain about what lies ahead for us. That can be addressed on another day. What I want to talk about today was yesterday. Yesterday hundreds of people came to honor my husband. At one point we even stood up and cheered and yelled out our honor to him. At the very end we went out and released 36 balloons for what would have been Joel's 36th birthday in a few weeks. Our Pastor Chris did an amazing job leading the service. All of our insanely talented musician friends sang beautifully. It was perfect and it was hard. No amount of honor for him would have ever been enough. Many times throughout the day I would put my hand on my heart and tell him "this is all for you Jojo-all for you." Every day I felt incredibly proud to be Joel's wife but on this day even more so. If you were not able to attend I had our pastor read a letter that I wrote for Joel since I knew I wouldn't be able to speak.

Here's the letter:

I wanted to speak so badly on behalf of my husband but did not believe that I could get through it so I come to you with this letter. Our family has so much overwhelming gratitude to everyone that has prayed and interceded for us over the last 3 years and especially the last 7 weeks. We thank all of you. We especially want to thank our Antioch church community who have embraced our story and believed so completely for Joel’s healing. Your prayers will not return void. Joel and I always felt so humbled to be able to be a part of such an incredible community of people.

How do I even begin to describe how amazing this man was? Words cannot do him justice but I will try my best. Everyone who knew Joel would come to him for everything. If your computer would break down Joel would be the person people would call and he would walk them through how to fix it. If he knew you were going to buy an item, electronic items in particular, watch out! He would scour newspaper ads and Internet to find you the best deal possible. People thought his passion about it was so silly but really it was his way of always taking care of those around him that he loved so much. If you were in his life he loved you deeply.

I will miss the laughter that filled our home even in the midst of extremely difficult circumstances. I remember when he was going through chemo the first time, we were watching TV and he casually says “Babe, do you mind if I buy some Godzilla slippers?” I responded by saying “uh…that should be fine” rolling my eyes and that was the end of it. I had forgotten about that conversation until about 2 weeks later a huge package arrived at our house. Joel opens it and out comes a pair of insanely huge Godzilla slippers, with claws and everything. He wore those ridiculous slippers all winter long. Sometimes we would be in the midst of a serious conversation and I would look down at his feet and burst out laughing. He was so childlike at heart and that was one of the things that I loved the most about him.

He loved Jesus. His faith wasn’t one where he shouted it from the rooftops but rather quietly tried to display Jesus to people every single day. One of my favorite recent memories of him happened just 2 months ago. After the May 20th tornado his heart was devastated. He wanted so badly to do something but couldn’t help with clean up due to how sick he was. He came up with an idea to load up our car full of water and drive around giving water to people cleaning up the rubble of their homes. Block by block I would drive around and he would roll down the window yelling out to people “You guys need any WATTA?” in that glorious New York accent of his. He had the biggest smile on his face that day and said he was so glad that he could do something to help those people. His heart was always full of compassion for those in need.

His love for his son was beyond compare. Our son was a miracle that we had prayed for-for five years. Sometimes we would be in the living room watching Milo toddle around and I would look over at Joel and he have tears of joy rolling down his face. He would always tell me “I just love that little guy so, so much.” Our promise to you Joel, is that your son will know every single day how much his Daddy loved him. He will know who you were and will be raised to be every bit of the man that his Father was.

When Joel was in the hospital he told me that he felt like God would one day put him on a stage so that he could tell everyone about how good God was and how if He had healed Joel that He could heal them to. He said if they see me hopefully I could just give them hope. Sweet Joel, God did put you on a stage for the world to see you fight and fight you did. And we know that your desire for others to see Christ’s hope in your life will not ever go unfulfilled.

Many people have felt for me as a wife to having to go through such a difficult 3-year health battle with my husband but I want to say that it was truly the greatest honor of my life. Through our suffering we got to KNOW Jesus in ways that many people never get to experience. We got to see with our own eyes the way that He would provide for us and move in miraculous ways. We got to experience 3 years of a deeply intense bond with God and with each other because there was no one else who could understand more intimately what we were walking through. Life was sweet and each day appreciated so fully because we were never under any assumptions of how long our time together would be. When we said “in sickness and in health” neither of us could have imagined what that would entail but I would walk this road a thousand times over again with Joel and with Jesus leading us. My greatest sadness will only be that we didn’t have more time together. No amount of time with the love of my life would have ever been enough.

I want Joel’s life to not be in vain. I want his story to touch millions and for nations to be changed by the story of this man. Through every trial he never complained. He always told me that it would be ok and God would take care of him and He did. We grieve because we will miss him every day until we see him again but it is hard to be sad for Joel when we know that he is with Jesus in the most amazing place and with our child that we lost. I know half of our family is there waiting for us and will rejoice with us again one day. That hope carries us. Until then precious Joel, Milo and I will carry you so deeply in our hearts and honor you with our lives. We will continue to proclaim your story until all will see and truly know “how great is our God.”

We love you.

Joel has four best friends from NYC-Simon, Jorge, Pierre and Russ. As soon as Joel passed away every single one of them hopped on a plane to be here. My son, who normally takes a bit to warm up to people, was obsessed with them from day one. He walked up to them and gave them kisses and anywhere they were he wanted to be. I don't believe that you have to have genetic blood running through your veins to be family-these four amazing men are our family. They have all made a commitment to Milo to be a presence in his life so that Milo knows who his Father was. Having them here was such strength to me. We sat at the kitchen table for hours 2 nights in a row talking, laughing through tears, and sharing stories about my husband. They are loyal to the core and they made me realize, once again, how blessed I am to be Joel's wife. Pictures are below.

One of Joel's friends, Pierre, wrote a lovely blog post honoring Joel. His post really shows you many things about who Joel was as a person.

Here is the link:

So now Milo and I take our heavy hearts and try to figure out a way to move forward. Never will we move on, nor would we want to. But we have to figure out a way to make a life for ourselves where we also continue to honor and celebrate Joel's life It is now my mission to see that Joel's story was not in vain. If you continue to follow our story, that is what you will see us continuously give our life to do.

It's all for you, Jojo. All for you.