My cousin Stephanie always felt more like a sister than a cousin to me. In fact, we look more alike than me and my sisters do.
I remember when Stephanie first told me about Jonathon. Her eyes lit up when she said his name, which is common in the beginning of a relationship. But the beautiful thing about their relationship is the sparkle didn't lessen with time; it only shone brighter.
|#tbt Steph & Jonathon|
We were so excited when they announced their engagement. We began making plans to attend their beautiful destination wedding on Fripp Island.
|Announcing their engagement on Christmas Eve|
|From their "trash the dress" sunrise photo shoot the morning after their wedding|
Jonathon was a pilot and his job moved them to Arizona. They bought a beautiful home and Stephanie accepted a teaching job there. Their son Jack was born. Life was perfect.
|37 weeks pregnant with Jack|
When Jack was about three-months-old, Jonathon was diagnosed with Stage 4 liver cancer.
What Jonathon endured during the next year, I honestly can't imagine, but you wouldn't have known it from talking to him. When they came home for Christmas, even after everything he'd been through and was going through, Jonathon was the same ole guy. He was kind, friendly, and smiley. He spent the evening trying to do something to make your day a little better. That's just the kind of fella he was.
|My sister drew Jonathon's name for Christmas and got him personalized poker cards since he and Stephanie met playing in a poker tournament.|
They say when someone faces adversity, you see who they really are. Jonathon faced more adversity than most of us could fathom - and the person he really was - was truly special.
When a young person dies, there is a loss of what could have been, of what should have been. Stephanie and Jonathon waited so long to find each other. They planned on decades of marriage, but they only got about three years.
How will Stephanie go on without him? How will that baby ever know how precious his daddy was?
These are the thoughts that break my heart in two. It isn't fair. It's one of those things that we'll never understand and I guess we're not meant to.
Sometimes we forget how hard it is on the family and friends of those battling cancer. The feeling of helplessness must be overwhelming. Stephanie handled it with strength and grace - each chemo treatment, each fight to get a new drug approved by insurance, each recovery, each piece of bad news. I don't think I could have been half as strong if facing the same circumstances.
Stephanie and Jonathon's friends put together a poker tournament as a fundraiser for Jonathon. Poker has always been special to them since they met playing poker in a local restaurant. This event was a good chance for everyone to say goodbye and do something to help Stephanie and Jack.
See that picture? That's what cancer looks like, people.
It's the face of a sweet man - a new husband and father - who's fighting for just one more day to spend with them. It's the tearful eyes of a 31-year-old widow who is trying to be strong for everybody else's sake. It's the innocent smile of a baby who will only know his dad through stories and photographs. It's the hearts of family and friends who had to say goodbye way too soon.
Our family has been no stranger to cancer and death in recent months. We've lost my grandmother, Aunt Sharon, Uncle David and Jonathon. I was diagnosed with cancer, which seems pretty insignificant by comparison, and another cousin had two large growths/tumors removed last week (we are still waiting on the biopsy results).
It's definitely been a rough patch. Anybody care to join me for a margarita or twenty?
I've posted updates about Jonathon on Facebook. Thank you for supporting them in thought and prayer. And also, thank you so much for your donations. In lieu of flowers, if you would like to make a donation to Jack's college fund, you may do so HERE.
|Team Ford: Jonathon, Stephanie and Jack's hand prints|
Today, I think of Jonathon. I picture him climbing onto a golden plane in Heaven - sitting in the right seat with God as his pilot - and flying through the clouds in clear, perfect weather. I imagine him finding friends up there who love to play poker too, and every one of his hands is a Royal Flush. I think about him finding a beautiful park bench where he'll sit and wait for the rest of us to join him in Heaven some day. And I imagine him looking down at Stephanie and Jack and thinking, 'Don't be sad. I'll see you in a little while', and then smiling that sweet smile that always said, everything is going to be okay.
Some loves last a lifetime. Some loves last for eternity. And some loves last both.
Many prayers to Stephanie, Jack, family and friends.
And many thanks to Jonathon Ford - we're all better for knowing you, brother. May you rest in eternal, Heavenly peace.