Relaxed joyfulness is found at the point
when we have everything we could ever need,
and we know it.
Rest in relaxed joyfulness, J⁴
07.27.1954 – 04.05.2018
I’ll see you in the Light
and honor your grace
all the livelong day.
While walking on a treadmill at a gym in January 2015, Julie Jo Jamison Jones (J⁴) lost the feeling in her foot. Two days later, after symptoms persisted, she checked herself into Barrows Neurological Institute.
J⁴ called me from the hospital, “ come here now.”
J⁴ had a brain tumor, and according to the neurologists, the tumor metastasized from cancer in her lung. The diagnosis – stage IV lung cancer.
The following April, my daughter and I set out on a long-anticipated 5-week trip to South America to celebrate my daughter’s college graduation. I felt terrible leaving J⁴ who I’d promised to be by her side during cancer treatment.
My daughter and I contemplated how we could include J⁴ in our travels. I asked my mother if she had any ideas.
Two days before our departure, at 11 PM, my mother called with an idea.
Years before, my mother had purchased colorful wooden angels from an artist at a Chautauqua art fair. My mother suggested we contact the artist and see if we could order the angels for our trip.
I phoned the artist, Cheryl, owner of Louise’s Daughter.
Last minute, but it was worth a try.
Cheryl answered my call from the other side of the country while she grocery shopped. I asked if I could purchase 60 angels and if the angels could arrive by the following evening. Unable to guarantee, Cheryl assured me she’d try.
The next night, on the eve of our departure, the angels arrived.
And what’s followed, has been miraculous.
The angels, now known as J⁴ Angels, are spreading across the world. Handcrafted by Louise’s Daughter, the J⁴ Angels arrive at our hands via a FedEx package, and as life happens, find their way into the hands of warm-hearted, supportive, and deserving people.
Together, we’ve become a choir –
A choir of angels sent out into our world one person at a time, lifting each other to a higher ground and rejoicing with gratitude for all that’s good.
When a J⁴ Angel makes it into your hands, please know that someone somewhere sees the Light in you. You are a beacon of hope.
In the name of eternal friendship, you, too, are a messenger in our growing circle of kindness and support.
Hopefully, your J⁴ Angel will remind you to rejoice –
For you are in Good Hands and good company!
This summer, a week before leaving for Santa Barbara, J⁴ spoke with a man who had had a near-death experience. He flatlined 7 times. The man told J⁴ that he had seen God and that it was beautiful “on the other side.”
After telling me the man’s story, J⁴ said,
“I want you to know that I’m at peace with dying.”
The summer before, in 2016, J⁴ survived malignant pleural effusion, a complication of lung cancer. Doctors predicted a 3-month life expectancy.
“If I’m going to die, I want to spend my last days at the beach.”
Her angel-of-a-husband, QCJ rented a house on a cliff overlooking the ocean in Santa Barbara. They invited their family and my family for a week-long vacation. It was an incredible week.
In my wildest dreams, I never thought we’d make it back to the beach this year, but we did. J⁴ fought every single day of the 365 days, battling and overcoming the coughs, the fatigue, the treatment failures, the chemo, the radiation, and the depression. She assures me,
“I accept I drew the short stick with this cancer card,
but I’m not done.”
She keeps moving – onward and upward – hoping for a miracle and defying the odds.
And because of J⁴’s perseverance and optimism, we’re back in Santa Barbara this year.
We’re in a different rental house with a modified group of family, but we’re back at the beach and still have J⁴.
One afternoon while J⁴ rested by the rental house’s pool, I went out to photograph. I google-searched a stairway to the ocean that I had seen while doing some travel research on Pinterest. I used my Waze app to lead me to the stairway’s access, hidden in between two homes in a Santa Barbara residential neighborhood. With my 40+ lb camera bag on my back and wearing my street clothes and shoes, I headed down the path toward the stairs. As I approached the stairs, I saw a male runner ascending the stairs toward me. He was in great shape, yet as he passed me, I could hear his heavy breathing. He was out of breath but still running. I second-guessed my clothing and longed for my running shoes and workout pants/top. The stairs were steep and numerous. This was going to be a workout for me, too.
As I descended, I noticed the people who headed up the stairs. Some had beach chairs and towels, so I presumed the steep staircase was the only exit option from the beach. Many took a break on a long bench located midway on the stairs. Below, I could see surfers slowly paddling their boards close to the shoreline, resting before heading back out to sea. It seemed, at the moment, everyone was taking a breather.
I took photos while I made the journey down toward the water. When I reached the bottom, I, too, took a breather.
At the bottom of the steep stairs, I eyed the staircase. I had no choice but to climb in my uncomfortable shoes and with my heavy backpack the 270+ stairs back to my parked car. I knew I’d be out of breath – that the hike up would be strenuous, but I also felt confident I’d make it, possibly breathing heavily, but it’d be doable. I closed my eyes and acknowledged with gratitude my lungs that would ultimately get me to the top. I couldn’t help but think of J⁴, exactly where she should be, resting, taking a breather, by the pool and not with me at the bottom of this intimidating staircase.
That’s what happens when someone you love is challenged. You feel the hurdle with them, and as your compassion grows, you acknowledge the simple acts we so often take for granted, like hearts continuously pumping blood to our organs and lungs expanding and contracting without thought. We may feel occasional stress, but we don’t face a death sentence. For most, a walk up a staircase is not life-threatening. However, when someone who used to walk with such confidence, speed, and grace, now struggles to walk a city block, we become aware. We recognize the gifts of living – of one more staircase, one more triumphant, one more day, and are humbled when we draw the long stick, allowing us one or more years.
Yesterday, I went with J⁴ to her oncology appointment. Her CT scans revealed the current chemo drug is working! Her lungs have 50% more room for oxygen.
J⁴ has triumphantly turned a death sentence into a life sentence, and we’ve all gotten a breather from worrying about her every breath as she moves forward and lives –
Next time you take the stairs, when you’re out of breath and agitated with the climb, take a moment for a breather – a time out to be grateful for breath, for health, for compassion, and for life.
And remember it’s our attitudes that shape our abilities to climb and to withstand precarious altitudes!
Positivity and hope heal – I’ve seen it firsthand “on this side!”
Seated behind me, an off-key singer belted every word to each hymn and prayer during the church service. Her voice cracked and carried in all directions, butchering the notes, but she had all the words down pat.
Midway through the service, my daughter whispered into my ear, can you hear the woman’s voice behind you? I nodded.
It was time to pass the peace, a Catholic mass ritual. I wasn’t raised Catholic, so I’m not familiar with the religion’s formalities. Plus, it’s my nature to keep to myself. I prefer a seat in the back of the classroom, a drive-thru cashier who does not to take my order at my car’s window, a bike or yoga mat that’s off to the side in a workout room, and a private table in the back of a restaurant.
Attempting to participate in this greeting ritual, I gazed at the people near me, but everyone was busy greeting others. After a few seconds and an awkward pause, I turned to the row behind me. I faced The Voice.
The Voice is an older woman and less than 5′ tall, wearing a blue and white striped bucket hat.
We smile at each other, taking each other’s hands as I say, peace be with you.
Smiling and with the most crystal clear, melodic voice, The Voice spoke,
May God be with you, and may you never cut your hair. It’s beautiful.
Caught off guard, I fumbled for words and responded with an “aw, thank you.”
I wanted to reply, I learned so much while listening as you precisely recited each sacrament and hymn, but the mass continued, ending our face-time.
We knelt for communion. I quickly searched in my purse for a J⁴ angel. I had just one, blue, matching the color in the stripes of The Voice’s bucket hat. It was meant to be.
Leaving the pew, I placed the angel on The Voice’s praying hands. Kneeling on a prayer bench behind me, she opened her eyes, looked at the angel, and didn’t say a word. I could feel the peace we shared as I exited the sanctuary.
As my week continued, I heard The Voice. I heard her confident yet labored singing voice transition into her soothing speaking voice. I heard her heartfelt words. I believe from here forward, The Voice will aid the awkward pauses when I’m searching for someone to greet.
Our actions and words have the power to bring peace. Let’s be more like The Voice, being precise with our words and not worrying so much about what others think. Who knows what impact we may have on the world by putting our kind words out there. It doesn’t matter if we’re sharp, flat, tone deaf or out-of-tune.
It matters more that we’ve got offering peace down pat.
“You’re back, girl!”
– Justin, Soul Cycle, Palo Alto
He didn’t know he was speaking directly to me, as the beat dropped in the roomful of riders, but in my mind, his encouraging welcome back was like a welcome home, speaking directly to my 50-year-old legs I’d seemingly retired from cycling.
Justin’s words lifted my spirit and my rusty legs, carrying me to a place where I felt I could fly –
There’s no better exercise than lifting others up.
“I discovered when moving through eternity,
it helps to travel lightly.
In fact, I held onto only one thing – my memory.
– Mary Alice, Wisteria Lane, Desperate Housewives
Everywhere I’ve traveled, I’ve yet to see a human being walk on water.
Without some aid, we could get sucked in,“Crash & Fall,”
Iguazu Falls, Brazil
Be humble. Be respectful. Ask for direction. Accept help.