Every so often, I hear her voice.
It’s rarely around anniversaries like this, the anniversary of her passing. It’s rarely when I’m even thinking about something that connects us, like St. Bonaventure or basketball.
It’s usually when I least expect it, when I’m by myself and starting to get into my own way. That’s when I hear Joy’s voice, a mix of encouragement and gentle reproach telling me, in so many words, to get my head out of my ass.
Joy was a teammate of mine at St. Bonaventure. Although I would never label us “teammates” since she was a recruited scholarship athlete and I was the manager. Joy however, wouldn’t hesitate. She boldly proclaimed that I was as much a part of the program as she was. I didn’t believe her back then. I wish I had.
She passed away from a rare form of cancer not long after we graduated from college. I never got the chance to fully appreciate what she did for me while she was still here. Part of me will always regret that.
And part of me will always carry a piece of her into every race I do, whether I’m consciously thinking of her or not. She was a central figure in supporting me as I gained control of my health and fitness. She was one of the first people to encourage me, to help me see that athlete that resided deep in me, who wanted nothing more than to just get out and play. She never got to see me do a race, let alone a marathon or Ironman, but I know that somewhere she was proud of me. I know that she was one of the first people who believed I could it, even if I didn’t believe it myself. Hell, even if I couldn’t name what “it” was that I wanted to do.
Joy’s biggest gift to me was her unconditional support.
Her family’s mantra has been “Live for Joy.” Nothing is more apt, because even in the midst of struggles, big and small, she always found a way to access joy. Today, I heard her whisper, “go get it.” Ok, that’s a lie. I heard her shout it.
Thanks, Joy. I needed that.