I was reminded this week just how fragile and fleeting happiness and life truly is. We received a call Tuesday afternoon informing us that a good friend passed away suddenly. He was only 61 and leaves a wife and 2 teenage boys. We had just seen this family at a party 2 weeks ago. His name was Joe Mullen and he was a living example of happiness being a choice.
Joe had only been in my life since meeting George, but he has been a dear friend to George for 40 years. They met in college and both were there for each other in good and bad times. I came to love Joe’s spirit and wit. Joe had been paralyzed and in a wheel chair for almost 30 years. I rarely had an opportunity to sit and talk to him for any length of time due to where he may be positioned in a room and was usually surrounded by his fraternity brothers. But, at this recent party there was an empty seat next to him and I made a decision to sit and enjoy conversation with Joe. Little did I know it would be the last conversation I would have with him. We solved all of our country’s political problems and even discussed how much George loved me and his opinion of how George and I were meant to be together. When it was time to leave I kissed him goodbye and let him know how much I enjoyed our visit together and we should do it more often, he agreed.
Joe and his wife just celebrated 30 years of marriage. Susie, his wife, has been by his side devoting her life to taking care of Joe and their sons. It was not easy, but they made their life work. Joe enjoyed life and never let his disability stop him from happiness and a full life with his family. Joe could have felt sorry for himself. Joe could have chosen anger over his circumstance. But, instead, Joe and Susie chose happiness with the life they had and made the best of the circumstances they had. Because of their love for each other their boys thrived and Joe and Susie created a loving home and healthy environment for their sons. They were living examples of what love and devotion to each other looks like.
Now that Joe has passed Susie will have a difficult journey moving forward. She is a strong and capable woman, but she has spent her life being Joe’s wife and caregiver. Now she will have to learn how to care and nurture herself. Being a widow and knowing parts of the journey she will need to overcome, I will be there to help and hopefully mentor her through it.
We only grow and learn when we face adversity. Happiness is our respite. It is the time to relax and enjoy what life has to offer. However, even through adversity we can make a conscious choice to be happy and content in the moment we find ourselves. We always have the choice to focus on what we have and not on what we have lost. I chose to sit in my space and examine my blessings and not always focus on the life I lost.
I truly believe our life finds us. Our job is to just sit in our circumstance and always choose gratitude. It is in gratitude where we find happiness and happiness opens our heart to possibilities of what our life has to offer us. George and I are living proof of this and Susie and Joe embodied these traits. Susie just has to learn how to do it without Joe going forward. I know God will bring the tools and people she will need just as he did for me.
This blog is posted in memory to Joseph Michael Mullen.