He really was a good Joe
My friend Joe passed away last night after about a five-year battle with several forms of cancer. By today’s measure, he was still pretty young to be so ill. He was just a couple of month’s shy of his 62nd birthday when the cancer got the best of him. I can attest to the fact that his fight for life was a valiant one. He wouldn’t give up on life despite the fact that at most times he suffered unbearable pain, silently.
I met Joe only a time or two before we lost contact. He had gone to Oregon to be with his family and then returned to California before I even knew he was sick, so by the time he and I became friends, he’d already been struggling with cancer for a couple of years and I didn’t even know. Just by chance, I heard rumors that he was sick and that there were people taking advantage of that fact to take him for everything he had. I found out that this is fairly common for when someone gets sick — everybody starts fighting over everything the sick person has even before they’re dead and gone.
I drove out to his ranch and sure enough, there were three or four people loading up everything he owned in a big flatbed truck. They didn’t slow down one bit with their thievery when they pointed me in the direction where Joe was laying ill on a mattress with no sheets, eating a can of beef stew, right from the can.
“These people are trying to kill Joe!” were the thoughts that ran through my head. It made me sick. I wondered why there was no one to help him.
Joe was a loner who wanted things done his way, so he pushed his family away despite the fact that they so desperately wanted to help. He insisted that family and doctors be kept at arms length and he liked it that way. His family did everything they could do from a distance, but everything they tried to do was seen as interference by Joe. He was funny that way.
Anyway, Joe kind of adopted my family and I so in no time we were inseparable, and together we nursed him back to health and at times he was all but cancer free. Twice we thought we had beat it but it always came back. Breast cancer had eaten away at his body, and bone cancer had eaten his bones until it eventually made it to painful for him to walk unassisted. Finally, tumors in his brain seemed to get the better of him. I used to joke with him about all the bad karma he was suffering and I suggested he must have been a terrible person in his last life to have it so bad in this life.
For three years, Joe was always with me. People used to say that we began looking and acting alike. People would see Joe in my yard and yell at him, “Hey Don.” Thinking he was me. When I did my volunteer work down at Putah Creek, Joe would come along. As long as he was able. he would work right along side of me watering trees, fertilizing, and anything else that needed to be done. It was clear to me that he enjoyed his time at the creek.
In the end, Joe became very sick. He lost a lot of weight very quickly and with it went his strength. At that point, it was clear that he would need professional, constant, care. He again pushed away his family when they tried to get him into a caretaker environment, so we hired a wonderful woman who was there for him constantly all the way until the end. So, there was Tracy there to take care of him together with a nursing-type woman, Eddi, who saw to his medical needs. Both of these women were sent from God — I’m convinced of that.
Joe’s mother ran things from behind the scene, making all the big decisions. I was so relieved because for three years, the only person that was there was me, or so it seemed. For three years, I had no life at all because I was helping Joe live his life. When it all began, I had no idea what it took to help someone reach the end of their life. It is very stressful.
So stressful was it that I suffered two heart attacks, several minor heart surgeries and finally a quadruple bi-pass and open heart surgery. While I was recovering from that, friends stepped in to help out. My friends Terry and Mike and their families took over for me, and that’s the one reason I didn’t die myself.
I will miss Joe terribly because he was everything you could ask for in a friend. Terry, Mike and I are all the better people just for knowing him. What a grand guy he was. He was lucky at life but unlucky in health, but it didn’t stop him for a moment, right up to the very end. If there’s a heaven, Joe is there, because he was a straight-up, right minded man who could do no wrong as far as I am concerned.
So, take it easy Joe, don’t tear the place up and I see you in a little while. We can both relax now.