The feeling of joy, I think, is one of the most incredible emotions we as human beings can feel. How do you describe it? I don’t know – it’s personal for everyone. For me it’s sitting around with friends and family, sharing stories, laughing my ass off and at that moment not having a care in the world. Or it’s getting lost in a song that takes me back to a sweet memory of when I was younger.
After Tory died I never expected to feel joy again. The weight of loss and the burden on Kate felt too big to carry … How could I ever feel carefree with so many worries about her future?
Sometime around when this picture was taken I started to feel it again. With Kate and her best friend Julia up at the lake it was just three of us. While I drank a beer and read on the deck, I heard the two of them by the dock, laughing and then singing with zero cares in the world … and it occurred to me they were feeling it – joy. And I learned that day that joy is contagious – I couldn’t help but feel it because it meant Kate was doing fine. Better than doing fine, really. She was thriving.
Joy hadn’t returned fully for me, but from that day forward it started to pay regular visits. I found myself laughing more, allowing myself to relax and giving in to the moment. I started feeling … joyful. Not full of joy, but joyful.
And of course, when Joy comes in these circumstances her little brother Guilt tags along. “How dare you feel this way? Tory will never feel joy again”, he mutters. And he’s right, and completely wrong at the same time. She won’t feel joy, but I know for a fact – because of her family, friends and colleagues, and because of Kate – she felt it nearly every day of her life. And now that she’s gone, Kate and I have no choice but to regain the joy we had and live our lives in the best way we can.
As you’re reading this, Kate and I are celebrating Christmas with Tory’s family on a ski vacation. Tory always wanted us to go to Vail and we never did. So we’re doing what she can’t and we’re creating new memories together … and you can be sure I’ll feel joy once again with these brothers, sisters nieces and nephews of mine that I love so dearly.
And when we get back, we’ll experience more joy because we’ll see the beauty of The Tory Day Fund come to life.
We get to visit the Odette Cancer Centre at Sunnybrook and meet Bill, one of the “buddies” from the Patient Buddy Service we launched because of Tory and because of more than 200 donors to the fund this year.
We’ll see new chemotherapy patients visiting Odette for the first time and rather than wandering around the centre feeling unnecessary discomfort as they struggle to find their way, they’ll be greeted by volunteers like Bill who will see them to their first appointment, answer their questions, and provide whatever they need to feel more comfortable.
In the New Year we’ll see another part of Tory’s legacy come to life: the first chairs funded by The Tory Day Fund will be delivered to the chemotherapy suite. These chairs, like the one in the photo, are unlike any other at Odette – they’ll provide an easier way for patients to get seated, and provide them the ability to lay flat like a first-class airline seat.
Our plan is to test a few of them, gather feedback from patients, and then order as many as we can afford with our fund, so more chemotherapy patients can be more comfortable during their treatment – like what Tory desperately wanted to do.
There’s a great definition of “joy” in Sheryl Sandberg’s brilliant book Option B, courtesy of Reverend Veronica Gaines:
“Peace is joy at rest, and joy is peace on its feet.”
While I’ve made gains to feel joy again … with Kate’s help, and with your help … I don’t feel peace just yet. Maybe that day will come, maybe it won’t. For now I feel a restlessness to see our commitment to Tory through and to ensure Kate continues on her path of post-traumatic growth.
That can wait, though. For now, Joy is knocking on the door this Christmas and it’s time to let her in. She’s probably thirsty. Cheers.
Merry Christmas and have a joyful New Year.