Asking, what would Josie do?

It was shortly after midnight when I when I reached over to check on my wife, Josie, as I had done three or four times that night.

She had a particularly bad day, struggling with her breathing, along with some leftover pain from a recent knee replacement. Earlier, I had wanted to take her to the hospital, but she repeatedly said no, “maybe tomorrow if I am not any better”.

Each time I woke her, she said she was OK, but the last time she didn’t respond. Dear Josie was gone. That was a year ago, on Nov. 13, 2018. The hours following her passing are all a blur. A few weeks later, friends and family began telling me the pain and heartache get better with time.

How much time?

The last couple months, I wondered how I would handle this dreaded anniversary.

I have the answer.

Not very well, until I begin to realize the blessings I have.

Most of you can relate to this: We have all lost loved ones so dear to us. We question our ability to go on. The hole is so deep, the loneliness so dark, the quiet so loud.

But we go on and learn from the fragility of life that the hole can be filled with memories, the loneliness filled with friends and family, and the quiet, in my case, filled by a Labrador puppy.

I am not sure why we have to measure things in years. I have never been a fan of birthdays and anniversaries, because they just reminded me I was getting older. I prefer to measure time by what I got done today, who I could help, and if I made any difference. Hey, it works for me.

But it’s still hard to look at the calendar and not think about that day last November, so, what I did was pull out a 2020 calendar that came in the mail last week — a calendar that I didn’t order, but just showed up in the mail — and I looked at each month, wondering what each of them would bring. I have not done that before, and what I found there on those blank months was wonderful.

I realized I will soon see several lifelong friends. I realized the new friends I have been blessed with here in Northeast Michigan are deep, caring souls with a zest for life, which have been a Godsend for me. And, although I dislike birthdays (only mine), I want to mark all the important grandchildren dates on there so I can help them celebrate their own milestones.

And, most importantly, I want to fill in those blanks with soon-to-be-realized new memories with our two children, who still pretend they need me, but I know they really don’t, as they have grown into strong, caring adults, thanks in most part to their dear mother, Josie.

So, why should any of this be in the paper?

Well, for a couple reasons. I guess I am still selfish enough that, writing about Josie, my 60s hippie farm girl who taught me to seek out the good in people, helps me understand what truly is and isn’t important in life. And another reason would be to share her message of love. God knows she had enough to share, both in life and in death.

Today, it seems to me we have more hate, more killing, more conflict, more political division, all that tends to separate rather than unite us. I would ask — as Josie would have asked had she been here — why? Why does it matter our skin is all different colors? Why does it matter if we have a different politics? Why does it matter who you love? Why does it matter where you come from?

Folks, on this anniversary of Josie’s death, I choose to not mourn but to share her wishes. Few of you knew her, but, if you did, she would reach out with open arms and see only the good in you, and she would want you to pass it on, to focus our collective time and energy on making things better for everyone you meet.

To look past disabilities and see only abilities. To look past disagreements and see common ground. To help those who cannot help themselves and to give what you can to those in need. I call that being a “Josie,” which is any person in your life that leaves a trail of compassion wherever they go.

Share your “Josie” and the good they do or did with me at gregawtry@awtry.com.

Greg Awtry is the former publisher of the Scottsbluff (Neb.) Star-Herald and Nebraska’s York News-Times. He is now retired and living in Hubbard Lake. Greg can be contacted at gregawtry@awtry.com.