Back in April of this year, a person dear to me and Gatlin, wanted to commission me for a painting. I immediately agreed and was so happy to be able to paint a piece for her and her family. This piece took me awhile because I really wanted it to be special for this family. They had done so much for me and Gatlin and I still feel like we will never be able to thank them enough. In fact, a big reason why I went forward with Just Greater Plans was because of the encouragement from this person.
Back when Gatlin was diagnosed in February of 2015, everything happened so fast. His cancer was late term stage 3 and there was not much time. He was hospitalized the day he went into the ER. It was a scary and a chaotic week. Almost instantly, my husband’s co-workers started arriving at the hospital to visit. Due to the nature of his job, he and his co-workers have a bond that cannot be explained unless you experience it. Unfortunately, because of their work schedules, you often only know the names of people. Most of the people showing up at the hospital I had never met. I knew a lot about them, but had never met them or only met them once. I was so overwhelmed (in a good way) by the support that these families were showing us. A particular family came to visit one evening that I will never forget. The husband is Gatlin’s co-worker and has been there for him since the beginning. Always checking up on him, always motivating him, and always offering humor when it was needed the most. This family had a young daughter, Abigail. She was about 3 years old at the time. Her dad told Gatlin that she had a gift for him. Without hesitation, this little girl walked right up to Gatlin and handed him a princess bubble set. It was one of the best gifts. It lightened the mood. It made us all laugh. It was a gift truly from the heart of this little girl that she picked out all by herself. Keep in mind, Gatlin was in a hospital bed. He was connected to an IV with many wires and tubes and this little girl walked right up to him and confidently gave him her gift…no fear at all. Her gesture showed that she was fierce with a tender heart, a rare, but amazing combination. It is also proof that children, even at 3 years old, can change the dynamic of a room if given the chance.
This family also has an older child, Kaydence. I think she was 11 or 12 at the time. She had a school project due when Gatlin was receiving treatment. It was a timeline project. Her mom sent me a picture of it along with a very thoughtful, sweet message. Of course I cried. On the timeline, I saw where she had put that she figured out her dad’s co-worker had cancer. It meant something to Kaydence. At her young age, she understood the pain and scariness of cancer. She understood the bond between her dad and his co-worker. She understood that even though she personally had not been around Gatlin much, her parents would have and did whatever they could to be there for us and so she took that level of caring on herself too. It affected her. Her dad and Gatlin are very close in age. I’m sure that was very scary for her to think that it could happen to someone as young as her dad. It was such a bittersweet moment. It meant a lot to me that she cared about Gatlin enough to put that on her timeline, yet it broke my heart for her. She was young enough that she shouldn’t have to experience that, yet she was old enough to fully understand what was going on. It would have been easy for her to leave the tough things out of her timeline, but she didn’t. She faced it with a courage and a maturity that I don’t think I had at her age. It still just amazes me the strength that she had to do that.
Fast forward a few months later to when Gatlin was receiving salvage chemo. We were invited to a pumpkin carving party with his co-workers. We had told people that we were going because we thought Gatlin would enjoy getting out. Unfortunately, between the time we said we were going and the time the party came around, we found out that Gatlin was very close to not surviving the chemo. He was told to avoid people because his immune system so bad. A simple cold could have killed him. He was very sick and weak. For whatever reason, maybe out of pure desperation to get out of the house, we decided to go to the party. We took precautions to keep him safe even though knew the risks. It was Gatlin’s decision and I was going to support him. At the party, I started talking to Genevieve, Abigail and Kaydence’s mom. She was asking me about Gatlin and how we were doing. I don’t remember exactly how we got onto the following conversation, but I will never forget what she told me. She has her own health and fitness business and she is amazing at it. It is encouraging and inspiring. I had always admired the amount of effort she put into her business (still do) and somehow we started talking about Just Greater Plans. At that point, it was only an idea that I had. I guess because she had a business, I felt comfortable talking about what I was working on. She starting giving me encouragement and advice…genuine encouragement and advice. She told me to go for it. She said it with such faith that it really motivated me. She said “set yourself a date to get this going and stick to it. Treat it like a deadline that your boss would give you.” And because of those words, I did. It was one of the first times that I believed that I could actually do this. She had two kids, a husband with a crazy work schedule, a full time job, and she was still finding time to build her business. She doesn’t make excuses…she just gets it done. That kind of drive that she still has still encourages me even two years later. She did not know at the time what we had just been told about Gatlin’s treatment so it meant that much more to me because I knew it was genuine.
I will always be so grateful for that night. Gatlin and I both needed it. He needed to be around his co-workers and I needed to be around positive people. I know this post is long, but I had to share the significance of this family and how much they mean to us. It gets hard sometimes, but knowing we have people that still rally behind us two years later, that is what keeps us going. Genevieve and her husband are wonderful people and wonderful parents that are teaching their kids real values and character. Things that these kids are already exuding. We are so thankful to have people like them in our lives. And yes, we still have the princess bubble set and the picture of the project and we always will!