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Gift of Joy

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Gift of Joy

  1. 1. The Gift of Joy
  2. 2. The Gift of Joy In 1992, I was accepted into college in Calgary, but had not determined yet where I would live. I had thought, “residence”, but my father and my Aunt Opal had a plan. Joy, my cousin, was widowed only three months earlier and my father and her mother, determined that whether or not she or I realized it, we needed each other.
  3. 3. The Gift of Joy Our “co-habitation” at first was difficult. She was a 31- year-old grieving widow and I was homesick country-kid barely out of my teens, living in the “big city”. Over time and long conversations about life, (usually over wine) we found we had more in common than we had imagined. Beyond family, we became inseparable friends, finishing each-other’s sentences, sharing our deepest secrets, screening bad boyfriends and spending a good deal of time analyzing life, or as Joy would say, “…solving the problems of the world”.
  4. 4. The Gift of Joy One afternoon I received a call: Joy’s father had passed away. He had suffered from Alzheimer's for many years, so it was not a surprise, but no less painful. Joy was still very much grieving the loss of a husband and was not emotionally prepared to lose her father. After the funeral Joy said to me, “…if another person in my life dies, I don’t know what I will do.”
  5. 5. The Gift of Joy A little more than a year later, I was working late at Spruce Meadows. It was tournament time and we were putting in long hours. I don’t know exactly when the feeling crept in, but it did, and with every hour, I become more anxious. I did not know why, but I knew I needed to go home. Still I stayed. It was after 10pm when I turned to my manager and said, “I need to go.”
  6. 6. The Gift of Joy When I arrived home, it was almost midnight, yet the the lights were on. It was a moment of knowing that the fear I sensed hours before was becoming real, yet I did not know what it was. I paused at the door and held my breath and thought, “I wish it could stay this way.” I didn’t want to know. I didn’t want to walk into the living room where I knew I would find Joy. But I did. Joy was sitting in “her” chair, tears streaming down her cheeks. She had been waiting for hours…she did not call my work, she did not let me know…she just waited until I got home.
  7. 7. The Gift of Joy “There was a car accident,” she choked. I don’t remember much after she said the words. Aunt Opal, the one who had co-conspired with my father, her mother, the reason Joy and I were now friends, was gone. As were five of our family members, my father’s sisters… Aunt Elsie and Uncle Harold, Aunt Ruby and our cousin-in-law Ilene. Gone. There is nothing one can do to prepare for the intense shock and grief we felt, nor are there words to express the emptiness, nor the insanity of having the media publish the pictures of the burned car or the names of our family, over and over in the press.
  8. 8. The Gift of Joy That day forever changed us. Joy never again said, “…if someone else in my life should die, I don’t know what I will do.” We both knew what we would do… we would live. We would be changed, but we would live.
  9. 9. The Gift of Joy In 1997, our Uncle Carl, the only remaining besides my father, was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. It was Joy, who said to me after a visit to the hospital, “…he is afraid and shouldn’t be alone.” I understood, and because of Joy, I stopped my “busy life” to spend time with Uncle Carl. It was perhaps one of the best decisions I have ever made. For months I came every day to read, talk and learn about my family. Joy was travelling a lot with work, would come in with maps, pictures and stories of her adventures. Carl would smile and look forward to our visits.
  10. 10. The Gift of Joy “Unckie” or Uncle Carl was like a father to me, and he was the first person who I watched die. I held his hand, we told stories, I listened to the rattle in his chest as he would try to sleep, and when the time came, I felt him leave. Later Joy said to me, “…at least we were able to say good-bye…I’ve never been able to say good-bye.” She was right, as difficult as it was, I had been blessed with the opportunity to learn more about him, tell him I loved him, and ultimately, say goodbye. Joy made me aware of how important something as simple as saying goodbye, could be.
  11. 11. The Gift of Joy Every year, Joy would give me a birthday card, and every year she would write, “ year will be a better year.” On my 30th birthday she wrote, “I am not going to say it is going to be a better year… who knows! xoxox” She and I both knew… “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, it is about learning to dance in the rain.”
  12. 12. The Gift of Joy In the winter of 2009, Joy complained of numbness in her left hand and her left leg. Doctors blamed nerve damage and I blamed running, but even after surgery on her arm and a hiatus from running, the numbness became more prevalent. We knew it was a bigger problem when her right hand began to atrophy… but we didn’t yet know what we were dealing with.
  13. 13. The Gift of Joy Joy was diagnosed with ALS – Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. At 50 years of age, she learned that she would rapidly lose the ability to walk, talk and eventually breathe. There is no known cause or cure for ALS. Joy was going to die.
  14. 14. The Gift of Joy  She jumped from a plane.  She flew through the Grand Canyon in a helicopter.  She travelled to Australia and swam in the ocean.
  15. 15. The Gift of Joy  She moved her family to Mexico.  She got married.  She laughed out loud for as long as ALS would allow.  She had a party (or a few) &  She said good-bye.
  16. 16. The Gift of Joy Canada Day, 2011, in the midst of fireworks and celebrations, Joy left this world… but she also left life lessons, which I will share with you.
  17. 17. The Gift of Joy Don’t wait for the Doctor’s diagnosis to realize you are going to die. You are going to die. Instead, ask yourself, “How do I want to live?” …and do that.
  18. 18. The Gift of Joy Always say good-bye and appreciate the person when you do. Good-bye’s may be final, don’t make the last one regrettable or forgettable.
  19. 19. The Gift of Joy Never be too embarrassed to say “I love you” and hugs are good…very good. People do not hug near enough, or say “I love you” as often as they should.
  20. 20. The Gift of Joy Laugh loudly and live life large… don’t be afraid to bare your soul. If being who you are causes others to be uncomfortable, be who you are anyway.
  21. 21. The Gift of Joy Live life “Joy-fully”, knowing each day, each moment is a gift. Be fearless. Be kind. Laugh. Love. Dance. Sing. Repeat. Joy taught me to be authentic and fearless. Thank you, Joy, for the friendship. It was not an easy road, but I am glad I took it with you. Perhaps still one day, Joy my friend, we will indeed solve the problems of the world. xoxo
  22. 22. The Gift of Joy May is ALS month. Please raise awareness of ALS / MND and help others who are diagnosed with this terrible disease. It is too late for Joy, but I know that she would be overjoyed to know that in some way, somehow, she might help to save others to overcome this disease. Where there is hope, there is Joy. In memory of Joy Styles, a Facebook page, and website have been created to share inspiration and information about ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis). You can learn more at: or follow on Facebook,