by Liz Johnston
People frequently tell me--“you’re so strong”. They don’t see me on the days I am brought to my knees with pain--the days I can’t catch my breath from sobbing. They say “I don’t know how you get out of bed,” but there are days I struggle to do just that. They say “ I admire your love and grace,” but they are not there when I’m punching walls or furniture with fury. (My wrist is black and blue in fact.) I am not always strong; I am not super woman; I am not always gracious. But when I am asked how I endure, my answer is always the same: Love gives you courage. And I have a lot of courage.
When I was 24 and found out I was pregnant--I had dropped out of college; I was working in retail, (translation I was broke) and I was not married. I had no idea who I was or where I was headed, but the love I had for my unborn child gave me the courage to be a mom despite all the obstacles. And it changed me forever.
When Jordan was 24 and we found out he was sick--the world fell out from under my feet; I was terrified and pained to the core for him, for me, for the entire family. But the love I had for Jordan gave me the courage to care for him, to be by his side, to give him hope and keep myself together, despite my utterly broken heart. Again, I am changed forever.
And now there is the world without Jordan--the hardest place to be. I don’t know how much time I have here, but I do know that I am only able to endure it because of my love for him-- and because of his for me. It gives me the courage to do so.
I have the courage to breathe; I have the courage to get up everyday; I have the courage to teach middle school; I have the courage to start a foundation; I have the courage to celebrate the birthdays of other children when mine is gone; I have the courage to run for office; I have the courage to get healthy; I have the courage to laugh with friends; I have the courage to weep with grief. I even have the courage to be still.
I have the courage to live--all because of love. All because of Jordan.
by Liz Johnston
Today I am 50. Imagine my mother’s surprise when she realized there were 2 of us entering the world that day! While I am sad that my mother and twin sister Ingrid couldn’t be here to celebrate with me today--I am grateful for them and for all who were with me. My friends and family have held me up and encouraged me this past year. And for my birthday--I feel more loved than ever.
I need to say that birthdays and other holidays, while still joyous, are always a little sad without all of my entire family here in CT, and even harder for the past 10 years without my father. But now, without Jordan, they are unimaginably hard. We are all missing him. But I feel like I’ve been close-lined. It’s hard to imagine how I will possibly live without him. However, my purpose here on earth-- and my identity as his mother-- continues. So must my life.
Jordan is my everything. How could I celebrate my life without celebrating him? He brought meaning to my life. He brought pure and unconditional love to my life. I will never go through a holiday or birthday without mentioning Jordan. I will always honor his memory and share his story. Wherever I am, whoever I am with. Jordan wanted to have a big party for my 50th. So I am celebrating my life today for him. For my parents who gave me life and love. For all of my friends and family who love me. And for myself. How can I not celebrate this beautiful life God gave me? As sad as I am, I do cherish every day.
And as long as I am alive, Jordan’s memory will live on. Through my love for him, through my stories of him, through the foundation, through all of the kids we will help for years to come. So thank you to all who have rallied for us. Thank you to my tribe for taking me as I am. Thank you for supporting me now and in the future. You have helped me feel less alone and more inspired. And thank you to my loving husband for always having my back. No matter what. Even in the face of all my loss, I have been blessed in this life.
Our time on this earth is so tenuous, so uncertain. Which is why we must grab ahold of every day we are given. Let’s celebrate life today; let’s celebrate each other; let’s celebrate our love for Jordan. Let’s live 2018 with more love, more kindness, and more purpose. Let’s dominate this thing called LIFE!