It was a hot summer day in 2009, and Joe, my late husband, and I were sitting in our living room. He was battling a rare cancer, Merkel cell carcinoma, and was recovering from a surgery that removed a 19-centimeter tumor from his shoulder. He had lost function of his arm.
Right after his diagnosis, Joe began a Caring Bridge site, to keep our family,
friends, coworkers and community people informed on how to pray, and where we were in our battle. Both of us had grown up here in Kerrville.
“Joe, people are asking for an update. If you will tell me what to say, I will write it for you,” I said, as I sat down at the computer.
“No, I want you to share what is on your heart. God has something for you in writing,” he replied, in a soft but firm voice.
“Well, I will write until you get better, but I didn’t even like English or writing in high school or college,” I said. “I am not a writer.”
In the days and weeks ahead, Joe did not get better, and the news we received was not good.
We had so many people around the world cheering us on in our battle for his life, praying and believing with us for healing.
God had done many great things for us since he was diagnosed that cold day, Jan. 8, 2009. We could see God’s hand in our lives and saw how close God was in the midst of this hard time.
I did not want to share all the negative news without also showing how faithful God had been to us during our battle. The 10-hour surgery at M.D. Anderson was not the cure we had hoped for, and the cancer had spread. The negative news was only part of our story.
Watching someone you love suffer is the hardest thing I have endured, and yet, I was learning about the beauty of walking with God in the “valley of the shadow of death.”
Joe’s health continued to decline, so I began to share my heart in a transparent way and also shared the goodness of God, when our prayers did not get answered the way we wanted.
As I continued to tell our story on the Caring Bridge site, hundreds of people began following our site, and little did I know, I was beginning my callings as a writer.
Early on the morning of Oct. 8, 2009, nine months to the day after diagnosis, Joe took his last breath on this Earth and his first breath in heaven.
After his death, I continued sharing my heart and my journey through grief on Caring Bridge. We had more than 39,950 visits to this website.
Toward the end of 2009, my children suggested I transition to a blog, www.themaxwellminutes.blogspot.com, as many were responding, and people were identifying with overcoming difficulty. People were looking for encouragement during hard times, and all of us encounter adversity.
I continued writing about grief, life without Joe and how God was faithful in my journey through grief.
In January of 2010, a young editor of the Faith Section of The Kerrville Daily Times contacted me. Her name was Carlina Villalpando, and she had been following our Caring Bridge website and my blog. She encouraged me in my writing and asked me to begin writing for the Faith Section of the paper. She is now the editor and publisher of The Kerrville Daily Times.
“I’m not a writer,” I told her, but I did agree to pray about it and loved the opportunity to share about who God was.
In March of 2010, I began writing for the paper and, shortly after that, The Hill Country Community Journal. Ten years later, I write for three newspapers, my blog, lead a community Bible study called The Gathering: Bringing God into Everyday Life, and now have a podcast, kathleenmaxwellrambie.podbean.com.
I discovered the veil between life and death is very thin. Joe saw me in the future. He saw me through God’s eyes, and I believe Carlina heard from God and saw my potential.
I do not think I would have ever begun writing and speaking if Joe and I had not had that conversation in our living room in July of 2009 and without Carlina’s invitation. I am grateful for both of them.
Joe will have been gone 10 years on Oct. 8. It seems like yesterday, and yet it seems like a lifetime, as I have remarried a great man, Stephen, and now have a whole new life.
A new compassion and talent developed in time and during my journey through grief. I am passionate about helping people, and I pray you will find beauty in the ashes of whatever adversity you are going through right now.
In the meantime, trust God and hang on to Romans 8:28: “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” (KJV)
Kathleen is a Hill Country native and is a writer and speaker. She is passionate about helping people discover their value and worth. She will lead a Bible study at The Kroc Center called The Gathering: Bringing God into Everyday Life All from 6:30 to 7:45 p.m. Oct. 1. All are invited. Kathleenmaxwell1@gmail.com.