Monday. It’s late afternoon and I stepped onto the House of Hope Northeast Indiana gravel drive, overdressed with matching earrings, necklace, and accents of lace. I was pink camera bag ready, with a news station on the way. I was prepared to do my job.
A car pulled in and a hand excitedly waved out the passenger window.
I walked up with my director and introduced myself. Josh is 21-years-old. He is accompanied by his mom. The residential boys enrolled in the House of Hope program came out of the farmhouse in boots and t-shirts–farm chore ready. They shook hands with Josh and everyone made small talk.
“What happened?” he asked and pointed down to my walking aircast.
“A foot fracture. I’ve had this on for over two months. It’s so annoying!”
A moment of silence hangs in the air and I look at the young man wearing an oxygen mask and tank.
Josh Jank is terminally-ill, suffering from Hepatulmonary Syndrome–a liver condition that is destroying his lungs. He wanted to visit the House of Hope Northeast Indiana farm, where I work in Public Relations, as a part of his bucket list.
Did I really just complain about my injury? What must really be annoying is not my temporary physical state, but the constant state of Josh’s declining health.
He was born with Sickle Cell Anemia and Asperger’s. He suffered a stroke at the age of five and has had 400 blood transfusions. He entered hospice care at the age of 19 and was given 24 months to live in August 2013. He shouldn’t be alive, yet he continues to surpass doctors’ diagnoses.
The boys loaded into the back of a farm truck and Josh sat down in the shotgun seat. I tagged along in the back of the four-door pickup to observe and take pictures. I asked about Josh’s experience flying planes and his vast knowledge of vehicles. Josh talked about every subject in detail and watched in fascination as the boys help move the cattle to a different grazing pasture.
The news station arrived and we made our way back to the farmhouse. The boys gathered in the living room. I spoke with my director and the reporter, getting things interview ready. The reporter prepared the video shot and Josh sat down in a lazy boy recliner, making silly faces at the camera.
“Why did you want to visit House of Hope?” the reporter asked.
Josh replied into the microphone, “I said, ‘Mom, there’s people out there that need help.’ I want to help people. I just wanted to help them, that’s all. I just want to spread faith.”
Everyone in the room listened intently. Here, a young dying man was not annoyed at his condition. Instead, he is choosing to use what life he has left to spread hope and love to others.
Josh gathered around the farm table that evening with residents and staff for dinner. The mood was not solemn or mournful, but joyful and filled with laugher. Full of life.
The human story is beautiful and wonderful and tragic and sad, all at the same time.