I awoke this morning from the couch where I’ve slept the past couple nights, worried to be too far from Josh. He hasn’t been doing well. He has eaten very little in the past couple days and has had trouble drinking out of a straw or even being awake enough to take pills. My heart is heavy as I sit right next to him watching him breathe heavily but with shallow breaths. I’ve resorted to liquid morphine for pain relief and to help with the breathing - although it doesn’t seem to help with the breathing but hopefully it does help with any pain.
When staring at your loved one in times like this, it’s hard to know what to do but I did the basic tasks of calling the hospice nurse and his sister, who called his mom and brother. They are coming to be with me in this uncertain time. I didn’t want to call in some ways but other ways know it’s also good for them to be here with me and with Josh. There’s nothing we can really do, but oh how I wish there was. I have wished there was something I could do for months but especially the past two.
Josh’s eyes are less bright and his hands sweaty from the medicine. He can’t answer my questions like he could even a few days ago. The end has felt close before but definitely does now. I don’t want to see him go but I don’t want to see him stay here in this pain either. It’s quite sad. Not just quite sad but really, really, really sad.
I have told him I love him like a zillion times and know he feels the same. I’m trusting the words I have heard him say before to me a zillion times. As I sit here, I remember and reflect on the various text messages Josh sent me when I worked, when we laid in bed together, watched our favorite shows or even sat apart in a room of people. Simple I love you messages that made me smile, every time.
I am not sure why I am even sharing this tender moment (or if I will on social media so if you found it on our blog - good for you). It’s a tender time as we wait for God to continue our story in his own way and time. It's probably even a little weird that I am sitting here next to Josh typing my thoughts and feelings, but I am not sure what to do really.
I guess, ultimately, I share this because I know other people have sat beside someone they love and because even in the grandness of my love for my spouse, I know it is only a fraction of God’s love for us. I hope in the middle of this sorrow that you more clearly see God's love.
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. - Romans 8:38-39
The news that Andy’s Pumpkin Pie Concretes are back brought a smile to Josh’s face today, even though his appetite is much less lately.
This delicious dessert truly is one of Josh’s all-time favorites. Each year, he looks forward to October when these become available. He loves telling everyone about how they put a “whole piece of pie” into the creamy treat and mix it. When I learned these were already available, I couldn’t wait to share the news with him today.
When we lived in Nevada and traveled to Missouri for fall breaks, we’d try to squeeze in as many trips to Andy’s as possible before flying back. Now that we're back in the Ozarks, and have a few nearby, our trips are more rationed. But still with this news, I know for sure, under normal circumstances, we’d be taking a weekend adventure to Andy’s to taste our first one of the season.
Instead, tonight we rested at home, with the smell of pumpkin candles burning while Josh slept soundly.
Frequently friends and family pose the question, “How’s Josh?” And while it is a simple and sincere question, I find it hard to answer. My thoughts range from “Not Good” to “He’s sleeping a lot” to “He is really weak and doesn’t talk,” then back to “Hmmmm, not so good?” Maybe I should start saying, "Not as good as a Pumpkin Pie Concrete."
In all seriousness and to more specifically answer this question (because we know you truly do care for us!): Josh is really weak physically and his brain is working hard most of the time to do the basics. Over the past couple weeks, there have been subtle changes but primarily Josh sleeps solidly most hours of the day and night. He eats very little and communication is very limited. He does comprehend some conversations and can still recognize friends and family but can't communicate back with his own words. We rely on A LOT of eye contact and simple one-word answers. There are few special occasions when he still flashes a smile and a few treasured words like “I love you” or “Goodnight.” Generally, it's tricky to navigate it all and means a bit of guess work, patience and a lot of extra grace and love. Interestingly, Josh still seems to enjoy watching movies and shows. There's something about the creative process that still stimulates and captivates his mind. I don’t understand how, but it does seem to happen.
Of course, it continues to be hard to see the person I love so much decline. It’s challenging to process how much has changed in such a short period of time. Yet still, I treasure each day and night together. We move forward day by day, one step at a time. As we go, I know the Lord is with us. This reassurance helps and God’s word to Joshua in the Old Testament still rings true today:
“The Lord is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear or be dismayed.” - Deuteronomy 31:8 (NASB)
I find that the truth of this verse needs much repeating as we walk, rest, navigate and sometimes even doubt our way through our day to day reality. Trusting God is critical but still is not always "as easy as pie."
Thanks for your continued prayers for our family. We are stronger because of your prayers and encouragement. I can't imagine doing this without God by our side and such great support.
Today was a good day. Not because Josh suddenly felt better or because we found out great news, but because in the simplest of ways, we were reminded once again that God is with us.
For the first time in a few months, Josh’s immediate family – his mom, sister, brother, their spouses, and our niece and nephews – spent the day together in our home.
We hung out, watched the Chiefs, grilled, enjoyed ice cream cake, played games, cruised in my new car, played with puppies, organized closets and enjoyed simply being together.
Once everyone left, I felt a bit of sadness creeping in, but the more I thought about our day, I realized how good it truly was. God gave us this day – a treasured day filled with love and shouts of joy.
When staring straight at a big obstacle, day in and day out, it can be hard to see the beauty that pops up. Is there still beauty in the smallest crack or lowest valley? Can God still be seen as your spouse declines in health because of a brain tumor. The answer is, of course, “yes,” – even if it doesn’t feel like it all the time.
Reflecting on the day, I found God’s description in Zephaniah 3:17, which paints such a hopeful picture of life - even in doubtful times.
“The Lord your God is in your midst,
A victorious warrior.
He will exult over you with joy,
He will be quiet in His love,
He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy."
- Zephaniah 3:17
Today, our home was filled with shouts of joy as we cheered on our favorite team, played games and laughed at each other. As the day ended, our home became quiet with just the sound of Josh and the dogs sleeping soundly. I can't help but see the parallel to this passage, seeing how God rejoices over us with shouts of joy and is still quiet in his love. In the extremes, God’s presence remains constant. And in fact, the contrast in the noise places a spotlight on God's truth which reminds us even more that in every single moment, God is with us.
My heart is full as the night comes to a close and I can't help but thank God for our family that is both quiet and loud, and encouraging and present. God is good.
5 Minutes Later . . .
While not necessary, but with hopes of added transparency, I decided to add some thoughts.
No less than five minutes after sharing this nice thankful post above. I started thinking about how many amazing days together Josh and I have had. At some point in many long-lasting relationships you realized you have been together more than half your life. We are at that point - having been in a relationship for 24 years. We know each other well and have talked about everything possible - life, work, family, feelings, grief etc.
So as I celebrate the good memories made today, I am still sad. I can't really talk it out with Josh. My mind reflects back on the many great days Josh and I shared together on adventures big and small. We have had great moments with family, of course, but some of our best and most favorite times have been just the two of us. It's a tricky thing, again, striving to acknowledge the good of today yet not forget the wonderful days gone by while still trusting God for more good in the future. Yep - super complicated. For your benefit, or mine, I wanted to share.
Last night I sat outside for a few moments, tilted my head back, looked up at the sky and saw a simple twinkly smile – two dots for eyes and a mouth made up of about six. I couldn’t help but smile as I thought, “It’s like God is smiling down at me. Of course, I then tried to figure out what the constellation might be on my star app, and it said it was a Swan, with one eye potentially being Vega. I opted, not to obsess more and decided to stick with a simple smile.
Words to the old hymn, “His Eye Is on the Sparrow” crossed my mind and I sang a few lines:
I sing because I'm happy
I sing because I'm free
His eye is on the sparrow
And I know he watches me
There's comfort in knowing God sees us, that “God’s got you” or “God’s gotchu,” like a sneeze (seriously, try saying it like a sneeze, it'll make you smile). Even in the unknown, it’s beautiful to rest in that knowledge that God sees all things big and small, including our joys and sorrows (big and small).
Often, I look up at the stars and wonder what God is doing. I wonder why our story is unfolding like this. Many of these questions may have to float into the infinite abyss because God’s plan is bigger than the stars in the sky and greater than my comprehension.
Psalm 147: 3-5 speaks of this:
He heals the brokenhearted
And binds up their wounds.
He counts the number of the stars;
He gives names to all of them.
Great is our Lord and abundant in strength;
His understanding is infinite.
This is incredible news for all of us. And while believing and trusting in a God that is SO big is fantastic, it sometimes is hard, especially when our view of the overarching story is so small.
I returned to the porch again tonight, expecting to see clouds but when I looked up, I saw that the smile was still there. I couldn’t help but smile again, “Thank you, God!”
Instead of wrestling with my many questions tonight, I took a deep breath and sang the words to another song I know well.
God, I look to You,
I won't be overwhelmed
Give me vision to see things like You do
God I look to You,
You're where my help comes from
Give me wisdom,
You know just what to do
And I will love You, Lord, my strength
I will love You, Lord, my shield
I will love You, Lord, my rock forever
All my days I will love You, God
Years ago, before we were married, Josh bought me a star as a gift. I have no idea if this is a real thing but supposedly according to my official certificate there is a star named Jenbug out there somewhere.
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On Monday night, I bought a car!
And on a day that typically should be fun, exciting and fulfilling, I melted with sorrow the moment the private sellers and my mother-in-law left the parking lot – leaving me alone with my cool new car.
This meant that the first great moment in my sleek, black Nissan Rogue was me garnishing it with tears. Ugh!
I couldn’t help but think how Josh should be there with me, meeting the other great couple, married less than six months who were excited to sell the car. We should be laughing together, cruising down Hwy. 112 together and celebrating the fact that we finally, after 13 years, bought another new/used car. But none of that happened on purchase day.
Instead, my mother-in-law came with me to get the car while Josh stayed at home resting in the hospital bed. Then, we went to get ice cream and needed Josh supplies. It was still good but not the same.
Along with the emotions, it fells so strange to even buy a car. Yes, it was a good deal. And yes, our old Ravi is not running great and has 290,000 miles - and an upgrade is long overdue. And, we had planned on getting one this summer before our lives took an unexpected turn.
For the past three days, I've told myself, "it’s okay to get a new car. We can still move forward a little." But at the end of the day, I really just wanted Josh with me sharing in the adventure of it all. He still is part of it, of course, but in a different way. He smiled each time I told him my car shopping and test drive stories, and made big eyes when I told him it was officially in the garage (last night) – that was a really, joyous moment.
Of course, we definitely don’t need three cars, so that means we’ll be selling old Ravi for not much. In my mind, no value can be placed on this car full of memories, but I am sure mechanics will not agree. Our Toyota has been our adventure vehicle since 2006. We’ve drove this car hard - adding approximately 260,000 miles to the odometer as we traveled from coast to coast, down all kinds of roads, just the two of us and with various friends. We’ve been stressed while driving the 5-speed across snowy mountain roads, in Dallas traffic, and on the hills of San Francisco (to name a few). We've laughed and cried in this car. Upgrading means saying goodbye to a car that feels like it is part of us.
For like two years, Josh has said we need to get rid of the car and get something newer, something "more reliable." I can actually still hear his “it’s time to get rid of the car speech,” so apart of me is happy he gets to see us finally move forward – even before hitting 300,000 miles (my original goal).
So yea! We got a car! How do I celebrate this? How strange.
I’ll celebrate because God provided an opportunity I didn’t expect and because it’s still okay to enjoy things like a new car even when life is messy. (This is my own pep talk).
Of course, fixing my eyes just on the new shiny car isn't enough to fill my soul, it's fun for sure but fixing my eyes on Jesus offers a more sustainable feature.
Why are you down in the dumps, dear soul?
Why are you crying the blues?
Fix my eyes on God--
soon I’ll be praising again.
He puts a smile on my face.
He’s my God.
- Psalm 42:11 (The Message)
* Point of clarification: With this news, I do want to acknowledge that many people have donated to help with medical costs and none of these funds were used for the car purchase. You may not care either way but I don’t want anyone to think we are getting crazy here - well, we are crazy but you know what I mean.
A Ravi Highlight Reel
In April of 2019, we learned that Josh had a large brain tumor, a glioblastoma, in the middle of his brain. At the age of 41, this was quite the surprise. Josh sadly passed away after a short battle on September 30, 2019.
View his obituary
These past months, we've navigated the complexities of treatment, and hospice care and learned that there wasn't really treatment and that in Josh's case, the tumor was inoperable.
We're sharing our hearts and experience as we navigate this unexpected turn and God's goodness in the middle of it. We hope to encourage others by sharing our story.
Thank you for following along with our journey even in grief.
Feel free to message us.
If you'd like to donate to medical expenses, here's a link or you can email us questions
More about Josh & Jenn
Jenn Brown is the author of this site, a loving wife and communications guru.
Josh Brown most recently served on staff at Fellowship Bible Church in NWA as a Springdale Community Pastor. We've served in ministry in Missouri, Texas, Virginia and Nevada.
Cancer has been big part of our story. Josh has battled cancer three times already with the first to being non-Hodgkins lymphoma at ages 15 and 25 and the third thyroid cancer last year and a GBM, brain tumor this year.
Jenn's mom, Carol passed away from breast cancer 21 years ago and her father also went through treatments for Chronic Leukemia (CLL) in 2017 and is doing well now.
Friends & Family
We have been so encouraged by friends and family. Thank you for the practical ways you are caring for us! We love you all! This is just few photo highlights of some meaningful moments.