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A Lesson on Living

If you’ve been keeping up with our journey, you know that I’m healing from a major loss.

But it’s not just me who is grieving. My entire family, friends, church family, and even people I don’t know that were friends of my brother. So I’m going to warn you all, because I love you. I’m proceeding with honesty. And that’s hard. I don’t want to upset you. I’m baring my soul in hopes that others with be open with me in return. There’s so much to gain when we share a burden. So here’s my heart:

Suicide is complicated.

Not only am I mourning the loss of someone I love, but I have to battle the “why”. The thing is, I’m not ready to go down that road. Not yet. I can’t imagine ever being ready for that, but this journey will continue whether I’m feeling ready or not.

So I’ve made a decision.

I’m going to learn from Joel. I’m going to allow him to teach me. And I’m going to actively seek new lessons from him.

I know he took his life. But for now, in the carefully protected areas of my mind where I go to think about him, that’s not what happened.

I’m doing this so I can reflect on all the wonderful things that made him the brother I looked up to. Because that hasn’t changed. Circumstances will never change who he was.

Last week I visited the place where his ashes are buried. I spent that time with him reflecting  on his life. And this is what he taught me:

Adventures are about relationships.

Joel traveled in a way that was available. He was available to unplanned adventures, but even more importantly, he was available to the people around him.

Going through some of his pictures has inspired and convicted me. In daily life and when I travel, I have a plan. I go where I want to go. But what if I didn’t? What if I enjoyed each moment instead of planning the next? What if I talked to strangers? Maybe something exciting would happen. Maybe I would connect with someone. Maybe this would happen..


“Shirley and Brenda,

Thank you so much for adding to our stay in New England. Because of your hospitality the following events occurred last night, in this order:

  1. Ate crab cakes at Fryes Island, there we met Kent and Tina.
  2. Kent and Tina suggest we camp on an island across the shore from their house. 
  3. We attempted to build a fire but failed.
  4. Kent and Tina woke us up this morning and invited us over for waffles and coffee

If you’re ever in OK call, Cordell and Joel”

Shirley, Brenda, Kent and Tina, this verse comes to mind: “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares” (Hebrews 13:2 ESV). Thank you for showing hospitality to my brother. You entertained an angel.

I just know that when I look at these photos I see bonds being strengthened and relationships being formed. And to me that’s more beautiful than photos of the scenery.

These were taken in Costa Rica with his friend Jose. If you’re reading this, Jose, I’d love to hear about your adventures together.




joel bees

Thank you, Joel, for reminding me to be available.

I wish I could have one last adventure with you. But maybe now I can have better adventures, because of the perspective you’ve given me.

I’ll always be looking for ways to learn from his life, or reminisce on his outrageous sense of humor. If you want to share I’d love to hear from you.


9 thoughts on “A Lesson on Living

  1. I only have a few memories of Joel and obviously the one that I’ve thought about often has to do with baking.. I was working at the Coffee Barn and Daniel brought him in the back to show him around. He was so enthusiastic talking about the cinnamon rolls and how great he heard they were. “Can I get one? Wow they look so good. I have to get one before I leave.” He was way too excited and sincere about my baking even though he hadn’t even tried a cinnamon roll yet. Anyways… You talking about relationships made me think about this again because he really was relational and it seemed to come so easy to him. Definitely something that doesn’t come easy to me.

    1. I didn’t know about that, but it definitely sounds like him. He made me so uncomfortable when he visited because I’m bad at stuff like that too and he would just strike up conversations with people in the checkout line of Walmart.. Way out of my comfort bubble

      1. The why is always so hard and we may never fully know.
        I am so thankful for the love you shared with Joel. The love he shared with so many.
        It Sounds Crazy to say this outloud…but sometimes these are the ones we miss the most because of the intense love and life they lived (that’s how it feels with my mom).
        Harder, and, yet, somehow sweeter, more precious memories.
        It often seems to make the why harder.
        Oh, Darby, I am enjoying your blog. I’m enjoying reading the precious memories you have of Joel. Thank you so much for sharing them. Thank you for sharing if your adventures. For sharing your heart.
        Our prayers always, sweet sister!

        1. Thank you, April! Harder and sweeter, I agree. Love you.

  2. My husband lost a brother to suicide. All the questions. The one thing that helped us is it is a disease that caused this loss of life. Just like cancer or any other disease. He is with the Lord and no more pain. Your pain will always be there till you see him again and you also will be whole. Part of you died with him. Continued prayers for you and your family.

    1. Thank you for your prayers and kind words. It truly is a disease and a mental health issue, thank you for sharing.

    2. Thank you, Mrs. Butler, for your wisdom and prayers.

  3. Darby you have become so wise beyond your years which is good and bad. I so wish you had not gone though this. We all miss Joel so much. It makes us think about our communications with who we love and to never let a moment go by without realizing what it meant to us. I love you and your family so much!
    Aunt Leslie

    1. It does hurt but I’m praying that Joel’s legacy will be one of learning and growth for all of us who loved him. Trying really hard to see positive things from this. I feel bad for even saying that but it’s something Joel would want and we can’t stay in a place of overwhelming grief forever. I love you Aunt Leslie! Thank you!

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