Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Squeezing Wisdom From a Ripe Avocado

An elderly woman frantically started waving her arms in front of my face while I was picking out avocados at the grocery store. I couldn't hear her because —being the youngster than I am—I was being anti-social and listening to a podcast while I was shopping. I quickly pulled out my earbuds, gently grabbed her arm and said:


As the entire produce section stared at me, I realized I still had half an earbud in, so I was yelling loud enough to wake the dead. I'm an idiot.

"I'm sorry to bother you. I see you're shopping for avocados and I was wondering if you know how to tell if one is ready to eat?" she replied.

"Well, I'm not a avocado eater, but I can sure help you pick one out. I do it all the time because I buy them for my wife. She loves them." I confidently stated.

"Oooooh, you go to the grocery store and know what your wife likes too?! He's a keeper." she proclaimed to anyone within earshot.

"Well, I do my best. She's my sunshine and I adore her. You know, I'm happily married to my least until she finds somebody better." I sarcastically quipped, telling this woman how that's our running joke and our ability to poke fun at each other is one of the best things about our marriage. 

All of the sudden, this woman started crying.

"It's so nice to hear that from a man. That you love her and would do anything for her. That you don't take your marriage for granted. It's rare nowadays. People get divorced at the first sign of trouble, but marriage is hard work and it's nice to see that you appreciate that."

As I blushed with humility, she went on to tell me that her husband died two decades ago and she's been so lonesome for him every day since then. That she sits alone at dinner and talks to the chair he used to sit in at their table. That her grandson died of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder a few years ago and she wished he'd had the chance to meet a girl like I have. That she has conversations with anything and anyone that will listen because she loves people and she's afraid to be alone. 

I took a deep breath and shared a summary of my life with CF. How—even though I've had and continue to have a lot of darkness in my life— I've been blessed with so much in 34 years, more than most people have had in their lifetime. I told her that I didn't understand COPD, but I could understand not being able to breathe. That I know how precious life is and I cherish every day with my wife. I promise that I'll never take our time together for granted.  I gave the woman a hug and a kiss, then I took our picture together to share our moment with you.

I get scared that I'll die young. That my wife will be a widow and that if we ever choose to have children, they will someday be without their father. I know they'll be okay without me because life goes on and people have lived through worse. Perhaps someday Carly may get remarried to a "normal" guy without all the extras. That things would be simpler for her than they are right now. And that's what I'd want for her...but that's forecasting a future that no one can predict. We don't know how much time we have and it's unfair to the present to try and predict the future.

So I'll spend each day of the rest of my life loving her. The sparkle in her eyes. The way she has a slight dimple in one cheek that only appears when I really make her smile. The way she asks me how to wear her hair when we go to my speaking events, not because she has to, but because she wants to look her best for me even though I think she's gorgeous no matter what she wears.

Joshland note: Honestly, she could be on her third day without showering, wearing sweatpants and a dirty old t-shirt and I'd still try to put the moves on her.

I adore how we lovingly tease each other and she does so with a playfully evil giggle. How she always pushes me to be a better person while making sure I protect my health and my heart. How she loves me for me, she doesn't care about my CF bullshit and is my link to my real life. She reminds me that life is more than just CF and that I need to separate my role in the CF Community from my role as a regular man who has a whole other universe to tend to and love on.

She will love me forever because that's what she promised to do, just like this woman promised her husband years ago. That's an amazing gift to have.

Life provides little reminders of what's important at the most unexpected places...even at the grocery store squeezing avocados.

Carolyn, you're a beautiful angel. Thank you for loving me when I unknowingly needed it. Thank you, Carly for being my angel and the boss of me. I've never been happier.

Peaceful Things,



  1. oh yes, that's my little boy...the one who grew into a wonderful man with an amazing wife. God bless you, Carolyn, for helping Josh see his own loving heart today. xoxox

  2. this is a special post. I'm sure you will look back on this one day and be glad you captured that moment in writing. it is not often a stranger can capture our heart and help us gain perspective with a loved one.

  3. Josh, this is a beautiful story. Thank you for sharing it. I want to go hug that sweet lady, too!

  4. Josh this was absolutely beautiful and put a tear in my eye. Carolyn sounds like such a sweet lady and I am so glad that you were able to cross paths with her!


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