I got home from my son’s hockey practice earlier this evening. After everyone settled in, I flipped on the Australian Open as background noise while I checked email, FB, the weather, and a few mindless things. My mindless escape from a couple of busy, if not trying, days, was instantly diverted. I felt my heart leap into my throat as I read Mark DiMarzio’s post first. My hopes of some alternate meaning shattered as I read posts on Hub’s FB wall. Memories flashed by, tears came one at a time, then streamed off my face as I tried to resist the reality of what I was reading. Hopes disappeared into a numbing heartache as I scrolled through posts by Theos, Sullivan, Hazelton, Goduti, Leavitt, and so many Londonderry friends. I sit here with tears in my eyes, humbled by the memory of my friend Joe Hubbard. My heart hurts for all of those he left behind.
I came to Jim Cardello’s status update/post and the memories really started rushing back. (If you knew Joe, please read Jim’s post, read them all. I hope Jim doesn’t mind that I have pushed this.) As I cried I felt mad. Mad that I don’t have a better recollection of so many times I have lived through. Mad that I wasn’t as observant of greatness in times through my life when greatness was still being shaped. Mad that Joe and I didn’t have a last conversation. Mad that I only “Liked” his recent post of Jimmy V’s famous ESPY’s speech, and that I didn’t write to him all the things I had in mind that night. Mad that I didn’t have a relationship with Joe for I don’t even know how many years.
Mad, slowly, but surely morphed into a sad, but calming sense because I did know Joe. And I sense that, had Joe and I run into each other anytime recently it would have been as if time had not passed. His smile, sense of humor, and heartfelt laugh would have been present. Joe’s laugh was a laugh that made you want to hear anyone say something funny enough around him as to incur the truest, most honest, laugh you ever heard. Knowing Joe, we would have picked up where we left off, with a story about sports, remembering the Islanders-Capitals game 7 we watched well into Easter Sunday, playing softball together, hours in the rec hall shooting hoops, raiding his kitchen for any and all food we could get our hands on, or he and I driving around Londonderry for hours just to hear “Slow Ride” on the radio. To know Joe, was to always have known Joe. To know Joe was to love Joe.
I would love to write memory after memory of Joe here. Believe me I have many. However, I will keep them close to my heart for now. I know others would have more accurate details than I would anyways. Some day though, when friends gather, there will be memories of Joe, shared with love in our hearts and a tear reflecting a sparkle in our eyes, wishing Joe was still here.
There’s a plan for all of this. God’s plan. Two words, that make many want to turn and run the other way, God’s plan, because it usually means something that us imperfect humans don’t understand, or something we don’t want to deal with. Whatever the reaction is, it doesn’t change the plan. When I was younger I fought the plan, I am sure I did. I also didn’t always understand how or why things so terrible could happen to people as part of God’s plan. I am certainly not going to pretend to know or understand all these things now either. I do know that almost always, we are a part of a plan that is much bigger than it appears on the surface.
Just look at today. A young man was taken from us by a disease that cares not who you are or how old you are. Meanwhile, former coaches, friends, former teachers, family, and others were carrying on in their daily lives. Then with one bit of news, somehow hundreds, maybe thousands, of people are linked together by one story. The words that describe the man. The thoughts that pierce reality. The news that shatters tranquility here on earth for many is the same news that confirms Joe’s arrival into eternal happiness. The effects that ripple through the conscious thoughts of all who knew him. The outpouring of kindness, support, love, and concern. The mental images of a smile that was as warm, secure, and comforting as the safest place any of us know. It’s all part of the plan. God’s plan.
Time will tell how the plan unfolds. Even though it’s God’s plan, we are to be present and participating in His plan. I am in no way trying to down play any of this; this is a serious matter. There’s a message in most everything and I am willing to bet, the warm memories, the courage we know he possessed, and his way about life are part of the message here as well. Think of the things you have heard, the things you have read, the things you have seen yourself, the life you may have been a part of first hand, all those things are a message of Joe’s life. Often times through the most unthinkable loss or sacrifice comes the greatest gift or the most amazing victory.
Please don’t think that this is over when the news stops running or the stories stop circulating. You and I may be a part of the plan. Anyone of us could be instrumental. Our words, our actions, just might be the right thing at the right time for the one who needs that spoken word or the example they were looking for. Really it’s always supposed to be that way. We are human, and our best moments aren’t all of our moments. Yet the more we think our moments are our best, the more they will be. And the moment we decide that we need to be our best might just be the moment that God’s plan includes us to be the message for someone needing to see that something that helps them cope and overcome.
My thoughts and prayers are with Joe’s family, friends, and loved ones. It’s a tough time for them all. As beautiful as Joe Hubbard was, he’s in a place of beauty right now that none of us can comprehend. I can’t wait for the day when Joe and I are face to face again. And I can’t wait to say something that Joe finds funny enough in his beautiful soul to let loose on that unforgettable laugh. Have faith, know and trust that it’s God’s plan.