The title of this post refers not just to a physical place, Joey’s home, but also to a heartbreaking reality – that our sweet Joey Bear is now home in heaven. This past weekend we said our final goodbyes, remembering and celebrating him together with Sam and Sara, friends and family. The pain and the loss blur so many of our thoughts these days, but the fierce and bright light his little life brought – along with so much love and healing and hope – keeps shining. The koala picture hanging in their living room above, a gift to them by our dear friend Melody, is symbolic of Joey (baby koalas are known as joeys, hence his Joey Bear nickname), and a beautiful representation of his sweet and continued presence in their home.
Once again I’m fighting the temptation to keep these thoughts to myself, knowing every grief journey is different, knowing how tender and fragile and breakable so many hearts are at this time. But life’s timing is rarely what we expect or want it to be…and just days after sharing memories of sweet Joey at his funeral on Saturday, I find myself preparing to speak at Cleveland Field Kitchen’s slow living retreat this weekend, sharing about how to approach décor and design with the slow living principles of purpose and intention. And I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that in the midst of the pain of Joey’s journey to his heavenly home, I’m also being richly inspired by his earthly home – a space that his parents have purposely offered up as a haven of love and hope.
Over the course of Joey’s life, Sam and Sara have exemplified some of the deepest and most difficult principles of living with intention, and their living space reflects this at every turn. I wish I could convey the feeling of being in their home more perfectly – these words don’t begin to do it justice – but I’ll try to convey some of what I’ve learned from being in their home and life. The crazy thing is, while they asked for some of my practical input on décor and design, I’ve gained far more from them than anything I’ve given in this process.
For the past year or so I’ve been digging deeper into what makes a home feel like home, what it means to be authentic in our design, how our spaces reflect our souls, and how to encourage and teach these concepts. And spending time in the Scaparotti home has brought a few things to the surface, concepts that I’ll touch on here (and at Saturday’s retreat), and dig a little deeper into in future posts. I guess the biggest point I’d like to make today is that the physical principles of creating a home (how to design, arrange, utilize, and beautify a space) are truly like makeup without a face, or clothes without a person to wear them – they enhance what’s there, but there’s gotta be something there to begin with. And that “something” can’t always be identified in words or by intellect, but we all know it when we feel it. An authentic home is built on the principles of wholehearted and intentional living, so many of which I’ve witnessed in this specific home and in the souls that live here. All of these principles are specific, intentional choices that Sam and Sara have made along their difficult journey of caring for Joey in his illness. And as they’ve chosen these things, and continue to choose them, I’m inspired to choose them too.
- Let go and surrender: When faced with life’s hard realities – whether they’re as devastating and brutal as a terminal diagnosis, or maybe just a collection of continued disappointments and difficulties – we have a choice to stay soft, to trust, to surrender, or to cling to the pain, anger, and resentment that comes so easily. Sam and Sara have continually chosen to let go, and the softness of their hearts permeates every corner of their home. Even as they personally gave their son 24-7, ICU-level care in their home, even as they struggled to wrap their minds around the pain and devastation of Joey’s illness, they chose to surrender at each step, and the love that was allowed to grow in their home as a result of that choice embraces every soul that walks through their door.
- Offer what you have: I’ve had so many conversations with Sara about the physical state of their home, unfinished projects that were left unfinished in the wake of Joey’s diagnosis, messes and imperfections and lack of space and ALL of the things we fret about when we critique our homes. And discussions about finances, energy reserves, free time – all of which we find ourselves lacking at some point or another. Yet they chose to offer up what they did have at any given moment, and let that be used to create a life for Joey that was incredibly rich, beautiful, and full of love.
- Invite love and community: Letting people into our homes is an intentional choice, and walking through such a devastating hardship can easily lead us to isolation. We don’t know if we can trust others’ with our pain, don’t want to risk further hurt, can’t handle the added variable of “other people”. And asking for help isn’t easy. Asking for help again and again and again is damn near impossible. But Sam and Sara acknowledged those around them offering help, invited friends and family into their lives not knowing how it might look or feel, and gracefully and humbly accepted help at every turn. These choices have blossomed into a beautiful, tight-knit community of souls who love and support them, love and support each other, and give freely while receiving refreshment and encouragement in return.
Like I said, so much of this is wrapped up in a sense or feeling you get when you enter the Scaparotti home. Countless doctors, nurses, therapists, caregivers, friends, and family members have been in and out of their home in the past few years, and each one of us has been the beneficiary of their intentional living, their purposeful choices, and their trust in Jesus. It’s an incredible thing to be able to talk about and even more incredible to experience in person.
PS: If you’re interested in joining me at Cleveland Field Kitchen’s retreat this weekend, you can find more info here. I’m excited to spend time exploring ways of living with intention and learning new creative techniques with Drift Lab Textile Co. and Cleveland Field Kitchen! Maybe I’ll see you there. 🙂