My husband Joe always had a desire to do something good in the world, to find success and make a difference. It was something we constantly chatted about on those lazy Sunday mornings on the couch, coffee in hand. We didn’t know exactly what it would look like, nor how it could be accomplished.
And I could never have imagined that we would find that success, and have his impact felt, without Joe being here.
Our Sunday morning chats stopped abruptly when Joe died of cardiopulmonary arrest at 37 years old.
Joe was born with a ventricular septal defect (VSD). A birth defect of the heart in which there is a hole in the wall that separates the two lower chambers. He underwent surgery at six days old to repair it and spent the next 30 days in the neonatal intensive care unit. As an adult, the Joe I knew was six feet tall, athletic, and active. It was hard to think of him as that tiny baby recuperating from heart surgery with his mother keeping vigil by his side – until our daughter Vienna was born.
Together, we can make a difference in the lives of so many. So please, grab a cup of coffee and join us!
JoeAbate Charitable Foundation, Inc.
Meghan’s blog: www.thedayindecember.com
I felt fear and uncertainty trying to care for this new, healthy, happy little human. It was almost impossible to comprehend then, the crushing emotional burden parents with a child struggling with a heart defect must endure. The rollercoaster of feelings darting from fear to joy and back, the physical toll of endless hours, days and weeks by their child’s side, financial issues due to missed work, a feeling of isolation.
Thinking back on this after Joe’s passing, it struck me that here is where we could do something good, how we could make an impact. We would support “congenital heart families” both emotionally and financially. They were going through so much that was unknown. We would let them know that they were not alone, that they are loved and supported. So, we established a Family Resources Fund as part of a JoeAbate Charitable Foundation.
But I wanted to do more, and I knew Joe would too.
I used to call him “Joe of all trades'' because he tried more than a few on for size in the 11 years we were together. But the job changes didn’t come from a lack of motivation or willingness to work hard, but rather Joe’s feeling of never quite having a sense of direction when it came to establishing a career. He often reflected on his teenage years and wished he had been exposed to a variety of professions. This was another topic during our coffee on the couch Sundays.
As an educator, I know how critical it is for young adults to discover and try new things, especially if it pertains to their future. So, based on Joe’s experiences, we created Igniting Talent, our career-readiness program for Juniors and
Seniors who are uncertain of their post high school plans. It is our hope that through this program, Joe will inspire and touch the lives of many students for years to come as they embark on their career journey, exploring and discovering their passions.
Can a person make a difference while not physically here? When we cannot hear their voice or watch them grow? I think they absolutely can. Joe’s desire to make a difference in this world, to
find success, will continue to be our inspiration. We’ll experience that success by supporting families with a child in the Pediatric Cardiac Intensive Care Unit and through the passion sparked in the mind of a high school senior who found a pathway for a career they will love.