When her beloved husband, Rod Kirby, was diagnosed with cancer, Linda Kirby turned into a list masker.
“I used to make fun of the people I knew who always kept lists,” she said. “But when we were going back and forth between Lafayette and Houston, and Rod was having the radiation, I started keeping lists.”
Kirby said the lists helped keep her focused and busy.
Rod Kirby was an assistant pastor at East Bayou Baptist Church. In late 2005, he was training for a marathon and went in for a physical. The routine physical changed the course of their lives. Rod was diagnosed with cancer.
“The day the cancer was spoken into our lives – it literally changed every plan we had – every dream we had ever made,” Kirby said. “He was a couple of years younger than me. We had a joke he would outlive me by a long shot. He came from a family of people who made it to 105.”
Eighteen months later, on April 27, 2007, Rod passed away.
“Through it all, I learned about love at a new level,” Kirby said. “I remember looking out the window one day while we were at the hospital in Houston. There were all these levels of clouds moving at different speeds. It looked like the bottom level was moving faster than the highest clouds I could see. Probably the opposite was true. But I sat there watching the clouds moving, and I realized there were different levels of things going on – and the level I was focusing on might not be the most important or significant.”
Throughout her husband’s illness, Kirby inspired many of those around her.
“She positively radiates joy!” wrote Gayle George in her nomination of Kirby as someone who lives her life demonstrating inner peace.
Kirby, 62, credits her walk with God as the secret behind any peace she has been able to find through the years. Before and during her husband’s fight with cancer, Kirby asked friends whose spiritual walks she respected to help hold her spiritually accountable. One of those people was Fran Robinson, who also attends East Bayou Baptist.
“I told her, ‘If you ever see me out of line, I want you to come up and grab me and shake me.'”
One Sunday after Rod’s diagnosis, Robinson did just that – without the shaking part.
“I was crying in the foyer at church. She walked up to me and said, ‘Linda, people are watching you. I want you to walk out what you believe.'”
Robinson’s words were just what Kirby needed.
“I didn’t have the answer for what was going on, but I knew who did,” Kirby said. “It occurred to me that Rod and I had been chosen. This was a chance for me to show my faith. It wasn’t a time for me to kick and scream on the pavement.”
But Kirby admits even with a strong faith and support network, she’s experienced her share of challenges.
“For a while, I was furious at my husband. Counseling helped ease that,” she said.
On the practical side of coping, Kirby decided to be proactive on several fronts. She eliminated the things in her life that caused chaos – including some relationships. She prayed a lot. And, she kept busy on projects.
“Watching a virile, vibrant man – watching cancer consume him like that,” she said. “I knew he was in heaven when he died. And one day, I’ll see him again.”
Since her husband’s death, Kirby has worked to find ways to rediscover the little joys of life.
Before he got sick, Kirby said there were three things her husband did not want her to do.
“My husband used to tell me I would never be able to screen in the patio or have another dog or get a high-def television,” she said with a smile. “Now, the porch is screened in. I got another dog. And, I have two small high-def televisions. There came a point when I realized it was important to have joy in my life.”
She named her new dog Happy – as a reminder. Happy and Pete (her other dog) plus several cats continue to provide comfort and add to the joy in life.
“There is hope. We have choices to make. You can choose loneliness, or you can choose happiness,” she said. “I have come to a point that I’m happy. I look forward and am excited about what the future will hold. I honor my husband’s memory, but I don’t have to look for anyone else for fulfillment – and that’s not a bunch of bunk.”
This is the third in Jan Risher’s series about Acadiana residents who live their lives demonstrating inner peace. Each of the people featured were nominated by a reader. Long Story Short appears Sundays. E-mail Jan at firstname.lastname@example.org.