Yesterday marked 13 years that Joey has been gone. Yet another year has passed without my big brother and I can hardly believe it. However, this particular anniversary is incredibly hopeful and symbolic. Last week I delivered my farewell KFA presentation to 7,000 high school students in Ohio, and I cannot imagine a more inspiring last talk. After sharing Joey’s story with over 200,000 students, I am ready to close this chapter of my life and move towards the exciting future that lies ahead.
I have to admit that this decision has triggered such disparate emotions. On one hand, I feel a huge sense of relief knowing that I have completed an almost impossible mission which required me to relive my brother’s death nearly 300 times. On the other hand, even though I will not miss all of those tough moments on the road, I will definitely miss those amazingly rewarding moments on and off stage. It is hard to fully comprehend that I have saved lives because it seems so intangible. But I know from the messages I have received that this is in fact true. Joey’s death was not in vain and we literally saved lives together through his story. This past week I was floored with the sadness of having lost Joey and at the same time lifted up knowing the impact we have had. Many parents have no idea that their son or daughter’s life was saved via Joey’s story. It is as if Joey is a guardian angel to people who are completely unaware of his gift – a second chance at life. How amazing is that?
It is time to move on though, and I know this with great clarity. When I first started speaking across the country at age 26, I knew that there would be a shelf life to my KFA speaking career for several reasons. I have always known that alcohol and drug education is a peer issue. College students do not want to listen to some old person drone on about how bad it is to drink or do drugs. This topic has to be presented in a fresh and relevant way, and it has to come from a relatable person close to their age. I know I’m not a billion years old or anything (I’m 33 years young!) but I am simply not a peer anymore. I am happy to announce that I am four months pregnant and looking forward to spending more time at home with my growing family. I am also concentrating my creative efforts on my new middle school program called “UP”, which I encourage you to check out: UPLIFTyogabash.org/thecause And most important, I simply cannot relive Joey’s death anymore. I am ready to focus on life and I know Joey would want this for me.
I am full of excitement as I look at all the wonderful new beginnings in my life. The sky is the limit…and Joey will be with me every step of the way.