"Say what you have to say, and not what you ought."
~ Henry David Thoreau

Thursday, October 10, 2013

A Journey Cut Short

Have you ever met someone who in a very short amount of time had a profound impact on your life? I had that experience earlier this year when I met a man named Joe Bell. He was passing through Ogden on a cross-country journey from Oregon to New York City, walking alone in honor of his teenage son Jadin, who had killed himself a few months earlier. Jadin was gay, and after coming out had been bullied because of his sexual orientation. 

Jadin had wanted to move to New York City when he was older, so Joe decided to set out on a trek to New York City raising awareness along the way about bullying and suicide prevention. He teamed up with some friends who were involved with a non-profit called Faces for Change and before long his journey had a name--Joe's Walk for Change. 

Me, Joe and my dad - June 6, 2013
I heard about Joe's walk on Facebook shortly before he arrived in Ogden. The moment I read his story I wanted to meet him, to shake his hand, hug him, and thank him for what he was doing. A few days after learning about his Walk for Change, I got to do just that. Joe was speaking at OUTreach, a local group for LGBTQ youth where they can gather in a place free from discrimination and work together to build happy, healthy lives. 

He was soft-spoken but his words were powerful. He wept as he told his story and nearly everyone in the room wept as they listened. His words were simple, yet powerful and touched the hearts of many, including mine. I watched him comfort a young man who told how he had been shunned and kicked out of his home by his own father because of his sexual orientation. I did get to shake Joe's hand, hug him and thank him for what he was doing. I left in awe of his strength, but also his humility and complete conviction about what he was doing. He was a hero, the kind of person the world needs more of. I began following his journey online, tracking his progress, reading his comments and experiences about his journey.

Yesterday evening he posted a picture of a road sign just outside a remote Colorado town with the words "Making headway, one step at a time." This morning as I scrolled through my Facebook feed I stopped to read about Joe's progress. My heart stopped as I read the news that he had been hit by a semi-truck and killed. I was stunned, overcome with sadness. All day my mind kept drifting to thoughts of him and his family and the tragedy of his death. I can't stop thinking about it. What about his surviving son? What is he thinking? How on earth is he going to pick up the pieces of his life and move on? I've also thought about Joe. I hope his death was sudden and painless. I don't believe in an afterlife, so thoughts of him having a reunion of sorts with his son bring me no comfort. In a strange way though, I feel relief for him. His journey is over. His grief has ended. He no longer has to live a life with a permanent void in it. Mostly though, I'm just sad because the world needs more people like Joe Bell and now he's gone. 

I don't know what his death means but I know his message of acceptance needs to continue to be shared. His son Jadin's life mattered. Joe's life mattered. His journey was too important for it to end. Joe touched so many lives as he walked for change. Somehow his work will continue and his message of acceptance will keep being shared. It has to, for Jadin, and now also for Joe. 


  1. That is so very sad. How awful for this family and the work he was doing for others in honor of his son. My heart goes out to you, too, Keicha, because I can only imagine how deeply you are feeling his loss.

  2. Tragedy upon tragedy. This story just breaks my heart.

  3. Oh, Keicha -- I expected such a different ending to this post. Arrival. Completion. The thought of all this man had done and reaching a goal, a quest.

    My heart is broken after reading the last two paragraphs in so very many ways -- for his family, for those who admired him, for you and so many others. What a great loss and one impossible to explain. I am so sorry.

  4. Ohh, my heart stopped. And no words suffice.


Thanks for stopping by my blog and leaving a comment. I appreciate your feedback.