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Life… embracing our second chances

By Jo Smith-Hooker

Friday, 13 April 2018

Many weeks after Daniel died, Bailey, who was 8 at the time said,

“You know what Mummy? I wish Daddy got a second chance at life. I wish we all got a second chance at life.”

A little overwhelmed, I managed to whisper with tears in my eyes, “Me too sweetie, me too.”

As she turned to walk away, it dawned on me and I said, “Daddy did get his second chance.”

“How do you mean?”

“At the start of last year Daddy was really, really sick. You were only 6 so it was hard for you to understand, but Daddy had cancer. His body was attacking itself and if he didn’t have chemotherapy or if the medicine didn’t work, Daddy would have died. He knew this and after he was better he started to do all those things he’d always wanted to do but kept putting off. So I guess Daddy did get his second chance at life.”

She stood there processing my statement, smiled and walked away.

Today would have marked D’s 6 years in remission (assuming there was no relapse).

It was a Friday the 13th when his Hematologist delivered us the “congratulations, you’re in remission.”

Months prior, also on a Friday the 13th, Daniel commenced his first round of chemo.

It was also a Friday the 13th when 17 months after receiving that incredible news, we sat in a chapel and celebrated Daniel’s life and farewelled his body.

The day that marked a year in remission, Daniel put out the challenge on Facebook asking everyone what they had done to live more in the past 12 months. He detailed all he’d done and I’m so grateful I have this post to look back on as a reminder.

Because all we are guaranteed is right now.

It’s got me thinking about life and all the chances we really do get, but may not see or appreciate. Being too busy or too consumed to really embrace this life and understand that right now matters.

It’s about finding the ability to live in the now. It’s about finding a way of doing those things we dream of, but continually put off for “another day”.

But what happens when another day doesn’t come??

I’ve had a few reminders before and since, but D’s passing was the biggest, not so subtle reminder about the fragility of life. That all we really have is now because later today it could be all gone.

The me that lived up until the afternoon of 5 September 2013 is gone.

Daniel’s death changed me and I will never be that person again.

But the me that’s still here… there’s little glimmers of the before me, but generally, I’m a massive work in progress… accepting, embracing, learning, growing.

I am proud of myself and the fact that while I’ve stumbled, I’ve managed to remain standing for the past 4.5 years.

I am someone who wants to be able to look back one day and say I made a difference to someone, somewhere.

I am someone who is looking forward to an amazingly beautiful future.

I am someone who wants this adventure that is life.

But I am also someone who is scared by this. A friend told me to take that feeling of anxiety and instead tell myself “this feeling is excitement”. I’m working on it.

I read this quote recently and it’s really resonated with me.

“I do not want your legacy to be that your death permanently broke me. Your life, your love and my love for you will sustain my survival.”

Thing is, I don’t just want to survive this. I want to live this. I’m growing, learning and doing what I can and I am truly living again. There’s been a tremendous amount of guilt associated with this growing part of the journey… but I’ve had to let go of the guilt in order to truly grow.

It’s a choice we all need to make. When something unimaginable happens in our lives. When we feel that life has let us down. We eventually have to make the choice. Will we use this event and allow it to beat us down? Will we survive it and merely survive the rest of our days? Or will we allow it to be the thing that empowers us to live a life we never thought possible?

Sooner or later we all meet crossroads in our journey and it’s up to us how we approach them. I took a positive turn about six months ago that set me on a path of discovering me and learning to embrace my life now, learning to appreciate the good that still exists in my life and opening myself to a future of possibilities.

It does not escape me that as I write this, it is another Friday the 13th.

I always look at them with a mix of emotions.

This one, I’ll be honest, has been different. It’s been calm.

I am in beautiful Sydney. I’m on a journey that brings me peace and calms my soul. This afternoon I dropped the girls off at Camp Magic (camp for bereaved children and teens) for the weekend and I’m now spending some quality time with me.

Go live. Go love. Go shine xx



Jo Smith-Hooker was 36 when her husband died instantly in a motorbike accident in September 2013. She lives in Brisbane with her two daughters. Her loves include adventures, writing, spending time with those she loves, music, travel and running (ok, the love part is a work in progress).

You will often find her curled up with a book, living in an alternate universe. She is passionate about walking alongside others on their grief journey and is a Management Committee member for First Light Widowed Association.

She shares her experience and journey with loss and life on Instagram, @whenhopeshines.


  1. Melissa says:

    Jo I am coming up to 5 years in June. I wonder if I have given myself a chance to stumble, or if I am stumbling now as I am not feeling the greatest, but I am still standing and I am living.i have three children who were 13, 10 and 3 when their father died and I would be extremely interested in your thoughts on camp magic, as I have been pondering g whether to apply for my son. All I can say is “ go you ! Stumble or not you are providing an awesome source of support for other widows/ers and that is well and truly living”

    • Jo Smith-Hooker says:

      Hi Melissa, Thank you for taking the time to write. I think we mostly just do what we can in order to get through… I’ve stumbled a lot! We hold onto the fact we are still standing right?! I’ll be honest I’m struggling with the idea of 5 and all the 5s I’ve been facing this year, it seems like such a big number I think. Camp Magic has been wonderful for my girls and also for me… I’ll send you a more detailed email if that’s ok with you? Thank you again for writing and your kind words xx

  2. Marisa says:

    Thank you Jo,

    The passing of my hubby is still raw for me, 10 months and I’m trying to find myself and be there for our children. Is there light at the end 🙁

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