To My Friend Slater
I haven't shared anything on social media about Jorja, because honestly, I'm not very good at this shit. I'm not as open and honest on-air as I could be. It's scary to share your real life and feelings with the public because it makes you vulnerable and I just don't know if I'm tough enough for people's judgment. And, if we're being brutally honest, Jorja and I just weren't that close. I loved her deeply, yet almost by default because I love Slater so much. Jorja and I never hung out, we saw each other occasionally, yet I felt like I knew everything about her.
Over the years Slater basically became the best friend that I never wanted. As much I try to keep a private life separate from work, I still end up telling Slater everything and he was more than happy to share everything about his life with me.
I remember the day that Slater told me Jorja had found a lump in her breast. She was pregnant with Olli and I said what every friend would say. It's probably nothing, stay positive, don't stress it until you really know what's going on, blah, blah, blah. I vividly remember the morning he got that phone call. It was a Wednesday in September. He answered his phone during the show, which was a rare thing for him to do. He went outside and took the call, came back in, and just told me he had to leave. Of course, I knew. I remember the exact look on his face. He looked scared and defeated. It was like he knew the future already.
I had dinner with my parents shortly after Jorja was diagnosed with cancer and my father said to me "You know as a husband and father, the first thing that Slater probably thought was my wife is going to die and I'm going to be a single parent" He was so blunt about it, but he was right. In my mind, I thought, well she's going to get chemo and battle cancer like millions of other women, but she's going to be ok. I was naive. Perspective is everything.
There were so many ups and downs in Jorja's journey with cancer. She was relentless in her positivity and her faith. For years she lived in pain and Slater had to watch his wife suffer every day. It tortured him. Looking back, as much as I criticize and give him shit, Slater was really, really strong over the years. He was living in hell but still came to work every day because he loved the show. I think it was probably an escape for him, but it was a challenge nonetheless. Some days he was just angry and it made doing the show difficult. I would get frustrated, but in hindsight, how could he not be angry? I'm by no means saying he's a perfect guy (you guys know I couldn't gas him up that much) but he did what he had to do. Every. Single. Day.
Last night, after Jorja's wake, and a few Ketel and Clubs, I walked my dog around the dark streets of my neighborhood listening to Whiskey Treaty Roadshow's "Hey Lady" on repeat and just balled my eyes out. I didn't understand why I was so emotional (Yes, vodka) when that's not really my MO. I'm not a big crier, not that there's anything wrong with that, I just try not to. Probably some deep-seated psychological issues, but whatever. This isn't about me.
I certainly cried for Jorja, but I also cried for Slater. And for Liam and Olli. And for her friends and family. But ultimately I think I was crying for every single other woman out there who's just like Jorja. Women who aren't as fortunate to be surrounded by such an amazing, loving community who embraced and supported the Flaherty's so much. I cried for women who go at this alone, with no partner, no family, anonymous in their community.
To really celebrate Jorja and her life, we need to live as she did. With faith and perseverance. Embracing every moment. We need to lift others up the way we did with her. We need to remember that Jorja is every woman. Her family is every family that has to live through this pain. Jorja was certainly one of a kind and very special woman, but her battle is everyone's battle. We're living in a confusing time where conflict and hate can seem to control the narrative, but what I've ultimately learned from Jorja is that truly, all you need is love.
To my friend Slater - I love you so much and yes, it's a cliche, but I really can't imagine my life without you in it. We have an unspoken bond that will never be broken. There's no one I've loved to hate more than you and you're impossible to stay mad at. In a short few years, I watched you lose your father, who was more like your best friend, and now your wife. All things considered, you're killing it. I'm sorry for the days I wasn't more understanding. I'm sorry for the days I wasn't there. Looking at your life has given me a different perspective on mine and I'm grateful for that. You WILL get through this. Remember Jorja the way she wanted you to. In St. Lucia, healthy, smiling, laughing, playing in the water...all while being blinded by your pale ass dad bod. I love you. Bro. WAFF