My seminary kids ask me all the time if Jake and I dated or were good friends in high school. When I tell them the truth, “No, not really.” they are always very surprised and want to know why. Though our paths did cross miraculously before Jake graduated, I always just admired him from afar, usually from the pep band section of the gym or bleachers.
I was one of the few flutes in the Parowan High Band, and I wasn’t good. I practiced hard though and had a good time in the band. I enjoyed practicing the pep band music, but I always blushed intensely when I had to play at the games. One of the songs we learned was “Celebration” by Kool and The Gang. We’d play it after Jake and Caleb managed to win whatever sport for the season we happened to be in the middle of.
I graduated from SUU with my Bachelor’s Degree in December 2017. Jake and I walked in the graduation ceremony together in the spring of 2018 and he finished his degree in the summer of 2018. On the cold December day after I finished up all my finals and was technically a college grad, Jake woke up early and led me to the kitchen. He got our Alexa’s attention and had her play “Celebration” by Kool & The Gang.
He danced around the whole kitchen with me and sang loudly at my accomplishment. It was one of my favorite days.
Last Sunday Jake and I got to speak at a fireside for the LaVerkin Stake. It was so fun to meet some of the students Jake teaches. We were asked to speak on the new youth theme this year, John 14:15 “If ye love me, keep my commandments”.
As Jake got up to share his message, I noticed it wasn’t what he had originally planned to share. He started sharing a timeline with these kids and parents. He started with about a year ago.
We were finishing up our student teaching in Cedar and waiting to hear about full-time hire. Fast forward a few months and we were on our way to Disneyland to celebrate two full time positions.
Fast forward a few more months and we received our assignments to stay in Southern Utah- an absolute dream come true. We were able to find the perfect home for us and we were loving life.
Jake told this congregation of kids he loves that as we began our full-time jobs and worked on making our house a home, his health started to decline. After doctors’ appointments and many tests and procedures we learned that Jake has Stage 4 Classic Hodgkin Lymphoma.
I watched the whole congregation watch him for his next words. He told them we had been completely stopped in our tracks. Everything had been going so well. Now this?
He told the audience he wasn’t telling this story to make them feel bad or to make the meeting too serious or heavy. Jake's response to treatment has been really great, and we have received so many blessings throughout this entire process. He said he just wanted them to understand two things.
1. Even when we do our very best to keep the commandments, hard things still come.
2. When we do our best to keep the commandments, when the hard things come, we don’t need to be afraid. The Lord will help us.
Chemotherapy treatment #8 went great. Jake’s counts and labs are still “so pretty” in the words of our oncologist.
We’re looking forward to celebrating Jake's 23rd birthday tomorrow! We're looking forward to celebrating our first full year of teaching full-time. We're looking forward to celebrating these last four treatments. We’re looking forward to celebrating being cancer free.
I don’t think we’ll be able to play “Celebration” loud or long enough.
Maybe I’ll have to get my flute back out. That’ll make Jake happy.
My name is Maddie Townsend Topham and I am a happy wife!