I haven't had the good fortune of getting to know Maddie yet, but I'm looking forward to the opportunity. I was blessed to know Joseph however. He was a sweet, earnest young man who touched the lives of everyone who had the pleasure of meeting him. Joseph and I were kindred spirits. Anyone who knows me would tell you that I'm a movie and music nerd. I wear it like a badge of honor. I literally have thousands of films and albums in my personal library, and there's nowhere I'd rather be than a dark movie theater or a crowded concert hall. I'd never met anyone who's love of cinema rivaled my own...until I met Joseph. The first time I met him he brought some of his favorite music with him to my house to share with me. We talked about the bands he loved, his favorite movies...he was in heaven surrounded by the collection I've built over nearly thirty years. Little did he know I may have enjoyed our encounter even more than he did.
Joseph was a rock star. So great was his appreciation for Hollywood, he took the name "Marlon" (as in Brando) as his Facebook handle. How cool is that? Unhampered by the silly, unwritten rules that most of us blindly follow, Joseph created an alter-ego for himself and never questioned the legitimacy of it. He marched to the beat of his own drum, and that's what made him special. When most people were posting superficial selfies or detailed accounts of what they had for dinner, Marlon's Facebook page was a personal favorite destination. What's your favorite Oasis record? Who's your favorite horror movie villain? he would routinely pose. He embodied everything that was special about being a kid, and just interacting with him made me feel like one too.
Joseph had started high school, was learning to play the guitar and recently started his first job at his local Hy-Vee. He was a good student, a great friend, a fantastic brother and an amazing son. I'm a better person for having met him, and I'll always regret that we never got to see what life had in store for him. I believe that Joseph was destined for greatness, but now his family and friends are left with a hole in their hearts that only that sweet boy could fill. Joseph is survived by by his mother, Amber, his father, Brad Livingston (a wonderful father who's always provided for his children and whom they adore), brothers, Adam and Aaron, age 22, sisters, Madalyn, Molly and Juliana, ages 20, 18 and 14 respectively and brother Joshua, age 13.
Fortunately Maddie's life is all still in front of her. Horrific as it is, this story could've been much worse. In the blink of an eye, two young lives could've been lost, but fate had other plans. Maddie's been given a second chance and I have no doubt that she'll make the most of it, but make no mistake..it's going to be difficult. She has a tough road ahead, but she's a tough, young lady with an amazing family in her corner. But they need our help.
I've known Joseph and Maddie's stepfather, Craig for over twenty five years. He's a good person, with a good heart. He loves these children as if there were his own. I've only known Amber for a relatively short time, but long enough to know that she's a very special lady. So warm and generous, Amber is a world class mother. I'd trust her with my own children (and I have). These are good people, and it's evident when you meet any one of their children that they're doing something right. But right now they're in pain. Most of us could only imagine the heartwrenching scenario that unfolded for this family just a few, short days ago, and at Christmas time no less. There's nothing I wouldn't do to help them through it, and that's where you come in.
As anyone who's had the misfortune of taking an unexpected trip to the hospital knows, the bills can be crippling. For Craig and Amber those hospital bills are already mounting, and with Maddie still recovering and the extensive rehab she's facing, there's no end in sight. But before they even meet that hurdle, they're faced with the impossibly difficult task of burying their son. As emotionally devistating as that prospect is, burial and memorial costs are also staggering. To make matters worse, Amber was laid off from her job a few months ago and as a result the pair was already struggling financially. With Maddie's two younger siblings Juliana and Joshua still living at home, the tenuous situation is a source of stress that this family can ill afford. Maddie shares an apartment with her sister, Molly, but it will be months before she'll be able to work again, putting the sisters in jeopardy of losing their residence as well.
The bottom line is this is a family in crisis, and I'm calling on you to help me ease their burden in any way we can. I understand that the holiday season can be stressful for many of us and that finances can be tight this time of year, but I emplore you to donate anything you can spare. No gift is too small or insignificant. If we all skip a single indulgence (coffee, fast food, a movie) and chip in just a few dollars, it could help ensure that these children (who've already endured so much) have some stability in the coming year, that their parents can get back on their feet financially, that they can lay their son to rest with all the dignity that he deserves and that they can focus their energy on helping Maddie get back on her feet and on with her life. And if you simply aren't in a position to help financially, you can still help by sharing the link to this page with your friends, your family, your co-workers, your church, on any social media platforms that you participate...help me get the word out. Help me tell their story. Help me get them through this unbearably difficult time. Thank you for listening and thank you for your help.
Update: In the interest of transparency for potential donors, Joseph and Maddie's father, Brad Livingston, has been named the beneficiary of funds generated by this campaign. Brad will be responsible for the withdrawl and dispersal of funds going forward. Huge thanks to everyone who has given so generously - it's because of you that the family was able to lay Joseph to rest. And to anyone still considering making a contribution - Maddie is thankfully on the mend, but faces a long and arduous road ahead. Your gift is still needed to help the family face the mounting medical and rehabilitation costs associated with her recovery. Together, we can get them some relief.
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