“Some day, I hope you get the chance to live like you were dyin.”
Army Sgt. Joe Urzua had always been touched by this Tim McGraw song but never knew how deeply it would speak to his life.
The Army Animal Care Specialist first heard the song when he was stationed in Korea. “I was going through a divorce and I had lost my father. The song inspired me to go for it and never give up.”
Yesterday in San Antonio, Urzua got to meet McGraw and tell him personally how the song had inspired him (see picture). McGraw was in town to help promote Outback Steakhouse’s Thanks 4 Giving campaign to support the troops and Operation Homefront.
And McGraw got to hear the rest of the story…
Urzua told McGraw and the group of about 30 people in attendance that he found out about seven months ago that he has a severe form of brain cancer – Type 4 glioblastoma. He said that it is terminal.
His attitude is obviously influenced by the song. “I’m not dead yet and I’m not gonna give up because things are rough.”
He came to Operation Homefront recently because of his illness. The Army PCSed him to San Antonio so he could get the treatment he needed. “That was a good thing but in some ways it set us up for a lot of hardships,” he said. Urzua said they had just bought a house in South Dakota where he was stationed at Ellsworth because they anticipated being there a long time. Then they had to move. The house hasn’t sold, it hasn’t rented and they aren’t there to take care of it.
“Right now, we’re two months behind on our mortgage because my wife had to quit her job to take care of me, our housing allowance was affected with the move and we are only living on my income.”
The Urzua family is moving into the Operation Homefront Village to get back on their feet financially. But living there means more than just financial assistance for the family. “Everyone has been so supportive since I came to the Operation Homefront Village. They understand what I’m going through and they care.”
Someone else who showed how much he cared was Tim McGraw. “I got my picture taken with Mr. McGraw. As I was walking away, he stopped me and looked me in the eye and asked what type of cancer I had, how long I’d had it and where I was getting treatment.”
McGraw lost his father to cancer several years ago. Urzua said, “I could tell he knew a lot about cancer and that he was interested in me.”
The song, “Live Like You Were Dyin,” addresses both the pain and the freedom of knowing that no day is guaranteed to anyone. Urzua understands this. McGraw understands this. And yesterday, because of it, they made a special connection.
To be a part of Outback Steakhouse promotion to help Operation Homefront, go to any Outback restaurant and order off their special Red, White and Bloomin’ Menu between now and April 5.
Update: Urzua eventually lost his battle to cancer but his spirit continues to inspire us. One of the things we love most as we look back on this story is the picture of Urzua meeting Tim McGraw. We love that his wife, standing next to a country music superstar, is looking with such love at her courageous husband, instead of the celebrity standing next to her.