From the Wives: Part Two - An Interview With Donna Gray

reflections Sep 24, 2017

Last week we began a two-part blog series where we heard from Kirstin Skeesuck, Justin’s wife. Just like Justin has a better half, Patrick married way out of his league.

Today we have the second installment of the two-part series titled From the Wives, where Patrick’s wife, Donna, provides her perspective on some of Justin and Patrick’s Camino Journey, their friendship, and life since returning from Spain.

Enjoy as we get to hear from another of the real heroes behind the I’ll Push You story, Patrick’s wife, Donna Gray.

From the Wives: Part Two –  An Interview with Donna Gray
By Justin Skeesuck

When Patrick interviewed my wife Kirstin, I was intrigued to hear her responses to his questions. I wouldn’t say they surprised me, but it was great to see so much of what goes on in her mind and heart all at once. The interview with Donna was no different. Both of our wives are incredibly strong women, but Donna’s perspective on things is different. Her willing support of our journey and her sharing Patrick in a way that has allowed support and rest for Kirstin over the years is something I am so grateful for.

Describe your relationship with Patrick.

“We have a lot of fun together; we just really enjoy being with each other, spending time together. We’re both really driven people, we get things done. This makes a joint "project" a connection point for us. From growing a garden, to fall cleanup in the yard, to building a new patio, we operate as a team. This makes parenting a lot of fun. Parenting is definitely a joint project.

We are happy living everyday life with one another, regardless of what life throws at us, be it big or little, we are a team through it all. We talk about everything that we are thinking/feeling with each other. We encourage each other in every way we can.”

Let’s stop there for a second. Constant teamwork and communication; these are necessary qualities for any successful relationships, especially a marriage. Sorry, back to Donna.

“I love that my life with him includes so many ‘did you know?’ episodes.  I love that we are curious. Our curiosity has greatly shaped our lives....”

What do you mean by curiosity has shaped your lives?

“We both love to look at things from different perspectives, from different angles.   We love learning about new ideas. Both Patrick and I actively look for things we don't know about and ask someone to help us learn, we are believers that we will never have life figured out, we will never arrive, but we can always learn more, we can always be more. We are both readers and love to share what we are reading about, what new things we come across that challenge our thinking.  All of these things have shaped our perspectives and how we raise our kids.  We look at life through the lens of questions and curiosity.”

Many of the conversations I have with Patrick or Donna involves something new.  I love that!

What is one word you would use to describe Patrick?

“Generous- He has a huge heart that is contagious to be around.  He will often spend all of his energy giving and will have to take a bit to recuperate from that.  He is the ‘let's make this happen!’ person in our lives. I love watching him pour himself out to others.”

And pour himself out he did, and continues to do. This is one of my favorite things about him as well.

Why were you okay with Patrick and I taking this journey?

“It just made sense - and that was weird to have such an unknown to make so much sense. It just felt right though, especially after we prayed about it. It felt like it was where our path was supposed to take us. It made sense in a way that it shouldn't have made sense and that made me very aware that this might be part of a bigger story.

You and Patrick have been on so many adventures together; this was the next step.”

What was the most difficult part?

“The first day, when you were climbing the Pyrenees. I knew it was the most dangerous and rigorous part of the journey. This is the only part of the trail I had heard of people dying on. You were out of contact for what felt like forever and I just was so anxious about your safety that day. We all were. 

Other than that specific day I would say more generally - after the kids went to bed at night was hard.  This had always been a time for us to debrief after our day; a time to reconnect and suddenly I was by myself. During the day I was busy working and chasing kids, but in the evening I felt his absence greatly!  

When you guys came home and Patrick’s heart was different, it was beautiful to see, but he was living the same life, with the same commitments to work and everything. Patrick was trying so hard to be the man that God had called him to be and the father that he wanted to be but he didn't have much time to make these changes. It was hard to watch him as he made the transition as he was pulled in so many directions, but he is a different man now, he is the man I fell in love with and so much more. I am so grateful for this!”

What do you hope people will get out of this story?

“I hope people recognize that your journey doesn’t have to paved in stone. Just because you started out on one path doesn't mean that this is your path forever. It takes courage to put the brakes on the path of your life, but in this there can be so much love and joy. Sometimes you have to slow down, adjust the sails, and walk a new road.

I want people to see that there is hope in every situation. I want people to see that when you lead your life with love, it is an amazing journey. Walking in life with a servant attitude of, "how can I help?" always pays in dividends in the end. You have deeper relationships and more meaningful experiences. Living life with people makes your life richer in every way and it makes things that might seem insurmountable… possible.”

How has my relationship with Patrick impacted you? 

“I think this is something that I take for granted. Your relationship has always been our normal. The entire time I have known Patrick; you have been a huge part of each other’s worlds. When it strikes me most is when I talk to others that don't have close relationships in their lives. I have met so many people who don't have a single close friend. They might have situational friends, work friends, workout friends; but not friends that they live life with.

You guys really have a "brotherhood". You can have major disagreements but your relationship is always more important. You have never given up on each other and that is something that I see happen a lot. So many people give up when life gets hard. It's like you both just said, ‘You’re stuck with me – get used to it!’ and that was that.  I love that!” 

How has this journey impacted your children, and what do you hope they take away from this?

“They don't really remember much before the journey. They were so young and now they just have a different memory. My hope is that they are seeing how when you follow God's nudging, amazing and wonderful adventures can happen and it can change your life. I know that they now know their dad loves spending time with them and being with them. Patrick is one of their biggest fans and they can point to times in their lives when he has proved this over and over. I hope they take away that relationships and "adventures" are one of the great joys in life!  They need to pursue relationship over anything else. 

I want them to see how God has been there every step of the way on this journey. I want them to see that there have been wonderful highs and scary lows and God has been there. I want them to see that through the boring and mundane of everyday life He is there. God has walked every step of this journey and that is how we build faith – He was there then and He will be there all the time.” 

I'll never forget standing at my best friends side as best man in he and Donna's wedding. I am so grateful that both of them are such a significant part of my life. There is so much to glean from the richness of their marriage.

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