Saturday, August 15, 2009

A Big Birthday

Joey's 30th birthday is on Monday, and we are gathering on Sunday --to what? celebrate? honor him? grieve together? I'm not sure. For the past week, every time I think of that birthday, I mentally run and hide. It feels how I feel when I see violence on the 6:00 News and quickly turn the channel. I just don't want to think about it.

In losing Joey, I also lost myself. I lost my ability to function at capacity; my ability to enjoy life; my ability to engage with the people and events around me. Now I often just feel like a body going through the motions of life without the e-motions. If I were hooked up to one of those hospital machines that reads heart beats, I think it would register an emotional flatline.

I can't bring Joey back, but I'm trying really hard to bring myself back. For my grandchildren. So they can have their Nana back. So life isn't so sad and grim for them. So their hopes and dreams don't die under the weight of sorrow, before they've even emerged. We've all lost our sparkle. I look into the faces of every family member, from the oldest to the youngest, and there is something gone there. Something's missing from the little faces that I hope will one day re-light.

So I'm trying for them. And I do okay on a day-to-day basis, though sometimes it feels like I'm just barely on my feet, pushing myself to walk. But with any big Joey anniversary coming, it knocks me off my path. I go a little crazy inside trying to find a resting place. I lean on my faith that God has Joey and he's safe. I remind myself that there's a new world coming where we will truly celebrate again. I thank Jesus that he is the Resurrection and the Life. That gives a bit of rest. Thankfully.

But I can't help but think about what would have been. Certainly my son's 30th birthday would have been a big deal. After all, he was our baby. We always knew that after everybody else had celebrated a milestone, Joey's were still to come. That was exciting for us and kept us young. We know his 30th would have, at the very least, entailed a poker table. Maybe even a trip to Vegas with Rachel and JR and Theo and the Abrahams. Maybe Kevin and Molly and his whole Second Family would have joined us, and Uncle Don and Auntie Viv. Maybe bigger than that: a family trip to Italy. All I know is, it would have been big... and fun... because he was the master of fun.

So now it's neither big nor fun. It's an obstacle to get over. I desperately search for a way to redeem these days for something good, but I haven't found the way to do that yet. I guess for now, I will have to be content to just survive them.

Psalm 139:11,12
If I say, "Surely the darkness will overwhelm me,
And the light around me will be night,"
Even the darkness is not dark to You,
And the night is as bright as the day
Darkness and light are alike to You.


Liza's Eyeview said...

Karen, think this way: What would Joey want you to do for His Birthday? If you were to imagine him looking down on you while he's on heaven and you are on earth - what would he like to see you do on his birthday?

Bake a special birthday cake - something extra ordinary;

Do something crazy, even if you make a fool of your self (remember how I dared sing at his memorial? I met a young lady who knew me as "the girl who sang at Joey's memorial. Of course she was kind enough to ay she loved it and did not mention that I went out of tune so many time ;)

What else? think ... do... then blog about it :)

Maybe a visit to Maui? ;) surprise us will yah?

Love you and will be thinking of you all on Joey's birthday.

Anonymous said...

You know what I'm about to say is no comparison at all cause it must be the worst kind of worst to lose a child. But as I read this whole brutally honest post--I thought about the morning I woke to the phone ringing and was paralyzed with fear to answer it.

I took care of my mom in my home for teens of years. I forget but it was like about 18 and her having strokes all the time. The last three days of her life as she lay in hospice, I knew it was the end. We had gone to bed and I dreaded even going to sleep for knowing the phone was going to ring. I knew it would startle me. I dreaded it and the dread made worse by the weeks of stress leading up to it.

So the phone did ring and I completely lost my breath. I fear dread so badly for most eveything--- just like you described the evening news. I just can't stand trauma.

I let the phone ring cause I could not answer it. Finally, my husband quietly took the news. The moment passed---it was awful--but every day after brought a crucially slow healing. I mean all that stress makes you sick. Makes you look in the mirror and wonder who the heck is looking back.

So I understand an ounce of the dread and pain. It took me a long time and well over 5 years to smile spontaneously again and that was my parent. I would most likely be just like you if it was my child. Smiling right now feels like an effort doesn't it?

Every day did get slowly better but you have permission to cry lots on Monday. No need to be brave. It feels better sometimes and makes it feel like you mourned properly. Sometimes I'd cry to mom and tell her I hadn't grown any less attached just cause she was in heaven. I wanted her to know she was missed lots.

No way to get past but to go through the fire. Hugs to ya

Elis said...

Dear Johnson family, you are the most amazing family I've ever met.
You have inspired me in happy moments in your lives, but you are also inspiring me through your suffering.
I think about you constantly, my heart has been aching for you. The anticipation of Joey's Birthday must be an overwhelming concoction of feelings.
I envy your ability to stay so close to God through it all.
May He continue to embrace you in your grief, may He continue to bring you new and fresh friends that will love you as much as we do, may His strength be with you from morning to dawn may His love abound with you.
I love you so much, Elsi

Gannet Girl said...

Sending you love and prayers for tomorrow, knowing something about your anguish.

It's an exhausting battle, isn't it? It has been such a very short time since Joey died; how could you not feel both numb and reeling with pain and exhaustion? I don't know why it works that way, even as it does, and even as on the outside we look like people going about normal lives. You look so beautiful and full of energy in your pictures, but it's not hard for me to understand that your thoughts are elsewhere.

Our first birthday anniversary is almost upon us, followed the next day by the anniversary of his death. I guess it will always seem impossible to me, that a life which grew in my body and was so joyfully welcomed and lovingly tended could have been so quickly extinguished.

May there be some peace and real joy for you in the year ahead.

Liza's Eyeview said...

Anonymous said...

I remember the first birthday party that we went to for Joey and the Wildwood gang. We were back from Africa and coming to stay with Joe and Karen for a few days...they were broke and times were tough.

When we arrived - sprinklers were flowing in the back yard..half naked boys were running around playing and out of the house (I was surprised because I always thought Karen was a tad more tight than that!) But no....those boys were having the time of their lives...simple but what a blast! Cake and ice cream followed...with the mess that only boys can make. Gifts were opened and everyone was disappointed that they had to go home so soon. Karen and I cleaned up while JJ and Joe had a blast with the gifts. Of course, Joey had other birthday's after that...but for some reason I just remember this one..the half naked red head running in the house with his sword!

Love you Joey and miss you on this very special birthday.

Miss the red headed young man, that great smile, the side bar jokes, your passion for life, our family is forever changed without you.

Love Auntie Viv

Jeri said...

The anticipation of each and every special day/anniversary can be so painful. However, to read how open and transparent you are as you walk through each day is amazing. Thank you for sharing your heart. You're always in our many thoughts and prayers.

We love & miss you,
Jeri & Cliff

Anonymous said...

I just feel numb as I read what you wrote and what others wrote to you. It is hard to explain and you did it so perfectly. I feel like you owe nothing to anyone but yourself to do as you wish. I know you will get through it, the anniversary's....I hate that word.
I have already cried for you and will throughout the day. God keeps us strong I know, we can be blessed to have that. Where would we be without His path to follow? So today, for now, it is okay to just be sad Joey is gone, it really is okay to miss him terribly. Love you guys. Sharon

Anonymous said...

Dear Karen and Joe,

You are just amazing - I can't think of anyone who has honoured their relative's loss in such a complimentary way. If Joe could see and read every thing you are doing he would be just in awe. Your words are from the heart and helping you to heal hopefully. Your family love you dearly and are by your side always, on good days and bad and are not expecting anything from you. All they and all your friends hope and wish for is your own pain and grief to subside.
What beautiful things you are creating in Joe's honor and what beautiful family are around you now, supporting you.

Sue, Albuquerque xxx