I remember the day I gave birth to this beautiful child. I didn't know I was having a boy, but having had our two darling girls, and pink everything and rhinestones and princess costumes,we were ready to walk on the wild side over snips and snails and puppy dog tails. Joey came home and snuggled immediately into the family circle. There was no 3rd child adjustment--he just slid in and sync'ed into the rhythm. And he was always that way, wherever he went. He seemed to slide into any new environment with ease--kindergarten, youth group, his new school in Maui, his college dorm. He made friends easily and knew how to make strangers laugh. He was easy to know and love.
Here he is at one, with a bump on his forehead, sitting on his big boy flip-down chair. I loved that little jacket with the wooly collar. I guess that's why he's wearing it with his shorts! Loved the knees--so round and smooth, and the little folded hands. That was before his limbs got all long and gangly. He eventually grew into his ears, but the soft eyes and the smooth line of his smile never changed.
Sitting by a campfire, 27 years later, on the road someplace north, maybe Alaska. He was never so happy as when he was sitting in the great outdoors, breathing it in. Trees, campfires, stars, beaches, waves, mountains, snow. All of it. Staring at it and thinking, absorbing. Thanks to Rachel's artist eye and quick camera, we have many of these treasured moments preserved.
His heart and soul were big enough for the sweeping beauty behind him. He fit there and celebrated it.And because of this, I believe he is having a very similar experience in Paradise. Celebrating and exploring a universe of unbelievable sights.
He lived with zest and passion. He could make fun in a split second. He was highly verbal, especially for a boy, and always had a story to tell. He was a typical family baby--he loved to entertain, and he vitalized any gathering with his humor. I miss his wit and energy so much...and his wisdom and wry insight too.
He was an explorer. He was curious. He was an adventurer. I am so glad he got out and saw the world, and encouraged me to do the same. He was so vibrant and alive that it was contagious. He widened my view. He lead the way. He continues to do that from Heaven, as he has opened my eyes to th world to come. I have come to an assurance that even though he is far away, he is all the more alive, and he is waiting with family and new friends for the day we join him.
His other happy place: in a studio, or on a stage, with a guitar in his hands. He was a singer, a song writer, a musician at his core. This was what he was doing on the final night of his life, and at around 2 am he went to bed... and woke up in another world. Did he smile when he understood? Did two angels whisk him up into the stratosphere and beyond? And that moment of being in the presence of God? --on his knees, face down, grateful and awestruck. What a rush of reality. We are waiting with faith and hope for that moment of reunion and our own inevitable merciful encounter with the Holy One.
For now, we are earthbound. We are trying to live despite our loss, and love those around us better than we ever have.
On Joey's last birthday before he died, the last we ever shared with him, we had a big poker night at his sister Jaime's house. Hours at the green felt table, joking, strategizing, bluffing his way through-- seriously intent on winning a pile of colored chips. He was always competitive. I can't remember now if he won, or if he came in second, but what mattered was this: we all won. It was a rich night of friendship, companionship, laughter and love. It was good. A memory for the decades to come.
It's so important to make sweet memories with those you love. You never know when they will have to sustain someone for the rest of their earthly lives.
Vintage Joey. Long limbs, t-shirt and jeans, sitting in the woods, breathing deeply in the cool, green-filled air. I picture him like this now. Peaceful, appreciative, thoughtful, content, alive to what stands before him, alive to a universe full of love and beauty, and waiting for us.
I have spent the past three years trying to understand the mystery of life, the whys of my own journey, and the purpose of Joey's short life. Through the tears and the sorrow, my heart has broken open. New things have been planted in that fertile ground. My faith has grown. I sometimes wondered if I would ever trust God again. But I do, and more than ever. We are a candle in the wind. He is eternal. He will explain it all someday and it will make sense. For now, Jesus loves me, and faith, hope and love abide.
Happy Birthday, my precious Joey, my beautiful son. Thank you for all you gave to all of us. Your mother loves you, loves knowing you are safe, misses you deeply, and longs for you with hope and a promise of the world to come.
We are gathered in a circle of love today, our family with Rachel and Kevin and Molly and Josie and Ryan, and remembering beautiful you.
“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.