“It’s ok”. “What’s ok”? I replied. “Life, life will be ok”.
This is the conversation that will always haunt me. This was the conversation my husband, Joey and I had the morning of his death. We were sitting in the car both frustrated with what now I realize is such minuscule issues. Had I known the truth of that day what would I of done different? Had he known that was his last day on this earth how would he of spent it?
That evening I watched him pull out of the parking lot of my work, angry and not in his right mind frame. There was no good bye kiss, no I love you. I just watched him leave.
I left in a hurry after him. You see he was my responsibility. I kept him safe, even from himself. As I was driving down the road I was mad, mad at him for acting like this. Mad at him for continuing to make the same mistakes. I was mad at myself for allowing this to happen, for not stopping it. For enabling him. So I prayed. I prayed that he would just make it home and that he didn’t hurt anyone else on the way.
When the first fire truck past me I knew. I knew something terrible had happen and I knew he was involved. When I pulled up to the accident scene I could not see his truck. I ran up to the first police officer I saw and asked, “Is it a black truck”? The answer was yes. I explained that it was my husband. He looked at me confused and said, “You don’t know that”. And I said “yes I do”. Then the first of many blows came. They couldn’t find him.
I sat patiently on the side of the road while people ran all around me. Talking to each other and trying not to make eye contact with me. If they did they would smile and say just stay calm. I felt like a child, no one wanted to tell me the truth. But I already knew it. You see when your soul is connected to someone it’s not hard to know where they are. He was gone and I knew it. It took about 30 minutes and a dive team to locate his body. By this point I lost it, the reality was crashing into me and I was told I couldn’t see him yet. They told me to go to the hospital and I could see him there that they were still working on him and not to give up.
I was at the hospital first and once they arrived I was immediately brought back to where they were working on him. I got on my knees and did the only thing I could, I kept praying the Our Father over and over. God had to hear me, he would answer my prayer. Ten minutes, chest compressions, oxygen, 7 epi-shots, no heartbeat and an unanswered prayer. He was gone, he left this earth without a good bye and with a bang. When I look back now I realize he had to go that way, he would have never left had he had to say good bye. His demons were strong but his love for his family was so much stronger. If this was truly his time to go he had to go out quick with no chances of staying. He also wasn’t the type to go out quietly, you will know his name. He was larger than life. Down to his last breath. I will never be surprised how his life ended. But I will always yearn for my good bye.
I spent the next couple hours just laying with him. Begging and pleading with him to come back. That I wouldn’t be mad. I would fix everything and we would be ok. But he wouldn’t wake up. His body changed and I couldn’t stop it. No amount of reasoning was working. I had to leave, the hospital had to put his body away. This was reality.
The next morning I knew I had to start telling people. I started with the ones closest to us. Our children, family, neighbors and our best friends. Then my phone started going crazy. People knew already, how was this possible? His name was released and online. It was all over Facebook. I thought I had all day to call people now I was in a panic to reach everyone before they read it.
I remember the next couple days very well. I had things to do, a funeral to plan, credit cards to call, a vacation to cancel. The following Friday we were headed to Key West with friends, it was going to be an amazing trip. Now instead we would be attending his funeral.
I planned every part of that funeral. I needed to have a task and this was it. I’m a fixer, it’s what gives me a sense of accomplishment and so this was what I put all my energy into. I told everyone I would speak at the funeral and they looked at me like I was crazy. But how could I not. I knew him better than anyone and I had to speak for him.
The days in between people came and went from my house. Friends that lived far away showed up to just hug me. Others would quietly put gifts on my porch. His friends showed up crying and sobbing with me. None of us knew what do. So we would just sit and stare out in to the sky. Trying to understand what had really happen. It’s a hard thing to grasp.
The day of the funeral I forced myself to feel it all. After all, this was the last time I would see him, be able to hug him and kiss him. I spoke to everyone there, I comforted his friends and some of mine. And when it was my time I spoke. I spoke of what an amazing father he was, how he was my best friend. I spoke of how we need to live in today and stop wasting our lives. I spoke of how much I loved him.
After the funeral I was not alone. Friends and family stayed with me, they brought us food, and they stopped by to cry with me or just sit with me. I saw so many beautiful people in those weeks after his death. People he touched that we barely knew. You see so much beauty in tragedy if you just pay attention. The love of the human spirit is over whelming.
I knew what I had to do after all this, stay the course. I had to raise our children and take care of the home. I had to continue to breed our dogs and keep his dream alive. And so I did what I always did when times were hard. I put my head down and weathered the storm. This was one of the things Joey always loved about me, no matter how tough times were I stayed strong for him. I carried us when he was tired. And so I would continue to do what was asked of me. I just knew in my head it was only a matter of time before he came home and life went back to normal.
Four months after Joey’s death I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. This was my breaking point. I had been strong, raised my kids, did everything I was supposed to and this happens. I was finally mad at God, why me? Why am I being punished so badly? What did I do to deserve any of this? It took me a couple weeks but I finally found the silver lining. I was taking care of everything except myself. And this was God’s way of making me do that. So I took a deep breath and took it with stride. On my 32nd birthday I got my spinal tap to confirm my diagnoses. I was lying there on the table and it finally hit me, he isn’t coming home. No matter how hard I try, no matter how loyal I remain, I can’t bring him back.
When something like this happens to you, you have two choices. You can let it eat you alive or you can let it spark a new fire in you. I choose the second. I have always had the ability to see God in everything, nature, people, everywhere. In the months after Joey’s passing I lost that gift. Well with pain comes light if you allow it in. And I knew I had to start seeing God again. It’s a painful process allowing yourself to smile genuinely or go out with friends and have a good time. You feel so much guilt for still being here. But the truth is you are and they aren’t. By you not living you are doing no good, you are just wasting space. You are still here for a reason and I had to start believing that. So I did, my new moto was to keep moving, and move forward. I had all the things in me he taught me, I had the courage to keep living I just had to jump.
And so on January 3rd I jumped. I jumped out of an airplane at 15, 000 feet and it was terrifying. But it was also nothing short of amazing. I could see God up there. I was free. I knew I needed to start living again. I needed to acknowledge that I was still here for a reason and my story wasn’t over. And as much as I wanted to live my old life, that life was over. I needed to live my dreams and accomplish my goals. Never will we forget Joey or stopping talking about him but for me to live his dreams out alone wasn’t fair. I needed to find my soul’s desires and allow them to become reality.
I decided I must allow myself to change. After all my life changed. Do you know how to save yourself from drowning? You go with the current. I have learned to float when that’s all I can do and swim when I can. Storms don’t last forever you just have to stay above water.
When I allowed myself to change I realized how uncomfortable this made people around me. They didn’t want me to change. But how could I not. If I stayed exactly the same I would go insane. So some people had to leave my life. They would never see me for me again, they would only see this tragedy. New people came into my life and have become a huge part of me. They don’t know the person I was and that makes it easier. They only see me, they know my story but it’s not who I am to them. Then there are people who have been your life but now they have a new role. They have seen you before and know the tragic story but they evolved with you and now see the new you. They embrace it.
As I have walked this journey I have learned more about life than I ever thought possible. I see people, I recognize everyone around me. We are all souls and life is so precious and valuable. I have accepted what this life is. I understand this is a journey and we will all be called home. So what do we do with it? We must live and we must love. Kindness and love are so important and we over look them too much.
My journey is far from over. I recognize I am still moving uphill and I know dark days are still to come. At times I welcome the pain, but I know I am a survivor and I know this life is beautiful. This is the only one we get. It will be hard and ugly at times, but ultimately it is up to you how your life will go. Be happy even when it is hard, when you cry smile at the end. And when you can’t get up just start by putting your head up.
I remember another conversation I had with Joey, we were talking about death and he told me if he died he knew I would be ok. I remember being so offended. How could I survive without him? I couldn’t, I would just die. But he was right and now that I look back on that conversation I realize his comment wasn’t an insult, he just believed in me more than I believed in myself.
When all else fails, love never will. Love is stronger than death. Love is the only real thing that has ever existed.