A Celebration of Joe’s Life

We decided June 7, 2018, would be the day we celebrate the life of our only son, and eldest of 3 children, Joseph Anthony Suarez. Joe’s life began on August 31, 1990, and he went home to be with God on May 28, 2018. As I reflect on June 7, 2018, two words come to my mind, SPIRITUALLY POWERFUL

People often will say (with good intention of course) you were blessed for 27 years, be thankful, he’s at peace, God has him now, it’s God’s will….but those words don’t help me much because 27 years wasn’t enough time. I wanted more time with my son, my husband wanted more time, we needed MORE TIME! and most of all, Joe needed more time. But, I quickly realized time doesn’t stop for anyone, it just keeps moving forward. I always thought time would take me to old age while my husband and I watched our children become adults, find love, start a career, get married, have a family. Time doesn’t heal it just hurts more because it’s that much longer Joe isn’t here with us.

We had so many people surrounding us with prayers and love when word spread about Joe’s death. And, I know every prayer spoken gave me and my family strength, there’s no other answer I have as to how we all kept standing. Preparation for Joe’s memorial service went into full throttle by the end of that first week. It was like watching a movie, everyone had a role. Our girls, Allie, Juliana, and my niece Aileen all worked hard to give Joe the greatest gift. Every detail was well thought out, specifically to represent Joe and his beautiful spirit. I’m so thankful my niece Aileen was there to give my girls the love and support they needed to plan Joe’s day. Aileen, she was there every step of the way, thank you, God! Our girls needed her strength, so many people stepped up to help it’s impossible to name everyone (you all know who you are and I love you to no end, always!) There were T-shirts made with Joe’s handwriting- it was one of his ideas to name his business, rosaries were ordered, each rosary was placed into a small plastic pouch with a picture of Joe and a prayer printed on the backside. Julie & Allie selected the prayer, Aileen’s friend made all the booklets and prayer cards. The church music, bible verses, reception, food (much love and my forever thank you to Luigi’s for the fabulous food!!♥️), flowers (our love to Kika and Tia’s Cindy & Sally for helping with flowers) music (thank you to our lifetime family friend Noe Garcia), thank you to our Holguin family for helping us at the hall, it was all done with a handful of love! To all those who helped with Joe’s day, we are forever thankful. My husband and I were extremely proud of our girls, they were in such heavy heartache for their brother yet were strong enough to plan his final day. I was just as proud of Aileen “my person” in my heart I believe it was her way of giving one final gift to Joe, as well as allowing herself time to process the reality of what had happened. They were extremely close and her love for Joe shined like a bright light throughout the entire day. Together, she and our girls shared every single step that was planned, asked for our approval before any decision or purchase was made, etc. I remember this blue spiral notebook Aileen had with her 24/7, she wrote everything down in that notebook. Then, gave it to me after everything was over. I keep it in a box I have with several other mementos that belong to Joe.

In addition to that first week, Kolby Halley, one of Joe’s closest friends had asked me if he could start a GoFundMe for Joe. I hadn’t given money much thought, I remember us having a life policy on all our kids, including us, but had not contacted our insurance agent yet. My mind was everywhere and unfocused, but I had people thinking for me and what a blessing they have been in my life. I gave Kolby the go-ahead and in the meantime called my agent only to discover Joe’s life policy had not been renewed, therefore he had no life insurance. Another big blow! Every day I thank God for Kolby’s quick thinking, he has always been a forward-thinking kind of guy. I remember Joe would tell me how prepared he was when they planned their TRYBE outings. He loved and respected his brother Kolby, and I’m so blessed he remains in our life.

Kolby got the ball rolling and created a GoFundMe account, he posted it to social media, and that thing immediately skyrocketed thru the roof! I remember looking at Facebook briefly to see it and my heart skipped a few beats, it was like watching the most phenomenal event happen right before my eyes! Kolby had set a goal of $8000, however, by the second-day donations had exceeded that goal and a week later Kolby handed me a check for $12,000, but before that, he gave me a check for $500 from his dad. I was so humbled and beyond thankful. Every day going forward a new miracle happened, it was like watching God place all these monumental blessings in my lap and I remember feeling as if someone was holding me in their arms, carrying me through this ugly dark storm. Protecting me from all the bad things that could kill me. We will forever be grateful to every single person who took a minute to donate towards Joe’s day. It’s one of those “unforgettable” moments when God proves to you just how powerful He can be, and He had my attention!

I love you, Kolby Halley, thank you for loving our son unconditionally as your brother. He admired and loved you very much. I can hear his voice out loud saying “Danngg Bro! I love you!”

T-shirt’s, Rosaries, Prayer cards, Booklets were some of the items Aileen had made for Joe’s Service.

Please click link below♥️sharing a Joe & Leena moment. Together they made life in the moment sooo much better!
https://www.facebook.com/100009441790065/videos/2110882752569764/

Kolby’s GoFundMe picture for Joe.

As we drove up to the church I could see cars and so many people walking towards the church. I remember thinking, who are all these people? I quickly noticed Joe’s circle of closest friends, he referred to them as his “TRYBE” (this was a group of tightly bonded best friends he often called his brothers from other mothers. Not sure who created the name TRYBE, but it was clear they are all extremely close and Joe was their brother.) They walked over to embrace us, respect, honor, and love for their brother were the words that immediately came to my mind as I hugged them. I knew this was just as difficult for them as it was for us. I could feel the pain in their heart. Joe had so many friends, it was remarkable to see them all come to the service. Our family, our friends, the love of so many people consumed our hearts, it truly was and still is such a feeling of warmth that soothes my soul.

Izzy and I connected hands very tightly, our girls next to us and we made our way to be seated. Together we sat down and as our eyes looked up in front of us, there stood Joe in poster-size pictures. Our girls’ only brother, our only son, our firstborn child. Disbelief is the word I remember thinking. My entire body was trembling, my legs felt numb, my mind was spinning out of control and my eyes were beginning to hurt from tears. Suddenly, the music stopped and the sounds behind me faded to silence.

Kolby made his way to the front podium to give Joe’s eulogy. I know this was not easy for him, it took a lot of strength to stand up there and try to put Joe into a limited number of words. At the same time so much sorrow at the loss of his best friend, whom he always referred to as his brother. We were honored to have him speak on our behalf. Kolby would often call or message me to check on Joe if he wasn’t answering his texts or phone calls. I reassured him Joe was home and doing just fine. I would often do the same and message, Kolby, telling him I’m worried about Joe, and he would help to calm me down. It was our LOVE for Joe, genuine and unconditional. Kolby hit the mark when he spoke about Joe and who he was as a man, a son, a brother, an uncle, a friend, his notorious humor, and his love for living life at the moment. He also talked about what Joe’s life meant to him and the impact he made on so many others. He honored our son, perfectly! I was extremely proud of him. I’ve attached a copy of Kolby’s eulogy, please click the hyperlink. Joseph’s Eulogy by Kolby Halley

Kolby

Then, it was Allie, Julie, Angela & Aileen slowly making their way up to the front. Juliana was first. I’m staring at my baby girl as she begins to speak. She spoke scriptures from God so eloquently and with such grace. I could feel her love in each word. She held herself together very proudly and did a beautiful job honoring her brother. Sibling love amongst our three kids is a bond so strong, I truly believe her brother was by her side holding her up the entire time. He will forever watch over both his sisters.

Juliana

Next was Allie. She too spoke with So much love and respect for her brother, as she spoke the word of the Lord. I also believe Joe stood right next to his sister, telling her “c’mon Sis you can do this, I got your back.” She was almost done, then her eyes looked up, and could see everyone carefully listening to her every word. She held on and again that proud moment overcame us as she walked back to her seat.

Allie

It was Angela’s turn. Angela and Joe grew up together. They started pre-school together and remained very close their entire life. But, like everyone else, once high school is done they went different directions. Joe and Ang would see each other at family get-togethers and it was as if no time had passed. He loved her like a sister and he was happy she found a great guy to spend her life with and raise a family.

Finally, it was Aileen’s turn to speak. The last speaker usually tied it all together and the most difficult because she had stood up there and witnessed 3 of her family members speak God’s word to a church filled with people who love and respect Joe. She too did a beautiful job keeping her composure and honoring her “Jeh” (aka Joe) with intense love and respect. God’s strength, Joe’s love gave each one the ability to hold it all together up there in front of over 1,000 people, the immense love for Joe held them all so very strong.

Aileen and Angela

The church was over its capacity, maximum seating was 900. There were not enough seats for everyone attending, it was standing room only. They had to get chairs to place along the walls so people could sit down. People were standing at the entry or outside, they just wanted to be there, for Joe.

I quietly whispered to Izzy, “babe, I’m not gonna make it out those doors.” Then I looked up and Father Joseph was standing in front of us. He could see I was falling apart. I had nothing left in me to keep standing. He put his hands on mine and spoke to us with his calm and peaceful voice, “Momma, Joseph is here and you must be strong. You must stand strong for him, he needs you both to do this, he is here.” Suddenly, I noticed Izzy straighten up his back, he pulled himself together standing tall, and placed his left arm around me, and said, “c’mon babe, we gotta do this for our son” and suddenly I felt my entire body lean on him. Get strong Elaine, pull yourself together for Joe and your daughters!! I repeated these words over and over again.

Father Joseph spoke of our son as if he had known him his entire life. I now know that was God talking, and yes, he did know Joe his entire 27 years of life. The words spoken by Father Joseph were absolutely beautiful and described Joe exactly 100%. Suddenly, my heartfelt warmth and it wasn’t pounding as hard inside my chest. My soul felt calm, I had this different feeling come thru me, it was like warm soothing water. It’s very hard to describe, I just know it felt good and I was stronger, so much stronger.

As we began to walk out of the church I looked at all the people and I could feel every heart and prayer coming at me. At some point, Joe had crossed paths with each one and touched their life in a way that brought them here, on that day, to give their respect, love, and to honor him.

I no longer felt like I was in a nightmare. I was breathing life and life was giving me a moment that would forever remain in my mind and my heart. I was stronger walking out of a church that day, much stronger. Joe was there.

Joe’s handwriting♥️
Allie and Juliana chose the prayer below, I loved every word.

Holding On

The last day of 2020 started 7 minutes ago. It’s 12:07 am in the Pacific time zone. (Note: I wrote this on New Year’s Eve.) I completely forgot today is New Year’s Eve, I guess because it’s not such a big deal anymore. Celebrations of any kind are not the same anymore. It’s so quiet now. Hold on, I keep saying to myself, hold back those tears Elaine! Not yet, because I know once I start letting tears flow they don’t stop! So, I push them back down then let go once I’m alone.

My heart hurts just as much today as it did yesterday, and the day before that and the day before that day, it hurts all the time. Doesn’t matter what day it is, or the time of day, or where I’m standing or sitting at the moment; it’s constant pain. The only difference now is I’ve become good at masking. I love my daughters way too much to show them my pain, because they are my sole purpose for living.

A new year has arrived, I can’t think too far ahead or my whole body starts to shiver when my mind is telling me Joe is still not here. Doesn’t matter how busy I try to keep myself, Joe is at the forefront in every thought.

This is life today. I will keep trying, Joseph Anthony. I Love You to no end.

When I Close My Eyes

Losing Joe has changed my life, there is so much of him missing every minute of every day. Joe gave my life air.

Sometimes, I lay in his bed and I close my eyes and I imagine him walking into his room asking me, “Ma, what are you doing? Why are you in my room? You’re being nosey huh?” I wish I would have knocked on his door more. I wish I would have came into his room and sat next to him, more. I wish I would have forced him to tell me what was going on in his life and whatever it is, we can get thru it together.

I recall one day I sat on his bed, as he was on his laptop, I told him, “a penny for your thoughts?” He just shook his head, “nope, got nothin today Ma.” I knew he was lying to me, I felt it in my soul. Are you sure, I asked him. Yupp, I’m good he told me. He was not telling me, I knew he was trying to make me believe he was fine, but I knew he wasn’t. I went outside to the garage, I told my husband somethings not right with Joe, I feel it. He needs to talk but not to me, can you please talk to him? There’s something wrong. Take him to go have a beer, or hit some golf balls, or go see a movie. Don’t worry, you’re always worrying, he told me. Leave him alone, Elaine! If he wants to talk, he will come to me but stop hovering! I walked away angry, hurt, fearful…that wasn’t the response I was hoping to hear. Tears rolling down my face, I walked back inside and knocked on Joe’s door again. Yes Mother??! I Love You, I said to him, just want you to know I Love you, Son. His response, “Momma, I know and I love you too. I’m fine, ok.” My heart knew he was not ok.

Sometimes I can feel my heart pumping so hard, I just know it’s going to burst out of my chest at any minute. But, then I get these feelings inside of me. I cannot put them into words, it’s as if I can FEEL him beside me. This light air will suddenly touch my neck. Or, a breeze floats by my face. It’s not the wind …because it’s 90 degrees outside! If I’m very still, I sense his breath and I look to my left then my right. Sometimes, I’ll put my arms out in front of me as if he is touching my hands. I’ll close my eyes and I feel as though he is right there before my eyes. As my eyes remain closed, I see his smile and I can feel my whole body floating as if I’m weightless! It’s absolutely the most beautiful feeling and I’m crying as I write this because those moments come and go. They don’t stay very long. I wish I could hold my son one more time. But, I got that wish already God granted me “one more minute.” I’ll share that minute in my next piece. It’s quite phenomenal!

Crying Hurts

Tonight I drove by our house on Kamloops, parked my car across the street from our house we lived in for 15+ years and I cried. I cried as I imagined you walking out the front door. I cried as I could see us all eating dinner in the dining room. I cried as I looked at the driveway and thru the fence I could see the lights in the backyard, Daytona Beach was back there (your nickname for our giant-sized beautiful swimming pool) and I cried more. I turned off my car, looked over at the neighbors house and they both still live there in the houses across from ours, both neighbors. I wanted to go knock on their door and cry more. I wanted to see and talk to them about you, try to live thru their memories and reminisce how our kids lived life with laughter and fun growing up together. I cried because their houses were dark, no lights were on and I knew it would be a mistake to go knock on their door. I cried thinking of when you would ride your bike home from Jr. High school, then driving your truck home from High School. I cried thinking of so many memories we created in that house. I cried as I started my car and drove away, thinking of my life today without you, My Son. I cry missing you and cry harder because all I have now are memories. As I drove home, I cried. Took a shower and got in bed, my tears they wouldn’t stop, Joseph! I’m now in your bedroom, laying in your bed looking at everything here that is still yours. My tears now sting my eyes, it hurts. I’m getting sleepy now, it’s 12:34 am, I think I’ll close my eyes. I’m still crying, it still hurts.

Joseph, please come to my dreams tonight my son, please help me.

I Love You So Much😢

FEAR

Fear, does it scare you? If yes, what is your greatest fear in life? Name just one.

Fear makes thinking hurt. Sometimes it hurts so hard I can’t breathe. I often fall to my knees …in silence.

Fear is real.

Life. It can blindside a family in a blink. Fear, what do we most fear in life? This one has been inside my head for a very long time. It sits quietly inside my soul, hibernating until something triggers panic and suddenly it all bursts!

Memories of the past are constant, my mind spins in circles, it vibrates and vibrates all day every day. It’s torture to live this life without one of my children.

Fear is real.

As a Mother (or Father), we have children, raise them with every ounce of love in our entire being. We create beautiful memories over the years, we talk to them about life and all the beauty it has to offer. We also talk to them about the dangers and how bad people are out there and to always be cautious. If you have to think twice about doing something, uncertainty, then don’t do it because it’s probably a bad decision. But, nobody’s perfect, we teach our kids to learn from those mistakes. Not fear them.

Fear is real.

Do we ever think it could actually happen? Could our worst FEAR in life as a parent really come true? I’m here to tell you ABSOLUTELY it sure can and it happened to me. One day my son is here laughing, loving, giving, living…saying I love you Ma I’ll be home later. Then, the next day he is gone. Forever. Just like that….gone.

Fear is real.

Hold on to your children and loved ones, embrace their love and love more. Forgive more. Enjoy the tiniest of things more. Put your cell phone down more. Listen more. Be in the moment more. Slow down more. Turn off the television more. Checkin more with your kids even if it annoys them. Ask questions more. If you can “feel” something isn’t right with your child, then it probably isn’t, so keep on …more. Let them know whatever is going on..it’s fixable, say it more. Say I LOVE YOU AND APPRECIATE YOU more, out loud every day.

Fear is real.

Yes, Fear is real. But so is Courage, and Strength, and Determination, Joy, Confidence, Bravery, Love, Fearlessness, Faith, Happiness, and so much more. If Fear is haunting you, change it before it’s too late.

764 Days

I woke up this morning (6/30/2020) at 4:00 a.m. and couldn’t go back to sleep. My mind began racing. I picked up my phone and looked at the date, 764 days. It’s been 764 days of life without our Son, Joseph. Feels like 7 hrs. 64 minutes, or 7 minutes-64 seconds, what it doesn’t feel like is 764 days. My mind keeps racing, I cannot seem to calm it, so I begin to read bible verses and I pray. Suddenly, I’m feeling relaxed. Unfortunately, time doesn’t slow down and it never will. God, I wish you could give me a moment to catch my breath. But, it doesn’t work that way. Not today. So I pray.

After 764 days, I still cry before I go to sleep. It’s become my new nighttime normal. I hold on to my tears most of the day, I don’t want to worry those I love most. So, I save them and every night they flow slowly down my face, alone with my own thoughts at the end of each day. Tears also flow as I think of all the beautiful blessings in life; my husband of 35 years, my 27 years with Incredible son, Joseph (not long enough), my beautiful Daughters who are healthy and thriving and make me so proud, my beautiful Granddaughter who gives us all so much joy, my soon to arrive beautiful baby Grandson…we can’t wait to see him, my amazing family, my lifers, my Joe’s friends and my new friends who walk this journey of grief with me. My tears are bittersweet, but I am thankful.

There is a time to cry and a time to laugh. There is a time to be sad and a time to dance. There is a time to throw away stones and a time to gather them. There is a time to hug and a time not to hug.”
‭‭Ecclesiastes‬ ‭3:4-5‬ ‭NCV‬‬

After 764 days, my heart still hurts, it will hurt forever until my last breath. My soul has a missing piece and my body cannot move sometimes, but life keeps going and I will keep trying. I will always keep trying. I am thankful.

After 764 days, I continue to leave Joe’s room the same. The hats on his wall, his desk, his dirty clothes in his hamper, his dresser with his clothes in each drawer, his nightstand with my picture he placed so carefully on the side so he could look at me. What was he thinking when he stared at my picture? I tell myself he was thinking, “Mehh, I love you so much. Goodnight Mehh.” I am thankful.

After 764 days, I can still smell his scent every time I walk into his bedroom. It’s not as strong, and I know it’s fading but I can still feel his scent of funkiness! It is the best funkiness of air. His dirty footprints remain on his walls where he would put his feet, I treasure those dirty wall prints and they will remain there as long as we are here. Every night I take his aftershave lotion and I pour a dab on my hands so I can smell his favorite scent. Then I close his bedroom door to savor it until the next morning. I am thankful.

After 764 days, we still say Joe’s name. Allie, Julie, Izzy and I will find ourselves all together in his room or in the living room or eating out for lunch and every time it feels like Joe is right there with us. We talk about moments that make us laugh, make us cry, and make us laugh again and again. It’s as if we can literally feel his presence in the room with us. It feels good when we are all together, because Joe’s there too. I seriously feel his spirit laughing with us (or at us!). I am thankful.

After 764 days, I have slowly found my way back to my faith. The anger at God has subsided and I discovered an extremely critical part of grieving…I cannot do this journey alone, it’s absolutely impossible without God. God has placed so many people in my path that help me, pray for me and my family, it’s an incredible feeling to be surrounded by so much love. I am thankful.

“The LORD is your protection; you have made God Most High your place of safety. Nothing bad will happen to you; no disaster will come to your home. He has put his angels in charge of you to watch over you wherever you go. They will catch you in their hands so that you will not hit your foot on a rock. You will walk on lions and cobras; you will step on strong lions and snakes. The LORD says, “Whoever loves me, I will save. I will protect those who know me. They will call to me, and I will answer them. I will be with them in trouble; I will rescue them and honor them. I will give them a long, full life, and they will see how I can save.””
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭91:9-16‬ ‭

After 764 days, I feel ready to share Joe with everyone who loves him. I never thought I would be able to do this, but, I had a moment one day and I acted on it. My heart strongly feels like this one spot by the Grace of God “suddenly” became available at the Fountain of Chimes was actually chosen by Joe. I just have a feeling and now I’m going to make his wish come true. Took me a while to get it, but I believe our bond continues and I heard him loud and clear. It’s his place, his Fountain of Chimes. I am thankful.

12/7/2017

After 764 days, Joe’s close circle of friends still remain connected to me. I know it’s hard for them, because they miss him too. He touched so many lives. I love when I get a text or phone call or an “I love you Momma Suarez” it’s a beautiful feeling! They are still here, by my side, even from a distance. I am thankful.

After 764 days, I’ve learned that life really is fragile. Every moment we share with those we love is truly a blessing. I take nothing for granted and I continue to keep trying to find my way thru this uninvited journey of grief. Doing what I absolutely know without a doubt, its what Joe would want me (us) to do. His love and joy lives in all of us. I am thankful.

After 764 days, I think healing is here, just a little bit. I can honestly say, if I move forward we all move forward, together. The best part is Joe moves forward with us too! I am thankful.

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