Today is our second Thanksgiving holiday, it’s quite obvious this feeling I woke up to comes from the absence of Joe. It’s every day I feel him not here but this second year holiday it’s painfully powerful. My thoughts are running fast and I’m thinking all over the place. He still not here. Self-talk kicks in and I’m telling myself “try try try Elaine, you gotta keep trying. “
I wanted to stay in bed all day and sleep. But, that wasn’t an option, so I got up and stepped into the shower. As I stood there as hot water hit my skin, I closed my eyes and imagined hearing hearing Joe’s footsteps walk up the stairs and him knocking on the bedroom door, asking me “Momma, what time are we headed to pops & kikas?” I could hear his voice as if he were literally standing right there by the door. Me telling him, “probably like 2 pm Jehhhh.” It’s really difficult and somewhat crazy to think I have to pretend I’m talking to him, I hate pretending! But, I guess it fall’s back to that mindset of “whatever it takes.” I cried in the shower, I cried a lot. I just sat there with my face in a bath towel, tears kept coming down quickly and nonstop. Once again consumed with grief, I felt absolutely nothing. The bathroom had filled up with steam and I looked at my skin, it was a slight reddish color and suddenly I began to feel light-headed. I didn’t want worry anyone downstairs, so I hurried to grab a bath towel and stepped out. It felt like my entire was burning. I laid down for a bit and here it comes, my eyes began filling up with tears again. God, help me please, give me strength today. As I laid on my bed with my eyes closed, I tried really hard to remove the deep sorrow and pain throughout my body. Self-talk; be strong Elaine, you can’t fall apart today, pull yourself together! I threw my head in my pillow wanting to scream! Once again imaging Joe telling me, “Momma, get up! C’mon get up Ma, I love you!” He would often come upstairs while I slept and kiss me on my cheek or my forehead whispering “I love you Momma.” God, I miss those moments, I miss every moment about Joe.
Our Thanksgiving plans were to go visit Papa & Kika around 2 pm. I went downstairs, made coffee, then began making the fruit salad. One by one Allie and Juliana woke up and soon we were all in the kitchen. The girls were actually making their first apple pie! I begin to imagine again, I imagine Joe walking into the kitchen his hair all messy and kissing me on the cheek to tell me Happy Thanksgiving Momma. I love you. I can see him asking his sisters, what’s all this? Am I really seeing you two actually bake a cake from scratch? Wow, and laughing as they throw food at him. Then watching him kiss and hug them both with an “I Love You” and “Happy Thanksgiving my beautiful Sisters.” Am I crazy for imagining these things? This happens to me a lot but it’s all pretend thoughts, I wish it was real, it won’t ever be real again.
We were late to Papa & Kikas, as usual. We missed prayer, but I stopped us from being on a time schedule anymore. Once everything happened with Joe, time seems to not be an issue anymore. I basically stopped the clock, period! I have made it a habit now to not flip out on time in life anymore. We do our best to be timely, but today (Thanksgiving) was a day we all struggled to do, but we have to keep moving forward as a family. We have to keep trying every single day. We just do.
As we are walking up to the front door of Kika & Papa, I feel that feeling every time we pull up to their house. We’ve been coming here, every Thanksgiving since the birth of Joseph, Allie & Julie. It’s always been the 5 of us, until now. Now it’s us 4, plus my son-in-law and granddaughter. Its not the same walking up to their front door, everything is different. As we are all approaching the front door there’s this quiet noise. If that makes any sense. As I turned to look thru the garage window on my left, I see everyone inside at the tables eating, talking, smiling. We have a new baby in the family, great grandkids who were once little babies are no longer small tykes, they’re grown and tall, new family members too. As in years past, food is on the table by the window, desserts on a separate table and the warmth of Papa’s heaters giving everyone comfort. But, as we all walk into the garage where everyone is sitting, we don’t hear the sound of Joe going to each family member giving his hugs, kisses and handshakes. We don’t hear his voice yelling “hey Pops! Happy Thanksgiving!” It’s more like a quiet sound that enters the room with us, and it follows us everywhere we go. I call it the “absence of sound.” We each walk throughout the room hugging our family, and try to enjoy the moment with family.
Earlier that morning, I had received a message from Jess, one of Joe’s closest friends. I told her I was going to be in her area that day and invited her to come by before she left back to LA. She often will message to tell me “I love you Mom” or “I’m thinking of you.” A lot of Joe’s close friends will often send me a hello or I love you or I’m thinking of you message. It’s a wonderful feeling and I’m very blessed and grateful for each one. They are all family now. Jessica came by, such a beautiful surprise as I had not seen her for a while. We stepped out to the backyard and caught up on how she’s been and her wedding plans. It was a nice evening, chilly and yet a very still evening. No wind or rain (it had rained the previous night so the air smelled clean and fresh. As we sat on a chair in the backyard, I couldn’t help but think of all the memories our kids & family created over many many years in Papa & Kikas home. So many cherished as I’m looking around. I never imagined I would be sitting there one day grieving the loss of our only son! I noticed Jessica had grabbed Joe’s picture and held it tightly across her chest as she walked over to sit with me. Then her eyes start to swell and fill up with tears, heavy tears. She tried to smile but i felt her heartache the moment she stepped out of her car. It was coming, that huge thing that consumes every ounce of anything living inside your body. It was a long time coming, I knew that for sure. We sat and talked for a few minutes, she told me how much she loved Joe, he was like her big Brother always watching out for her in those younger days. They had been friends since kindergarten and remained very close their entire life. I had yet to see or hear Jessica cry, she held strong every time I spoke to her or got a beautiful text to tell me “I love you.” Suddenly, a tsunami of tears came pouring from her pretty blue eyes, i wrapped my arms around her and I held her like a Mother holds her child, with complete love. It’s okay honey, just let it out I’m right here. My heart aches for her pain, it’s that thing that takes over your entire body that crumbles every bone in your body. I looked up and suddenly a puff of wind turned into a rush through the trees, blowing the leaves back and forth.
All Kika’s wind chimes began to ring what seemed to be upwards towards the clouds. It was the most beautiful sound I’ve ever heard. The wind and singing wind chimes. It was if someone was trying to get our attention! Listen Jessica, do you hear that sound? She looked up and around us then spoke out loud, “Joe! I miss you so much Joe!” I continued to hold her in my arms and we both cried together listening to the most amazing sound in the air. I love you, Son! I love you so much! Finally, our tears slowed and so did the wind, trees, and chimes. Everything in the air became quiet again. It stopped. And we both sat there in complete disbelief of what we had just experienced. This is real, I told her and this is what happens to me all the time. It’s how I know Joe is telling me he is right here with me and tonight he was with US both. I could see the relief in her eyes, she had just witnessed the spiritual power of something so much bigger than us here on this earth. We walked inside the house where everybody was gathering for a family picture. She was our photographer and it truly was the most amazing joy that night. An absolutely perfect moment.
Life feels blurry at times. I’ve learned things about death recently, it doesn’t scare me but I know it’s never too far away. Death has taken away people I love and one day I too will be gone from the living world. I have lost many loves in my life. My Father died on 10/26/1963, I was 3 months old. My eldest Sister died on 10/26/1997, I was 35 years old. My Mother died on 3/25/2008, I was 45 years old. And, my only Son Joseph died on 5/28/2018, I was 55 years old. My nephew recently died on 10/20/2019, I’m now 56 years old. Why does death seem to come around every 10 years or so? Since 1997, someone I love very much has been yanked out of my life! But, nothing compares to the death of my Son. Losing Joe, left a giant hole in me and there are no words to describe how this feels, absolutely none. Every day is a new day, I have to keep moving forward and I’ll do whatever it takes to survive, even if it means imagining he’s here. One day I’ll no longer pretend, but not today.