Today I did some refreshing cleanup in Joe’s room. I vacuumed the carpet, dusted his furniture, wiped the dust off his shoes and clothes in his closet, and I put away his sunglasses that were on his desk. I don’t know why but I guess I got tired of them getting touched. So, I put each pair inside an eyeglass case and placed them in his nightstand drawer. Now their “safe” thats what comes to my mind, they’re in a safe place now. Maybe I’m too overbearing with Joe’s personal things, oh well.
As I vacuumed behind his desk, I noticed a long white piece of paper with tiny printed words on it and a black business card folded in half. The name on the card was Miguel (Joe’s barber). Also, a tiny piece of green paper maybe from a candy wrapper, I’m not sure? I held these 3 items that were on his bedroom floor, in a dusty corner of his bedroom, as if I had been given these beautiful shiny pieces of gold. I sat down on his desk chair and I stared at these little things, wondering how they got to be there behind his desk. I put the business card in his nightstand drawer. Then, as I started to throw away the white tag and green paper I stopped myself, I couldn’t do it! I could not throw those two pieces of things that were in his bedroom in the trash. I put them in a plastic snack bag and placed them carefully inside his nightstand drawer. Those three things I held in my hand with intense love and I kept each one as if Joe was going to need them when he came home. Although my reality is I KNOW he isn’t, somewhere deep in the back of my mind I’m thinking “maybe, just maybe, he might.”
I started to think backwards. Asking myself, which haircut day did he get Miguel’s business card? Or, where did the tiny green piece of paper come from? What about the tag? Which shirt and when did he buy it? He hated those tags on the back and he removed it every time. He has so many shirts in every color! Goodness, why does it matter which shirt?
And, why does our brain start to literally pick apart and dissect every tiny piece of anything we find that belonged to our child who is no longer breathing the same air as us? Does our brain go into protection mode when we lose a child? How is it so many of us have the ability to survive such an enormous gut-wrenching tragedy? And, what is it about every tiny piece of “anything” we hold on to it? When all it’s going to do is remind us that our child is gone? There we are, just when the tiny bit of sunlight begins to find its way through the billions of cracks that come attached to grief, we go right back into that place of darkness and pain. Who knows the why’s or what’s? I’m no expert, but I do know this; I’d rather suffer in pain on my floor weeping talking about my son Joseph versus to not talk about him at all because it hurts too much.
SAY THEIR NAME! His names deserves to be spoken. His name is Joseph Anthony Suarez, and He is my Son.
Today, what started as a very simple “refresh” of Joe’s bedroom was spiraling into that deep, deep, deep water. Once your mind goes to that deep dark place and the dissecting begins, everything turns to black. I started to go there with those three very small pieces of anything, I was headed down as deep as I possibly could, but I caught myself and BOOM! I stopped. I actually stopped thinking so dam hard for once. It was a huge milestone today. I’m kinda proud of myself, I did alright. Unfortunately, tomorrow could look entirely different. I call it “GRIEF IN PIECES.”
Pieces of Joe’s life constantly land in front of me. And, it’s the tiniest of things I find that mean everything to me. I sprayed his cologne on my arm, that was 4 hours ago, but I can still smell it as if he just walked into my room to tell me about his day. So, I’ll lay here and visualize Joe talking in his loud voice, we are laughing because he is the most amazing storyteller, and when he’s done he kisses my forehead and tells me, “Momma, I Love You” And right back I kiss his cheek, “Son, I Love You So Much More!” I feel good now.
Today is July 9, 2019, it’s my birthday. Year 2 without you here on this day. You were always so excited to be the first one to tell me Happy Birthday Momma. I can still hear your raspy loud voice. Then bragging to your sisters how you were the first to tell me, I literally can hear the three of you arguing about it. Makes me smile. It’ll never be the same again, nothing in life is the same because you’re not here Joseph. Tonight, my birthday gift from you is just being here in your room, taking all of you into my soul. It’s what makes me feel good, I can feel your presence as I’m surrounded by all your things. If I had to choose one gift that God would grant me for the rest of my life, it would be You coming home back in my arms. Holding me tight with your arms, kissing my forehead telling me, I Love You Ma! I Love You so much!
Im in your room, staring at everything that surrounds me. I’m staring at all your things; your clothes, your hats on the wall, your shoes, your skateboard, your desk and chair, your cologne, your dresser with shoe boxes on top, it’s all here …as if you’re coming back. Sometimes, I think in the deep back of my mind I tell myself you’re eventually coming home. Even though in my reality I know you’re not. I guess my brain still cannot fully process what has happened. I don’t know if it ever will my Son.
I see the picture of me you taped to the side of your nightstand, it’s by your bed. I’m thinking back trying to determine when you did that? You never told me, I wish you would have told me. At this moment, my heart feels warm thinking how you looked at your Mom every night before going to sleep and when you woke up. I wish I would have known, but it’s too late to ask you now.
I remember the night you were hammering nails on the walls in your room, it was late and I came downstairs to see what you were doing. I knocked on your door, you opened it and looked surprised I was still awake. I looked behind you and noticed your walls, you said to me, “I’m sorry Ma, I didn’t mean to wake you.” Those two words “I’m sorry” could win me over every time, “I’m sorry” was worth a million bucks! I’m looking at your footprints on the wall behind me, lol your dirty footprints! I remember your feet touching the wall as you would lay backwards on your bed and your feet up against the wall. It was simply a comfortable spot for you, now I stare at your wall and close my eyes trying to think back to those days and my heart starts to beat a little bit faster. That’s my trigger to stop thinking too hard, when my heart feels panic..it’s like my brain is protecting me, it’s telling me to stop. That’s about as far as I can go.
I close my eyes and remember when you would sit in here, your bedroom was your very own domain. I never really spent much time in here because you would stop me at the door. Hours and hours you would just be in here with your own thoughts, listening to your music or watching movies on your Mac. Never did I imagine that one day you wouldn’t be here, and now I’m in your room staring at everything wondering what went thru your head? Memories and things are all I have left of you, because you’re gone. And, I know you’re never coming back.
Each day without you seems like eternity. Your absence is heavy, always. And, it still continues to shatter my heart. Some days I feel as if all the air has been sucked out of my body and i can barely breathe. Other days, I laugh thinking of all the stories you would tell me that typically took forever for you to hit the punchline, but I listened attentively and the end was always your best because everything you did or said was your best. It was either really funny or it was surprising, or just downright shocking. It’s who you are, you made everything better.
You left too soon my Son, way too soon. We talked about a plan, I don’t understand what happened. I have so many questions that I’ll never have an answer. This is still too much to take in most of the time and I still can’t believe I’m never going to hear your voice again. It’s only been 1 year, how do I live the next 5, 10, or 15 without you? Sometimes, this is just too hard. Every day I wake up thinking of you and I hate the nighttime, it’s the worst. I try to stay busy, but you’re always there in my head. This emotional rollercoaster is very exhausting to the human mind, but I’m trying son, I promise you I’ll keep trying. I know my heart is still beating, which tells me you’re still shining bright through me. Please continue to find ways to communicate with me so I can feel your air.
We will forever be a team♥️My Love is Forever, Your Momma
People ask me what are we planning to do for Joe’s one-year? It’s fast approaching on May 28, 2018 and every time I think of that question, I feel sick to my stomach. I begin to sweat, I feel lightheaded, it takes everything in me to breathe, and my body starts to shiver. I’m not much in a celebratory mood these days and I’m definitely not thinking how we should honor his life on the day he left this world. Yet, I don’t want to disrespect his memory. What am I suppose to do? Is there a book somewhere I can read that helps me understand not only this whole grief journey, but on top of that I’m suppose to have some kind of (what?) on the anniversary of this indescribable loss? I’m on the fence here, can someone please point me in the right direction because I’m seriously about to jump at any moment. My son, he is my heartbeat. I’m exhausted in pain. When will my heart begin to heal, please tell me. How do I continue to navigate this life without my son. I’m absolutely lost.
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, there are two words that 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 an 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 really 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 idea’s 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 versus, 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 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 actually 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 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 prior to 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. Its 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 literally hear his voice out loud saying “Danngg Bro! I love you!”
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 first born 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 alot 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 in 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
Then, it was Allie, Julie, Angela & Aileen slowly making their way up to the front. Juliana was first. Im staring at my babygirl 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.
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.
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. Gods 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.
The church was over it’s 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 heart felt warm 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 church I looked at all the people and I could feel each and 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 church that day, much stronger. Joe was there, definitely.
I always knew there was something unique and very different about our son, Joseph Anthony Suarez. He seemed to radiate the world even as I gave birth to him on August 31, 1990. I always told him one day he would accomplish greatness in life because his spirit was so big and he would see the world. Joe would look at me and smile, then give one of his warm tight hugs always with an “I love you Momma.” I love you more son and I held him tightly in my arms. I don’t think Joe realized how much everyone genuinely loved him. There was something about his presence, he just made you feel good inside. He had a gift, people loved him. And, he was my gift for 27 years, I miss everything about him every single day. We all miss him. I was right about him accomplishing greatness, he did exactly what I knew he would do, I just assumed it would be here in the living world.
The day after we were contacted by the Coroner, I had a dream. It felt so real. It was one of those dreams when you tell yourself if this is a dream please don’t wake me up! I was at my mom’s house on Fillmore St. sitting at the kitchen table, crying. I looked out the back door and there was Joe walking towards me. I don’t know where he came from, he just appeared. Slowly, he made his way into the kitchen, I stood up holding out my arms for him. Somehow, we both were standing at Mom’s front door and Joe had his arms wrapped tightly around me. I cry every time I think back to this dream. Then I looked up at him and I could see his eyes were filling up with tears as mine were drowning. He told me, “Momma I’m sorry, I love you” these words were often his direct way into my heart, he had many but this one got me every time. I know son and I love you more and I forgive you.” I held on to him for as long as I could. I didn’t want to let him go, then my eyes opened. Hopeless and grief stricken, I laid helpless in my bed for hours. Was it a dream? Did I imagine what just happened? Am I going crazy? Or, did Joe really come to see me one last time? I believe he came to say goodbye. Suddenly, my heart-felt warm.
Every day following Joe’s death was filled with disbelief, shock, numbness, sorrow, and unimaginable pain. For the most part, those days and nights were hit and miss memories, it all seemed like a lifetime ago. I don’t remember much, except sleeping. Sleep protected me from reality, I felt no pain while my eyes were closed. Sleep kept me from thinking, I didn’t want to think about what was happening in my life. It was too much for me to process and hard enough accepting I would never see Joe again. People tell me eventually it won’t hurt as bad, I don’t believe that to be true. I asked God out loud, “where are you? how do I go forward from this? I am broken Lord!” Sobbing heavily, I could barely catch my breath. Life hurt. It actually hurt to breath. Life is so unpredictable. It can change in a blink. What I quickly realized was, “don’t take each day for granted, because you never know what can happen, it can all be wiped away just like that…in a snap.” Every day really is a gift.
Sometimes, I feel as though I’m spinning in circles. Trying to find an answer to the “why?” Why Joe? Why my family? Why didn’t I get some kind of warning? Why couldn’t Joe have just stayed home that day? Why didn’t I stop him from leaving? Why didn’t he just come home? There are 100’s of whys. I may never know an answer to any of my questions, so I’ve given it all to God. I had to, I was spinning out of control. I always knew and could feel when Joe was uneasy about something. I would ask him, “a penny for your thoughts?” His reply was always, I’m good Mom (my heart is racing as I’m typing this). He never wanted me to worry. I’d rather him be here and worry thru the problems that can be fixed versus him be gone forever! There was a lot wrong that Monday, I could feel it without looking at him. His dad would always tell him, “don’t be so trusting of other people, son. Always have your guard up, there are vicious people in the world, Joe” ….got it Pops, he would always tell his Dad. Prior to May 28th, we were all living, breathing, life as a family was uninterrupted. I want it all back. I want my family, all 5 of us, living and breathing together again. I want my son Joseph Anthony back. Why did this happen? Some people tell me, “it’s all in God’s plan” well, that’s not enough for me, I want more. I want to know HOW this happened to Joe. My gut instincts tell me there’s a lot more we don’t know. But, one day the “more” will reveal itself, I have no doubt. Something will surface. This chaos has ripped apart my family and it has left us mourning Joe to no end. I pray, it’s all I have left in me. I have given this all to God. It’s way too big for my shoulders.
I love you my son and every day my heart hurts, but I will not let your death be in vain. I will see you again one day. Until then, I promise to try with everything in my soul to shift my sorrow and my pain towards your memory. I will make sure your greatness will continue in honor of your name, Joseph Anthony Suarez. I love you son ..to no end.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4 NIV)
This is my story of “Losing Joe” and how uninvited grief introduced itself without any warning. Our life changed in the blink of an eye on May 29, 2018, but this nightmare began on Monday, May 28, 2018.
As I’m writing this it feels like this moment happened only “yesterday”; to be honest, every day feels like that “yesterday” repeating itself over and over in my head. The day was an ordinary afternoon and I was laying down in my room next to Ella. I could feel the warmth of the sun coming through my bedroom sliding glass doors as I gazed at my beautiful tree outside my bedroom. My husband and I were both home babysitting our grand baby Ella, she was suddenly sick to her tummy and had vomited a few times. Aside from her not feeling well, it was just another day. We were living life our normal day-to-day thing and I had no complaints. I was happy, we were happy, our family was happy and I was looking forward to a huge celebration at the end of August. I was retiring from my job of 25 years and it was Joe’s 28th birthday too, August 31, 2018 was going to be a double party and it was a big deal, we were both looking forward to a long day of celebrating.
It was almost 1:15 p.m. and I knew Joe would be coming home soon. I had spoken to him earlier that morning, he told me he would be home some time around Noon (he called me the night before to let me know he was staying overnight with a friend.) I remember feeling completely relaxed, my mind was calm, no distractions were in my head, it was a peaceful day so far. Just as I started to doze off, I woke up to the screeching sound of the front door opening and I heard Joe’s voice loudly say, “Momma, I’m home! Where you at Ma?” I asked him to come upstairs so we could talk, but all I heard was the sound of his footsteps moving quickly downstairs, doors opening then shutting (laundry room door, his bathroom door, his bedroom door, etc.) it was obvious he was in a hurry. Funny thing is Joe was loud in every way; he talked loud, he laughed loud, he even walked loud (if that’s possible). In fact, within a few more minutes he loudly said to me, “Meh, I love you, I’ll be home later, k.” And, before I had a chance to say anything, I heard the front door close after him as quickly as it opened. Just like that, Joe came home and then he left. I never seen him, I only heard him.
The strangest thing about that moment when Joe left the condo was there was no sound, the loud squeaky noise that came from the front door just minutes earlier, it was gone. In fact, everything seemed to go silent it somewhat felt like the world outside stopped in those few seconds. I heard no cars driving by outside our condo; it’s typically a very busy road, there were no vagrants walking by yelling or just talking crazy, no car horns honking, no dogs barking, nothing seemed to move. It was an uncomfortable and eerie stillness, it was the absence of sound.
So, I did what any mom would do I grabbed my cell phone and called him. He answered with his usual loud and funny self, “Yes, Mehhhhh?? Wassup?” We talked briefly, very briefly, actually too briefly. I asked why he didn’t come upstairs before leaving? I told him I felt as though he was avoiding me or not wanting to be at home? He replied with a laugh, “Meh, it’s Memorial Day and I’m hanging out with friends Mehhhh.” We hung up, but something in his voice seemed different, it was not sitting well with me so I started text messaging him. He responded to a couple of texts, but did not reply to the last few. I kept messaging him throughout the evening too (5:00 p.m., 8:00 p.m., 10:00 p.m., then 12 midnight) but no reply. I didn’t know who he was with and I had no idea where he could be. My last text I asked if he was coming home and to please reply back. My husband kept asking, “Where’s Joe?” and all I could say was, “Babe, I really don’t know!”
I had a difficult time falling asleep that Monday night. I could not get comfortable and my mind kept racing. Finally around 1:30 am I read a prayer and my eyes slowly got heavy. I fell asleep when suddenly I heard this loud bang popping sound outside, it startled me and I jumped then sat up in bed. It was the sound similar to a car backfiring, but it was so loud it seemed to be right by our window. I quickly felt my heart beating so hard I thought it was going to jump out of my chest! I looked at my phone it was 2:15 a.m. I had no missed calls or messages from Joe. I woke up my husband and he heard that loud bang noise too, loud noise too. Okay, NOW I’m getting nervous, I told him, “babe I’m feeling scared”. It was just a car, stop worrying he tells me. But, I knew he could feel what I was feeling too. He looked outside but it was nothing. I went downstairs to get a glass of water, my whole body was hurting and I was feeling sick. I kept thinking, maybe I had caught what Ella had, so I took a Motrin. But, I could not stop shaking. I walked down the hall and took a quick look in Joe’s room, he wasn’t there. I’m hovering again, I thought to myself. Joe was 27, a grown man, but as a Mother the worry never really stops it doesn’t matter if your child is 5, 10 or 27. A child grows inside a Mothers body for 9 months, there’s a bond that never goes away, it’s a lifetime connection of pure and beautiful love. I knew and can feel every breath and heartbeat for each one of my children; 27 (Joe), 25 (Allie), and (20) Juliana. I just knew when something wasn’t right. In that moment, the feeling was so strong I wanted to get in my car and go look for him but had no idea where to even begin.
I then messaged Joe’s friend and asked her if she had spoken to him? I knew he had stayed overnight at her house the night before and she told me she had been trying to reach him all evening but he wasn’t answering. The last time she spoke to him was around 5:15 p.m. She was worried too, I could hear the sound in her voice as if she had been crying. We hung up and again I tried calling then texting Joe, but got no reply. Time seemed to move so dam slow but eventually the sun came up and at 7:30 a.m. I called my niece for a ride to the office. I needed to grab a few things and briefly talk to one of our executives regarding an email I had sent out the previous week. When she got to the condo, I told her Joe didn’t come home and he wasn’t answering my calls, I was getting nervous. I’m sure he is asleep at his friends house, he’ll be home don’t worry, she says. Yeah, I’m working myself into a frenzy, overthinking…again!
Once again, I called and left him a voicemail telling him I left the front door unlocked and to call as soon as he woke up! Then, a text message, “Joseph Anthony where are you!! Can you please at least reply son so I know you’re okay? Please!” I rushed into the office that morning grabbed a few things and called his friend again. She still had not heard from Joe and was very surprised by my phone call. I told her I was freaking out, it isn’t like him to not call or reply back to me. Then I asked her to call his best friend and to call me back as soon as she talked to him. It’s now close to 11 a.m. and I’m getting ready to leave the office and drive over to his friends house. I could feel that anxious thing coming on strong (heart racing, my head hurt from no sleep, inside my soul I was trembling). I had this gut feeling something bad was about to happen, I call it “fear.” My heart was hurting, it was a stinging sensation and it scared me. Then my phone rang, it was his friend and I was relieved that she was calling me back. My first thoughts were, thank God she finally talked to Joe. That was not the case, not even close! I answered my cell and all I could hear was a mumbling sound. I couldn’t understand what she was saying, my voice got louder and louder, “What is it!! I can’t hear you sweetie! Slow down! Please, what are you saying because I can’t understand you!” I remember that moment quite vividly as she spoke one word, it was a word I still hear in my head, over and over again….CORONER! At that moment, everything seemed like it all faded to black. Instantly, my world turned to complete darkness. Uninvited and without warning this ugly, dark shadow called “grief” had slipped in and found its way into my life. I was not prepared for what was about to happen, my mind was in some other place and all I could do was stand there screaming I was completely out of control! All I could think was I have to get to my husband, I need to get to Isadore. God, help us.
Before I share my story about the sudden tragic loss of our son, Joseph Anthony Suarez (Joe), I thought it would be a good idea to introduce him and share a few words of love from his family and friends.
Joe’s journey in life was far more purposeful than he could have ever recognized. He gave a new meaning to the phrase “living in the moment.” For 27 years we were beyond blessed to have him in our life; Joe made a difference in the world and to every life he touched. His personality was incredibly funny, loving, genuine, he absolutely loved celebrations of any kind, he brought laughter and moments of warm joy to any occasion. He had many extraordinary qualities/characteristics; far too many to try to write down, but one of his greatest was that smile! His smile was contagious, it was a beaming light that illuminated his presence in every way. On your worst day, he could make you feel happy just by talking to him. Joe had that “something special” about him, one of his friends referred his personality to the word, “vibe.” He just had it, all of it, and he shared that vibe with everyone who knew him. He was one of the most selfless human beings you would ever meet; he never judged anyone and was always that person rooting for the underdog. He had a way of seeing the good in people, no matter what bad they had done. Forgiveness, it was another strong characteristic; he forgave and forgot, he didn’t like to prolong an issue and was over it by the end of day. If for whatever reason you got mad at Joe, forget about staying mad at him it just didn’t happen. All he had to do was smile at you and suddenly whatever it was that caused you to be angry, well it would be long forgotten and he could have you laughing in seconds. Joe absolutely loved being around a lot of people; the larger the crowd the better! He was confident (but never conceited or cocky …just funny about it), smart, trusting, he loved sports. He enjoyed football, golf, baseball, basketball, rugby, & his love for music was huge! He gave his heart and soul to music of all genres (primarily loved hiphop/r&b, & “wedding music” aka Marvin Gaye, Commodores, etc.) He enjoyed watching movies and could quote every word from “Zoolander” or one of many “Seinfeld” episodes; it was often you could hear him laughing across the room as he watched and rewatched his favorites. He loved his family, his friends, and the simple things in life. Joe lived each day “in the moment.” He was a Brother, Uncle, Grandson, Godson, Nephew, Cousin, Best Friend, Friend, Coworker, he was so many things to so many people; but first and foremost he was “Our Son” and we shared him with the world. A few family photos below, there’s that smile!
Joe, Allie & Juliana – family vacay.
Goodness, I could sit here all day and night writing about his remarkable personality and the impact he made in his 27 years of life; but instead, I’m going to share a few quotes from people who wrote to me or posted comments on his social media pages. We all deeply feel his absence in our world of the living; everything is different now, its like the world suddenly got quiet. However, I am 100% convinced that heaven definitely got much louder!
Enjoy getting to know our Joe. He just had the “it factor”, so different from everyone and unique in his own way. His memories and life legacy will live forever in our hearts.
From: Brian Burrell
It’s incredibly difficult for me to put into words the impact that Joe had on me. He was an amazing person, friend, and someone who I always looked up to. Some of my best memories are with Joe and he’ll always have a special place in my heart. When I talk about Joe now I find myself talking less about the fun times and more about the way he would make you feel. Joe loved everyone and everyone loved Joe. You could legit walk into a party and know no-one but Joe, and he’d make you instantly feel at home. He just had a way about him that made him that’s impossible to replicate and so difficult to put into words. He was the most welcoming and friendly person to everyone and comfortable in any setting. He’d always greet me with his huge smile and his tagline of the month (wasssup blood, suhhh dude, sup my G). IDK It was just Joe.
Joseph Anthony Suarez was born on August 31, 1990 in Bakersfield, California. He was our first-born child and only son. His arrival into this world was just as spectacular as it was when he left us; an entire room filled up with people who loved him endlessly. We waited 5 years before we started our family, then along came our first child, our son. Joe changed our life in ways we didn’t know could be different; he made the sun shine brighter, the stars glowed more, the moon got bigger, the sounds of life they simply became more clear and definitely louder. He gave us so much joy, we decided to have more children and three years later we gave birth to our beautiful daughter Allie, and four years after, then gave birth to another beautiful daughter, Juliana. He absolutely adored and loved his younger sisters, they worshipped their big brother as well. He was their best friend and the three of them had a strong sibling love that will last a lifetime; no matter if he is physically or spiritually here with us. Every day was an “I love you” day. It truly is a beautiful site to see and hear when your children speak the words , “I love you Sis or I love you Brother.” I soon came to learn, Joe would say “I love you” to his close friends too, and now I hear him thru every one of his friends when they say, “I love you Momma Suarez.”
From: James Diaz
May 28th is a day that will sit deep in the hearts of hundreds of people. It’s very difficult to put Joe into a few short memories. Joe was a vibe. He was able to change the atmosphere of a room. Since the first day I met Joe he looked out for me. The first time I met Joe was at a BHS football game when I was in the 8th grade and he was a freshman. We both had long hair and after we were introduced he started to call me his brother. That same year I shadowed at BHS and when I was on campus Joe immediately came up and hung out with me. It sounds corny as hell to say but Joe made me feel really cool that day.Three days before Joe passed my mother in Law saw Joe. She had never met him before. She described him as so happy and full of life. She said he had a distinct laugh and that he kept saying how he introduced Juliana and myself together. Juliana and I didn’t know how we met. But Joe reminded us that it was all because of him.
Everyday is hard without you but we don’t have no other choice but to keep living. Sometimes it don’t even feel like your really gone it just feels like your away and we just can’t talk to you. But then when I really stop and think about it and really realize that your gone it’s still to this day the hardest thing to believe and accept. I sit in your room and just look at your pictures we have of you all over and think to myself how much I miss you and how long it’s gonna be until I see you again and I just hate it because all I wanna do is talk to you and hug you. I really try to stay strong and happy for you brother because you never liked seeing me sad but a part of me will never be the same anymore because a part of my family is gone. I love you to no end💙
Joseph Anthony, you are missed by so many but mostly by me, your Meh, your Pops, your lil sis Allie & Juliana, and your beautiful niece Ella. She points to your picture every time we ask her, “where’s Uncle Joe?” and she points directly to your picture and gives you a kiss. We will forever keep your memory in her heart and soul.
We miss you more and more everyday, it still feels so unreal. I just want to hear your crazy ass laugh again and sit and listen to one of your stories about something wild that just happened to you and then just laugh together. Or just the feeling knowing you’re going to be home when I get there and give me a hug and a big o kiss and when I leave you do the same and tell me how much you love me. Just please continue to give us all the strength that you’ve been giving us to get through this pain, because I know for a fact it’s you giving me my strength, that you want me to be okay and keep going so I’m going to keep going brother for you, I love you forever & always ❤️ and thank you @dfabuloussss for sending me this beautiful picture my brother had sent to you awhile ago, it’s officially my favorite picture of Ella and her uncle ❤️😘