As I wake up to this day, I can hear my phone pinging one after another. It’s Mother’s Day. Text messages are coming in to wish me a beautiful day. I look at my phone there’s 23 text messages, I look forward to reading each one, somebody’s thoughtful words sent my way gives my heart so much joy. I smell coffee brewing downstairs and I hear Juliana talking in the kitchen. I close my eyes and fall back to sleep. When I wake up there’s a freshly brewed cup of coffee on my nightstand, a toasted bagel with blueberries perfectly placed one by one around the bagel. And, an envelope with “my wife” written on front. This Mother’s Day has begun and you’re not here.
My eyes begin to fill up with tears, I tell myself, don’t ..no, no, no, no I don’t want to cry. If I cry it won’t stop. My mind starts racing, I feel like I can’t catch my breath. I take a deep breathe in and out several times. God please make it stop!This goes on for several minutes and it feels like several hours. Calmness starts to flow slowly thru me, little by little everything in me starts to calm down. I close my eyes again, lay down, and begin to doze back to sleep but tears are rolling down my face. I cry quietly. You’re still not here.
You were always the first one to give me a Mother’s Day card, hug,or a kiss on the cheek. Always the first to say Happy Mother’s Day out loud. Always the first to give me my gift. You were always first to wish me a beautiful day. As I look outside, people in cars drive by and the noise is loud from the street. Tree branches and leaves from my prayer tree whoosh from side to side. I turned around and crawled back into bed. You’re still not here.
Juliana comes into the room and loudly shouts, “Mom! C’mon get up it’s gonna be 11:00! It’s Mother’s Day! You have gifts to open!” To my surprise there’s flowers and a gift bag. She went out of her way to buy me the perfect card and a bag full of my favorite things. She is my one that loves each holiday and loves giving gifts. Her heart is so big, I thank God for Juliana. She gives me a purpose. We need to get out for a little while so we leave to visit Papa & Kika and eat breakfast with everyone. It was nice. But, You’re still not here.
It’s the end the day and Jordan BBQ’s a fabulous dinner for us. It was nice, we sat around talking and the best part of the whole day was that last moment. Dad, Allie, Julie, and I were sitting in the living room talking and laughing as we shared our beautiful memories about our life on Kamloops Dr. and Walnut Grove Ct. We had a good life all of us together. Everything was normal, no tragedies had hit us yet and every holiday was beautiful. Every Mother’s Day was a blessing as I would read each card that had been carefully picked with heartfelt words that meant so much to me I would cry every time.
THAT moment with all of us together laughing and remembering moments of joy together as a family, THAT was the perfect Mother’s Day gift. We are still a family, we still have moments of joy, we have to for You. You’re still giving us your love. You may not have physically been here, but I felt your spirit with us at that moment. YOU WERE HERE.
Monday, Memorial Day, May 28, 2018, it was an ordinary afternoon. It was a good day, I had no complaints and life was feeling absolutely peaceful. remember thinking how good I felt, no complaints. We were happy as a family, everyone was healthy and I was looking forward to a huge celebration on August 31st. I was retiring from my job of 25 years and Joe was turning 28. I wanted to celebrate my retirement and give Joe a great big birthday party too!
Then, at exactly 11:14 am on May 29, 2018, I received a phone call from Joe’s cell phone. I had been trying to reach him constantly the day before, he never called me back or answered my texts and I had not heard from him all night. That was not the norm for us and I became frantically scared. I answered my phone relieved it was Joe, but it wasn’t his voice on the phone. It was a woman and I had no clue why a stranger was calling me from Joes phone. Then she identified herself, but I couldn’t hear what she was saying, it was like a buzzing sound coming thru the phone. Then I heard her say four words, “your son has died.” And, just like that in a matter of less than 2 seconds our life changed, it would never again be the same. Our first born and only son, Joseph Anthony (27) was gone. His life had come to an abrupt and devastating end. Our entire world collapsed minute by minute after that phone call.
On June 7, 2018, we celebrated the life of our Son, Joseph Anthony Suarez. Remembering all the beautiful moments he gave selflessly to each one of us. That huge, beautiful smile and his infectious personality that lit up a room the moment he entered. His love for life, for us, and everyone who knew him. Standing room only in church that day and it was over capacity (900). I looked behind me and all I remember seeing was a huge sea of people. It was the most unforgettable two hours of our life, yet the most amazingly beautiful at the same time. Joe’s made a difference in the 27 years of his life, he made people feel good, and he never walked away from a friend. His love had no end and he may have physically left this world, but his spirit is way too big and his presence if felt everywhere.
Joe had a dream, it was to start his own business some day. For many years it’s all he talked about and I knew he would be successful, but it would take time to build his “Brand.” Time was not our friend and Joe’s life was suddenly cut short. Nobody saw this coming, he was this uplifting soul who made immediate friends with an Uber driver, or a guy at the gas station, or a successful business owner, he just had that vibe and he wanted to share that with the world. He came up with the name, NineTNineD. He created a different format to spell out the year he was born (1990). As a family, we decided to honor Joe’s life and keep his dream alive and move it forward. It’s been an extremely difficult task, as we still struggle at the fact he’s really not here anymore. It’s still unthinkable, how can Joe not be here? He was the center of our family, and I don’t know if we will ever get to that place of acceptance. It’s still too much to comprehend. But, we try, and we take one step forward each day and live loving life in the moment ….just like Joe. His online business is officially here, reality has arrived and we hope Joe’s Story gives others that “vibe” of living life to its fullest, everyday.
In addition, a portion of these funds will go towards starting a Foundation In Memory of Joseph Anthony Suarez, by bringing more attention to the heart disease Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy. Joe had this undetected heart disease, we had no idea he had this heart problem. This was a contributing factor to his passing. His spirit was so big, his love for life will never leave those of us who were blessed by his presence. Joe will never be forgotten, that’s a promise we made to his life.
For more info. on this heart disease, below is a link from The Mayo Clinic.
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.
I often wonder if there’s some part of the brain that protects us when we experience the trauma of losing our child? It has to be the only reason why I’m still breathing and living in this world. My brain simply could not process fully what actually happened. I kept so busy the first 12-14 months “doing things” my mind kept repeating these words “Joe might be back”. As ridiculous as that sounds, it’s true, and I’m not crazy. It’s been 511 days since we lost our Son. Over the past year, I felt as though I were living in two worlds; one amongst the living and one with Joe, in the non-living. I wanted to believe this was all one big mistake. Every possible scenario came thru my mind, thoughts like maybe Joe needed time away so he just disappeared, maybe it was a mistaken identity and it wasn’t actually Joe they found, maybe he just needed to become someone else, maybe he wanted a new life, or maybe he’ll come home and walk thru our front door telling me, “Momma, I’m sorry I put you thru this but I needed to figure stuff out, I’m good now and I’m home.” I’ve dreamt Joe so much over the past year, it honestly feels like he is still here with us. Until now.
Something shifted, my grief changed and it happened the moment I stopped “doing things.” Doing things meant entering pics and videos on his Memories page on Instagram, or his Facebook page, or the Tribute page I created on the ForeverMissed website, or his 1 year Angelversary where I created a virtual candlelighting prayer and everybody I know from the West Coast to East Coast simultaneously lit a candle on 5/28/19 @ 7:25 pm, or writing in my blog about the beginning of this journey along with every thought entering my mind, recording my life, or his birthday celebration where I had an entire mass dedicated in honor of Joseph, or trademarking his logo and ordering hats & beanies, creating a website for his business. Yes, all of those “doing things” kept me busy and it also prevented me from “being still”.
Being still meant I would have to think, I didn’t want to think because that would make all this too real! Then, one day I was reading about all the fentanyl deaths across the country and posts on Facebook. Parents telling their story about their child who suddenly died from fentanyl poisoning. I could relate to every word, it was like reading my life in front of the entire world. I wanted to help change the world, I wanted Joe’s story to be told, I was angry! I reached out to a very known reporter here in town who had been covering all the homicides related to fentanyl accidental deaths. I felt this desire to contribute my own story and tell the world about Joe and his beautiful life. I met the news reporter prior to the interview and I shared everything about Joe, including how he died (I hate that “d” word!). We decided to air the interview on Joe’s birthday (8/31/19), everything was set and I was going to introduce our Son to the world, he deserved to be known. I wanted to save another life or a family, I wanted to prevent another statistic of death by fentanyl. Every day I was hearing more and more young adults were dying as a result of fentanyl. I asked my husband and daughters what they thought about the interview. I didn’t get the reaction I expected, and I didn’t get the validation I needed to do this as a family. So that night I prayed. I stepped into Joes room and I prayed for a sign to either go forward or not with this interview. It would rehash of that final day in our Sons life, and it was about to change our life..again. I needed some kind of silent message, because I now had mixed feelings after talking with my family. The next morning, I received a message from the news reporter, she asked if we could reschedule our interview to Thursday! I replied kindly with a yes. But, I later realized..that was the answer to my prayer! Joe did not want me sharing our private family matters, at that point I know it was not suppose to happen. I also realized it had barely been 1 year and asked myself if it was too soon? It was too soon. I called the reporter back and asked to put everything on pause, she understood and that’s when I knew I needed to “be still” for a while. It was time to stop “doing things”.
Everything hit me all over again, it was this unexpected feeling of stepping backwards. As if every waking moment I had worked on becoming stronger and pushing myself every day just to breathe..it was all for nothing. Because suddenly, I could not look at Joes pictures or videos as the pain had become much deeper, music made me cry all over again, talking about Joe ruptured every bone in my body I thought had somewhat healed. I couldn’t do anything, I was STUCK in grief and any tiny bit of control I thought I had was messed up! Every day my tears got worse and my body ached in severe pain. Insomnia got worse too. God, this WAS ALL REAL and those thoughts of “maybe” disseminated, they were all gone. The “two worlds” collided and became one! It was the living world now, no more Joe world only the breathing world existed. What happened? I kept asking, why did everything suddenly change? I didn’t want it to change again but it did. Something shifted and it was like starting grief all over again! But, I did something different this time …I stood still and in a blink reality set in but it was deeper. I realized at that moment, Joe was really gone. There was no maybe this or maybe that. No what if’s, no questionable doubts, I came to back to this reality …he wasn’t coming home. Not now, not tomorrow, not ever! Here we go again, were my immediate thoughts. Once again, I didn’t understand and all these dam questions began rolling thru my head! Question I had no answers and I was absolutely on the floor, again.
So I ask these questions as I’m surrounded by this huge worldly place we call our universe. What the F…. happened? What stage am I suppose to be in now? Am I over the denial stage or am I still in it? Does this mean I’m in the acceptance stage? Or, am I back in the shock stage? Or the anger stage? Geez..what the?? Have I lost my mind? Where exactly am I with this jackedup piece of crap we call GRIEF? I thought I was moving forward. Nope. I thought I had read and re-read enough articles to become somewhat familiar with grief. Nope. But, I’ll tell you what I did learn and now know. I’ve learned that grief has its own version of what, when, why, and how. And, it’s needs no approval, especially from the one grieving! It’s 5,000 steps forward and it’s 10,000 steps back. I absolutely hate grief and I hate everything attached to it. I want it to leave me alone. I want it to leave my family alone! I take a deep breath in and look up to the clouds above asking, “How many more shifts will I have to endure?” Grief shifts every possible thought and action in life, absolutely everything! I now had to learn how to navigate thru and live with it, most likely forever. Yeah..this is forever, so I asked myself a couple questions: (1) what can I do differently? and (2) what is it that I control?
I began to let myself think quietly. If these shifts in grief were going to keep happening, it was extremely important for me to find another way to do this or I wasn’t going to make it. I had to be a “better me” in order to be a better Mother to my amazing beautiful daughters and my husband, as well as my granddaughter and my family. Same question keeps coming up, what do shifts in grief teach us? I’m no expert by far, like I mentioned earlier I’m only 511 days into this journey and I’m continuously struggling. But, I believe there can be Life after Death. It seems impossible, but I’m living proof it’s Very Possible. I’ve learned it’s many small steps forward and a lot of big steps backward. Grief can either make you stronger or it can shred you to pieces. I’m going to choose Stronger! As a Mother of 3 children, 2 living and 1 Angel, every day is a struggle to get myself out of bed and do life without Joe. But, I do it because the option to NOT simply doesn’t exist. I want our Son back with us, but that’s not going to happen. My heart hurts deeply and it burns from missing Joe’s beautiful life, but the ironic thing I’ve come to realize is this: He came into this life thru me, he grew inside of me. I still exist which means he is still right here inside my soul. Joe still gives me joy, he still makes me smile, he still shows me love, but mostly he still helps me to be stronger! It’s just in a different way now. I have no choice but to try and look at everything in life thru a new lens. I’m nowhere near fully accepting this loss, truthfully that may never happen as it still feels very unreal. However, I must continue trying to BE STILL when I need to and keep “DOING THINGS” when I need to because it’s possible to do both. Shifting in grief will continue to keep itself connected to us all, but life won’t stop for me or my family. This tragic road trenched in grief has got to lead somewhere, because I can see a very dim glimpse of light. It’s just going to take a really long time to get there. In the meantime, I’ll navigate thru the shifts in grief and focus on loving my two daughters who have this incredible life ahead; careers, marriage, children, love, everything the universe has to offer they got in the palm of their hands.
I learned a lot about life from an incredible woman I call my Mother. She never stopped trying in life, even after the loss of my Father, my Sister, her siblings and family. She kept trying FOR US, her children. I always wanted to be just like my Mom and now I can say that I am. I will keep trying for our beautiful daughters. Mommy, I love you and I miss you so much. Life is hard, it’s even harder when it throws a curve ball and hits you in every part of your body. My try..to live every day the best I can and embrace to the fullest ….even when “shifts in grief” begin to crowd your space.
Joseph Anthony, I Love You Son. As long as I’m breathing I know you’re here. You promised you would never leave me and you kept your promise. I feel your presence often. We will keep pushing thru life with you by our side. Always My Heart, Your Meh♥️🙏🏻🎚.
Last night I had the most beautiful dream. It was about Joe and he was here, alive. It felt very real, it was like he came to visit me for a while. I’ve had quite a few of these dreams over the past 14 months. My first dream happened on the night we found out about his death. I’ve had many since then and each one feels very real-life. My dreams with Joe seem to last for hours. I often question what do dreams actually mean? Dream interpretation…I wish I understood it.
In my dream last night, we were in my car driving to a party and Joe was in the backseat, talking and laughing. I kept looking in my rear-view mirror to make sure I wasn’t imagining this in my head. I wasn’t, it was Joe. I parked my car and we all walked inside a house, but I could not tell you whose house it was. I just kept staring at my Son, saying his name repeatedly, Joe? Joe? It felt like a breeze of fresh air had entered into my lungs, my heart was beating with excitement and I kept telling myself this is a dream, it has to be a dream. Then, he talked to me. His words, “yah Ma, it’s me, I’m here now.” He then tells me, “why does everyone think I died? Ma, I’m right here.” There were a lot of people around us, everybody beaming with excitement to see him as he laughed and talked to everyone. Then, I seen his friend James. I told him, “James, go over to see Joe! It’s him, he’s here, outside! Go see him, he is very much alive!” He looked at me and he began to cry, he couldn’t believe what I was saying then Joe yelled out his name, “James, hey come out here man, hurry up!” He jumped out of his seat and ran outside. We could all hear Joe in his loud voice, it was the sound I’ve been missing for 14 months. It was incredible to watch, at the same time it was the most joyful feeling I’ve ever had watching him surrounded by so many happy people.
Then, somehow we ended up at a house and we’re both sitting down talking. We’re talking about everything, but honestly I can’t remember what “everything” was at this point. His phone rings, it’s a friend of his asking Joe all these questions. And, he met me recently and I told him Joe had died. Joe explains to him it was all wrong and they keep talking for a while. After he hangs up, he asks me where did I meet his friend and why am I telling everyone he died? Joe, I’ve been trying to keep your memory alive and I didn’t think you were coming back Son. Son, I was wrong and thank God I was wrong. He mentioned something about me being on the news, but I can’t remember specifically what he said. Then, he looks at me and says, “I love you Ma” and tells me he was going to visit a girl he was talking to before he left months ago. I told him, I know I met her too. He smiles and tells me he knows I met her. I was beaming and over the top so happy. I can’t believe this was really true, I believed it was real and once again my heart continued to beat faster as this warm feeling soaked inside my body. It was like someone took a water hose and filled it with warm water and it kept running thru my inside, it was soothing. and absolutely amazing! Once again, Joe tells me, “I love you” then he left to see his friend. And, I woke up.
This dream seemed to last for hours. Usually, I can’t remember details of my dreams but this was different. The ironic thing about this was a few months prior, my daughter Julie had a similar dream and Joe was alive. She told him the same thing, she thought he had died and everyone thought the same thing. She told him we had this big Celebration of Life and there were a thousand people who came to say goodbye. He told her he was sorry, but he had to go away for a while but he was back. She told me her dream lasted a long time too. I remember feeling so happy and filled up with excitement! I woke up this morning and looked in Joe’s room and walked over to his bed to lay down. I cried as my heart felt extremely heavy, at the same time warm too. So, I began to write this on paper because I didn’t want to forget. This felt so real, I had my son back for a little while. If it’s the only way to have him I’ll take it.
What does this mean? People tell me dreams have a message. What was the message in my dream last night? What was message in my daughter’s dream? Whatever it is, I hope it happens again because if that’s the only way for me to see Joe and it gets me through another day in life, God thank you!.
Project Grief | The Suarez Family: A Wedding to Remember
– link to article: projectgrief.org/blog/123518/weddingtoremember
Thru this world of grief I’ve met countless people who share this terrible pain of loss. Throughout my travels online, I came across a site titled, Project Grief and it caught my attention. I apparently caught the authors attention as well, her name is Danica Thurman. She endured loss at a very young age when her Father suddenly passed away and found solace thru art. She has an incredible story, link to Danica’s blog is above, as well as below.
Danica was working on a blog focused on weddings and grief. She came across my Instagram page @grieving_joes_life and seen my post about my daughters wedding and a picture of Joe’s Remembrance Table. She graciously reached out and asked permission to share Joe’s table and thoughts from the bride (my daughter Allie) and those who created such a beautiful Remembrance of our son. I was ecstatic and welcomed her invitation with open arms.
She posted the article today on her blog. I am overwhelmed with joy and can actually say today has been the most joyful moment in life, I don’t have too many of those anymore (with the exception of our daughter’s wedding a couple of months ago). After experiencing the sudden loss of our only son, grief tends to cloud most days.
Thank you Danica Thurman (Project Grief) for the most beautiful gift, helping me to share the “Life of Joe” with the world. This article has given my soul much needed nourishment. My ♥️heart can breathe a little better today, even if it’s for a brief moment …I’ll take it!
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