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
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.
Dear Mommy, today is March 25, 2019, you’ve been in heaven 11 years. Last year at this time, Allie, Joe, Ella & myself spent time at your gravesite, it was beautiful. But, this year is different Mom. I can’t do my normal anniversary day with you today, I’m so sorry, I hope you can forgive me.
Life has changed, but you probably already know that and most likely seen it coming long before me. Joseph, he’s gone before me Mom. My only son, your grandson, but I’m guessing he is probably right beside you saying he didn’t leave on purpose, it was an accident. Again, you probably knew that though, this hurts every bone in my body and even more so today. I’m angry. I’m angry that you have Joe with you now. I know it’s very selfish of me, please forgive me. But, my truth is I want Joseph here next to me and to be honest Mom, I don’t want to go to the cemetery today. I don’t want to take you flowers and sit next to your headstone and talk to you about my life. Because my life took a left turn and went straight into this unknown place where sadness takes over the soul. It’s dark, ugly, and miserable, I hate it.
How did you do it? How did you keep going after losing Daddy, then Sis? How?! I wish you could tell me what to do. I try every day but it’s not enough. The worst part is I know I should be happy that Joe is in a beautiful place with you and God, versus the other. I should be thankful, but I’m too selfish I guess. I want him with me, he should be here with his sisters, his niece Ella, his dad, family and friends, but he’s not. He is with you. God forgive me, please. I’m so sorry. Everything feels so much heavier today. My entire body aches like I’ve been hit by a train. I can’t move my legs, my chest hurts when I breathe, my eyes are swollen from tears, and my heart is broken. Maybe this is my punishment for being so selfish.
I have chosen to stay in my pajamas today, under my blankets, binging on Netflix. I’m going to cry if I want to, laugh if something funny comes on the television, munch on my snacks, cry again, and wait for the night to come so I can close my eyes until tomorrow. I don’t know what tomorrow will bring, it’s not here yet. I will cross that bridge when I get there. I hope you know that I love you and I miss you very much. But, to not have you or my son in this living life crushes my soul 100 times harder at this moment. I just can’t do it today, I hope you’re not too disappointed in me. I’m so sorry. I’m just a hot mess today. I love you Mommy, kiss my son for me (I miss him so much) and please help give me strength.
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.