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~Remembering Joey~

On October 29, 1994 I received a phone call that broke my heart into tiny pieces. Joey was dead.

Joey is my best friend Jane's oldest son, and a young man I had loved as my own for the thirteen years we'd known each other.

A terrible car accident had taken away our beautiful Joey. Our boy who had survived the Desert Storm, was on the count down to becoming a Police Academy graduate, was a volunteer fireman, a loving husband, and a wonderful Daddy to a two year old daughter with his whole life ahead of him was gone in an instant.

They were living in Texas, I wasn't able to afford the airfare down from Wyoming for his funeral. I don't know what hurt me the most losing Joey or the terrible pain of not being beside Jane in her time of need.

Months later my husband knowing how much it would mean, presented me with a round trip ticket to Texas for my Christmas present. I would be spending my 37th birthday with Jane and her husband B.J in Texas. I could finaly put my arms around Jane and find some closure with Joey's death. Jane had been having a terrible time adjusting to life without Joey and I was set on spending that week triing to help her, in whatever small way I could.

Jane picked me up at the airport. I was so shocked to see?a shadow of the woman I had always looked up to. She was so tiny and had such a shell shocked look about her. Another knife of guilt slashed through me for not being there.

We drove to the small cemetary where Joey was laid to rest. Finaly, the moment I had only dreamed about was just around the corner.

I remember my insides turning to mush as a thousand emotions and memories went crashing around in my head. This was a reality check for me. After thirteen months I was coming face to face with?the closure I needed.

In my mind,?I could see him as a child helping me teach his little brother A.J. and my daughter Jenni how to fly a kite. I could see him walk in my back door after school and appreciate my afternoon snacks, clowning around, learning how to skip rocks across the lake. I remember the last time I'd seen him at his graduation from the Navy Boot Camp in Chicago, a strong good looking young man going to take the world by storm. I was so proud of him and so honored to be sharing this wonderful time with Jane.

?When I saw his headstone instead of a ton of bricks hitting me, I felt only peace. I know our Joey was right there with us. Always the kind and thoughtful son.

We spent a few days with his widow, Kelly, and sweet daughter Brooke. We watched videos the had taken while they were stationed in Hawaii. There he was on the screen all tanned and handsome smiling that angelic smile of his. I know watching these videos was really hard on Jane, but she smiled through her tears and we remembered. Later that night we pulled out boxes of Joey's belongings. I was so impressed at how accomplished he was at art, he had become really talented. We ran across the bag of clothes he had been wearing the night he died. That was so tough. They were washed and folded neatly like nothing major happened to the one who had worn them that last fateful night. The strangest little thoughts race around your mind.

Before we headed back to Houston, Jane drove me to the spot in the raod where the accident had happened. While she was driving I kept thinking how could anything bad happen to anyone on these flat desolate highways. It seemed like miles of flat highway, until she came to the spot where the wreck had happened. Here there was a four foot slope that turned into a cement wall. I think it only goes to show that fate is a part of each of our lives. There was still broken glass, and silk flowers at the sight. i bent over and picked up the VIN number to the car that had taken our Joey's life along with a piece of glass and slipped it in my pocket. Like I said, the strange things you think and do. Again it was as if Joey was there whispering in my ear that everything was going to be alright.

Jane and I talked, we laughed, and cried for so many hours during that week we shared remembering Joey. She told me things that she hadn't been able to share before, of her dreams for the man Joey, of the emptiness Joey's death had left in her heart. There were some people that thought she should just get over it. Like she gave birth to him, raised him, he died and?buried him now move on.

Jane and B.J. have three children that are loved very much. Joey and Jane had a Mother/Son relationship that most people can only dream about. I always felt so honored to be in the presence of that special bond they shared. When he was in the Navy their letters always closed with "My Hugs Miss Your Hugs!"

There is a room in their house in Houston that is filled with pictures of family memories with Joey and angels that Jane has collected. This is her special room that has given her peace while pulling herself out of her greif.

Everyone has to deal with their grief in their own way, in their own time. There is no magic amount of time that goes by that states the grief is any easier. Life just marches on and sometimes your out of beat.

I left Texas with a lot of hope in my heart that my old friend Jane would make it back from her grief intact. Nine months later I went back to a special ten year class reunion of Joey's where his class mates had put together a video of him during high school. Another wonderful memory.

He touched so many peoples lives each in his own way. Joey was a true gift from God and for the short time he was among us here on earth he truly lived his short life to the fullest. I will forever be grateful for the time that I had to share with him, and for all the sweet memories he has left with me, until we meet again.

Joey's death has changed the course of a lot of people's lives, but his memory lives on. Jane has gotten on with her life, she isn't the old Jane I remember before Joey died, I doubt I'll ever see that woman again. With all that she has gone through I love her just as she is. Jane is my sister by choice, my mentor, and forever and always ...... my friend.
~Love Shelly~ (c)

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