To celebrate Joey's life, I wanted to remember 21 lessons he taught me before he passed.
1) You can go through anything with dignity. Joey had so much pain and suffering in his life. And yet he never complained. He was always kind, gracious, and thankful to the nurses. I remember one nurse nearly choked up when he thanked her after an especially painful procedure, "You don't need to thank me, sweetheart," she said knowing that it wasn't something you normally thank someone for. I aspire to have Joe's dignity about situations I face in my life.
2) Family is first. Joey was a staunch defender of his family. If you were his friend, you automatically became a member of the family and thus came under his protection. All four of us remember this lesson in a deeper way than we did before we lost him.
3) Live life to the fullest. Joey was sick from the time he was just a few years old. He never let it stop him from going on field trips, participating in school events, vacationing with the family. He wanted to live. I wish he could have lived longer with us (though I would never wish that pain on him again).
4) Leave a legacy of love. Joey shared his love with his family members in many different ways. Shortly before he passed he told each of us that he loved us. He could barely talk at that time. Thank you, Joey, for knowing what we all needed to hear.
5) Have a sense of humor. I have so many photos of Joey in mid-laugh. He loved America's Funniest Home Videos. He could laugh at himself and with others but never at someone. I loved his laugh.
6) Be an example. Joey was an example of so many important qualities. Thus the reason for this list. I don't want to forget the lessons he taught me.
7) Never let your imagination die. Joey had an incredible imagination and was known in all the neighborhoods that we lived for leading the kids on wild adventures. He could take you to any place just be creating a new world through imagination.
8) Work towards an honorable occupation. Joey wanted to be a solider. He actually held daily training exercises for his friends advancing their rankings as they progressed physically and mentally. His best friend currently serves proudly in the military. I'm sure Joey watches over him constantly and is proud of him.
9) Do your best. Joey had lots of reasons not to do well at school. And yet he often was the top of his class. He took pride in doing well and excelling. I was always proud of his efforts.
10) Have faith. Joey never questioned the Lord's plan for him. I suspect that he knew the plan long before we did. I am striving to have more faith.
11) Love animals. We haven't really had many pets. We have too many allergy sufferers in our family. But Joey was always gentle and kind to animals, and they always sensed it.
12) He is always with us. While most of the time I sense he is off working on something important in heaven, I know is he often with us. I also feel that my brother who passed just two years after Joey is often with him. I would like them to be together. They were very close friends.
13) We are meant to be together forever. Losing Joey was such a complete and utter loss. Being away from my child has not grown easier. I think that is a testament to the Lord's plan that we be reunited and live together for eternity. I'm grateful to know I will see him again someday.
14) Life can be unexpectedly short. Don't have regrets. Spend time now saying I love you and soaking up the time together. You never know when you will be called home again. 13 years was far too short for any of us.
15) Home is in the heart. When we moved from the home that would have been Joey's, I was worried that we wouldn't feel him near in our new home. But he is with us always in our hearts. I take him wherever I go and no matter where we end up in live he can and will be with me.
16) It's ok to be afraid. Joey was one of the most courageous people I know. So I was often terrified silently so as to not upset or worry him. But it's normal to be afraid. Sometimes you just have to express it in a way you might not have considered before. I am sure Joey was frightened. I hope he knew that he could have expressed more of that to us. We would have listened and supported him whatever he needed.
17) Be brave. This is the flipside of being afraid. Sometimes you have to suck up the pain and be brave. Not for yourself but sometimes for the good of others. I am courageous when I can and then other times I embrace that I'm afraid. Neither response is wrong. They're just different responses for different times.
18) Play hard. Joey gave it his all even when he was having fun. He loved Legos, Video Games, adventures outside, and hanging out with his friends. He embraced every moment.
19) Super heroes don't always wear capes. Sometimes they wear medical equipment. Sometimes they just wear everyday clothes. But look closely. You're probably surrounded by more of them than you realize.
20) You can never capture enough memories. Don't ever feel like you have to limit the number of photos that you or the number of memories you record. There is no such thing as "too many" after you lose someone you love. Take more and take them often!
21) I love him more everyday. It doesn't matter that he isn't physically here with us any more. I am proud of him. I tell him that often. I tell him nightly that I love him. My feelings for him continue to grow.
Happy birthday, sweet boy. I miss you and hope you feel our love for you always!