In 2000 I had two very dear friends die within just six months of each other. David and Joe. Let me tell you what – that sucked. A lot. Eight years later it’s still hard for me to talk about one of their deaths without mentioning the other. The grief just merged into one solid block of wretched hurting and it’s still hard to separate it all.
Eight years ago on this very day, Joe was removed from the machines that kept him alive after he was hit by a car on October 7th. He died shortly thereafter. He was 15. He was one of the best friends I’ve ever had. He was insanely intelligent and ridiculously unwilling to apply himself. He was THE ABSOLUTE funniest person I’ve ever known in my ENTIRE life.
You said, “Young man, don’t rely on a sword,
Cause your words will outlive even time.”
I’ve counted my blessings. The rest are for you.
Please listen close for a while
I’m pretty sure he failed Spanish twice, even though he could almost speak it fluently, just because he liked messing with the teacher. And oh – that poor teacher. She quit the year after my class. I don’t blame her. In fact, I feel a little guilty about how mean we were. Once, in the middle of class, Joe opened up his water bottle and dumped the entire thing over my head. In retaliation, I dumped my water bottle over his head. In the middle of class, during a lesson and everything. When the teacher separated us and put each of the four shenanigan-starters in separate corners of the classroom, we’d wait until she turned her back to write something on the board and then move seats, just to mess with her. It wasn’t very nice, but when I was 15, it was hilarious.
He tattooed a J on his right bicep in the middle of class. Just because.
I made the mistake once of fearing an end.
Is this life that we live just the world’s accident?
Not a chance, so I move on with a smile.
Are you surprised where you are?
Joe, Erik (Joe’s other best friend and my boyfriend at the time), and I once ran away from home for a day. We had good reason. Toward the end of the day, we ended up crashing this stupid party thing for these high schoolers from Massachusetts or something at a recreation center. Then we almost beat up an angry little preppy kid because he was, you know, preppy. We were, obviously, not huge supporters of the preppies back in the day.
When I turned 16, Joe and Erik met me in the woods by my house since I was grounded. We all ended up wandering around the nearby grocery store just because we didn’t have anything better to do. Joe fake-limped his way into getting one of those motorized cart things and drove around the store throwing in boxes of tampons and diapers. Then he made me put it all away.
I grew up slow on the heels of the rest.
Left my heart back at home, carried you in my chest.
And I don’t feel like crying today.
Why can’t we talk for awhile?
One night, after David died, Joe called me and knew I was deep into a sea of hurt. He told me to stop, and I asked why. He said, “Because I love you.” And I stopped. Because he did.
Eight years later it’s still the thought of Joey telling me he loves me that makes me feel like everything will be okay. It’s ever so cheesy, but to say that kid saved my life is no small exaggeration.
And breathe, breathe, deep for me James.
Don’t you feel that you’re free now from pain?
I’ve heard about heaven for years.
Can’t be sure where you are, wander on blessed James.
I’m fine with you here.
When David died, Joe told us, straight-faced and teary-eyed, that if he ever died too young, he’d want us to party. So we did. Because Joe would’ve been so pissed if we’d just sat around crying.
I have songs for people, relationships and events in my life. I’ve tied close to a hundred songs to David and his death but Joe has never had a song. I’ve never found anything that fits him. He didn’t fit the mold.
But now, eight years later, I’ve found it. It made me cry while smiling on my way to work today. Which is so fitting because I miss that kid like crazy, still, but every time I think of him, I can’t help but smile like an idiot.
You said, “Son, just listen to me.”
But I’m doing fine, James.
So you can sit back and just breathe.
And it’s time now to let yourself go.
Hold us close, spin the dream,
The curtain will fall but behind it I see that you’re here.
— “James” by O.A.R.
(Psst – Joey – I love you!)