This is the 7th day my Joe has been gone. Does each day get easier? Not really. I had four crying jags in the first 2 hours I was awake today…one before I even got out of bed. It is kind of like this each day….wake up and realize it wasn’t a dream and Joe is still dead. Cry. Ugly cry because it is just so awful. Then I get up and put on my brave face to try and get things done. it is usually works until I have something that will tip me over the edge, and that is most often just a kindness from someone. I have been approached by many people I don’t even know, to share a memory they have of Joe. It hurts, but it is nice. I have an overwhelming feeling to check on Michelle several times a day and I am convinced that is my Joe….nudging me to take care of his beautiful bride. Then usually early evening is good…but night time…when I lay down in the quiet of my bed, my heart and mind travel to Joe again….and to Michelle, who is doing the same thing…but it is 10 times worse for her. Then I sleep and start this all over again. It isn’t what I would want for anyone.
I was finally able to get to see Michelle yesterday. Rich, Tim, and I left at 6 a.m. to drive the 3 hour 15 minute drive to get to Michelle. Wow, I really needed to be able to wrap my arms around her and just sob together. I also needed to be able to hug Joe’s best friend, Zac, a few other of the people in his close, inner circle of friends. All those were accomplished. The Army National Guard Casualty Assistant Officer came to Michelle’s house to talk with her. Poor guy. It was his first time doing this and you could tell he was so nervous. However, blessedly, he had known Joe and had spent time with him in Fort Polk, LA last summer for 4 weeks. When he realized we were friendly people, just shattered with grief, we were able to get a lot done. He spent the whole day with us. The two Olathe firefighters who had gone out to be with Rich and Michelle in Denver, came over with all of their things from Joe and Michelle’s totaled car. They did the tough job of going to the impound lot in Colorado and picking through the wreckage to get all their belongings. They brought them back to Olathe and washed it all and then folded and bagged them up and put them into rubbermaid bins and brought them to Michelle yesterday. I watched with tears streaming down my face as she sat on their living room floor, quietly unloading each bin….touching all of Joe’s clothes and hats…his belt…carefully running her fingers over Joe’s things…then carefully placing them back in the bins. One of the bins was all Rich’s skiing gear that they were carrying in their car with them. Their suitcase was crushed…cracked and broken, but she still wanted to see it and run her hands over it before they took it away outside to be thrown out. Michelle said she had done laundry the day before and had been folding his pajama pants and socks….as they had been in the laundry hamper. I can’t imagine. Her hurt runs so deep and wide…I want to just clutch my heart every time I see her hurting…which is almost all the time right now.
Michelle and I had another good cry, a talk about how things were so unfair. Then we took a deep breath, put on our big girl panties and went to the mortuary. We filled a boardroom….Michelle, her parents, us, Tim, 2 firemen, and an Army guardsman. Michelle did so well keeping it together and answering the funeral director’s questions and making decisions about the services we will have for Joe. It is going to be a great event. Here is the info I wrote up for facebook:
Joe Messina was a wonderful man and he is getting a wonderful send off. Please join our family at the Missouri National Guard Armory (7600 Ozark Rd – Kansas City) Friday, March 18th from 5-8 p.m. for an informal gathering to honor Joe. Saturday at 2 p.m. in the same location, we’ll have a Celebration of Life, which will be more formal. We would love to see you at either, or preferably, both! In lieu of flowers, information on memorial donation sites will be forthcoming. We would love for first responders or people in service to honor Joe by wearing their uniforms on Saturday.
I leave you for now with a picture I love of Joe and Michelle…their love for each other just shines on their faces. I need to write about this but I am still at a point where my mind is muddled and not as sharp. Work things that would take me 10 minutes are taking me 2 hours because my brain won’t stay focused. So more later. I just want to thank the Olathe Fire Department and the Missouri National Guard for being so incredibly wonderful. When I say above and beyond….put that on steroids and multiply it by 100. I am so very humbled by the outpouring of love for Michelle and our family. So I am taking life not even day by day yet, but hour by hour.