This is the answer that I give to people who ask how I am doing. I don’t want to give them the flippant “fine” because I am not fine. I haven’t been for awhile. I was just getting used to being able to honestly answer “fine” when we lost Joe. Now I am “hanging in there”. Every morning I quickly scan my Facebook memories to see if Joe’s face will make an appearance. Today was a photo from his graduation from high school from a friend. That was kind of hard. My mind started to think of his 10 year reunion and how he wouldn’t be there to show off his amazing wife and all his tattoos. He wouldn’t be drinking beers with old friends and telling stories of his time at Bellevue West High School that had inflated with a decade of time. Joe was dyslexic…he was moderate to severely dyslexic and school was a struggle for him. What would take an average person an hour would take him 4 times that long. When he set his mind to it, though, he could accomplish anything….like graduating from high school….going to college and graduating from UCM….from going through the OFD academy and then wanting to go to paramedic school. He was enrolled in anatomy and physiology at a local college when he died….in preparation to start paramedic school. He was working so hard with that.
I had a few other photos of Joe this week I am going to share. One was from high school rugby. He started playing rugby in Norway alongside his brother. The two of them continued to play in the Omaha area throughout high school and then they each played in their respective colleges. Joe loved the game and I became a pretty involved rugby mom. I used to collect and wash all the jerseys for their high school team. I usually washed them twice.
The last two I didn’t remember. They were from 7 years ago in 2015 when we were visiting Joe. Lily was so little there. She adored her older brothers and especially had a fondness for climbing on Joe. On her last birthday, he seemed to realize she was growing up and bought her a mace keychain and a book on personal finances. I had talked to him at great length about Lily and her future as an adult, because I wasn’t sure how long I would be around for it…or if I even would. He seemed to take that to heart and was trying to talk to her more and more about her future plans. She is finishing up her last week of her junior year. She won’t have Joe at her graduation from high school next year cheering her on and that just guts me. He was so proud of her and she loved him so much. I look at his instagram page and he has all sorts of posts about missing his “little sis”. Now HE is the person we are missing oh so much.
Today I sent out the last two thank you’s for Joe’s Celebration of Life. I know they are so late, but I just couldn’t put into words how much the Olathe Fire Department and the MO Army National Guard has done for our family in regards to Joe’s passing. They stood up and helped when we were all so grief-stricken that we couldn’t think straight. Countless members of Joe’s unit and OFD friended me on facebook so they could keep up on what was going on with our family and so they could share memories of Joe with us that we might not have seen. They continue to take care of Michelle and are in contact with her all the time….mowing her lawn and making sure everything around the house is okay. These guys have stepped up when they could have stepped back, and I am so proud that Joe was counted in their ranks of both of these awesome organizations. Thank you so very much. Joe would have been so very grateful and proud of the way you are taking care of the love of his life, his wife, Michelle. So I feel that having all the flowers dead and gone….the thank yous all sent out now…that a period of mourning has been checked off in a way. I don’t want to go on without my Joe…he made me smile and laugh like no one else in our family could do. I guess I will leave you with a quote I saw online that sums everything up pretty well: I miss the memories we’ll never have.