in the quiet time of evening,
when the stars assume their patterns,
and the day has made its journey,
and we wondered just what happened,
to the life we knew before the world changed
Sting – My funny friend and me, Emperor’s New Groove
Today I am going to write for the first time something very personal. I’d love for you to come sit with me and listen to my story.
I lost my elder son, his name is Joshua, I lost him in a tragic accident on the 9th of August 2017 and my world changed. I had him for 20 years and I wish I could bargain for more. It seemed too soon to lose the child I had the most difficult pregnancy with but waited for the most, it seemed too sudden to put a full stop on a life that I had held so tenderly when I brought him home from the hospital and then hugged as fiercely as I carried his ashes out to sea.
So this is my story in the café today, it’s not going to be a happy one but if you’d still like to listen please come sit with me. I don’t know, there may just be some sprinkle of funny and happy as I go along writing this because my Joshua was that to so many, a funny friend, always the one they sought and counted on, the one adults looked for at church or at youth camp to get something done right, the one kids at Sunday School clamoured around for a piggy back ride but who they obeyed when he firmly disciplined them. My perfect son. I get angry with a future I will never have with you.
I have 3 other kids, my two older girls and after Joshua my youngest son. They know how much I love Joshua and that I am writing this and know I call him my perfect child even though I know it must hurt them just a little to know that I love him more because he is not here. But that’s not true I loved him more even from before. He was the one who read my flash fiction and silly stories, the only one who called me “Mom” when all the others called me “Mother”, who reads my stories now? I have stopped writing for that very reason; I did not know it until just now.
Beauty is not just in the face beauty is a light in the heart – Khalil Gibran
My son is beautiful inside and out, he had a face that calmed people, a smile so engaging people gravitated to its warmth. I witnessed a generation of people come out to mourn his passing, while I tried to keep my grief as private and closed as I could with my small circle of family, friends and church leaders, his huge presence in so many people’s lives expanded the number of people we planned for at the wake service. His grandmother, my mother whispered to me, you only see this number of people at a wake of a very old person not a young man. How she must have hurt to put her grandson to rest yet in her sorrow saw how much he was respected and loved. I can’t console her or my brother who says he lost more than a nephew; he lost his idol, his Mr. Cool. His eulogy told us about the private things they shared. My son was a brilliant light.
Indeed he was loved and that love sustained us, we could not turn people away as wake services go that way, they just come. How do you turn away a whole football team or an entire college faculty? My heart broke even more to see his friends, young strong and vibrant youth cry like little babies for a friend they told me was like no other. Many confessed how Joshua was the one that brought them to Christ, brought them to church, spoke to them when no one else bothered and was always there when they needed him. But my Joshua died alone with no friend around him, no one to hold him, especially not me. A kind hearted stranger, the Good Samaritan who crossed the street and called an ambulance after his accident was not even the last person who held him as he breathed his last, he was all alone and that grips me with a fierce anger at myself for being too caught up with my own life to not hear my son’s last breath.
My doctor friend who was Head of Trauma at the hospital said Joshua died instantly from his massive head injuries but his body looked so perfect, his arms crossed over his chest, his mouth in a crooked grin, his long lashes curved gently on his high cheek bones. Oh how the girls loved and envied his beautiful lashes. I am thinking he was greeted by his guardian angel that held him as he said goodbye to this world, so maybe he wasn’t alone. That’s why he looked so peaceful.
But I am alone in this grief, we are all handling it in our own way, we go for counselling but words cannot express or heal what we feel. We sit with people who love us and reach out to us but each one of us is truly alone and that’s the way it will be for we each honour him in our own way. The way Joshua is remembered by each of us. His brother has taken to wearing his T-shirts, his sisters take time to sit in his room or lie on his bed and just breathe him in.
It’s not what you take it’s what you leave – Jennifer Niven in All the Bright Places
And he left behind a legacy of a young man that touched the lives of people in a special yet understated way. My kids and his close friends show me the Twitter and Instagram messages and posts, I see the Facebook updates, I knew I had a special child, but this was overwhelming, an outpouring of grief by an entire community. I met primary school teachers, college lecturers, people I had not known before come up to me and say “I knew Joshua”. And they would tell me of something he did that touched them in a special way. Each one a different story, how could there be so many for such a young man?
They spoke softly of a life that was lived with such tender beauty and compassion for others.
This is the way the world ends, not with a bang but with a whisper – T.S Elliot in the Hollow Man
No shouting, no screams, he went silently in the evening air, he floated above us into Jesus arms. My son was a young Christian man who led a life with such impact I can only hope to have. In a whisper he was gone. By the time I got to the hospital his body was already cold but I hugged him for the last time. That was all I got.
Sometimes you just got to accept that some people can only be in your heart and not in your life – Christopher Pike in The Last Story
He will always be in our hearts. His story lives on in all of us who know him and love him and now even in the people who only hear about him, like when our Youth Pastor preaches or when a friend uses his name and him as an example in a power point presentation for a college assignment, or when he is remembered for the words that only Joshua could coin, words remembered around a fellowship or group devotion, so newcomers would come to love him too.
Love is never wasted for its value does not depend on its reciprocity – C.S Lewis
And so this is my story this week, my intention is to give you hope not despair, I ask for a smile even though it’s sad but please don’t feel sorry for me. For I have known a true love because of the love Joshua gave me. I urge you to write and don’t get paralysed like me, trapped within the walls of my own sadness. But if you are, if you do falter, know someone is out there willing to hear your story. Be brave and write that which comes from your heart.
I end with a quote from one of Joshua’s favourite actors………..
To me friendship means loving tolerance – Robert Downey Jr.
Hope & Love