Friends, family and strangers to me, were offering words of encouragement and of sympathy while other just shook their head in disbelief, hugged me tight and cried. Sadly, I can only recall a handful of them. My mind had abandoned my body days before. Weeks later, as I would try to described that day to friends , some would smile kindly and would say “Yes, it was beautiful…you were so strong,…the tribute was so touching.” I would quickly apologize for not remembering they were there or worse, that I had spoken with them but could not recall that. Thankfully , no one has ever held it against me.
We were behind 30 minutes schedule. Why were were still so many people walking by? The line seemed endless! I continued to stand and graciously thanked people offering me their condolences while inside I was screaming..I WANT TO GO HOME!” I was told later that there were so many people trying to enter from each door, that the director was unable to stop everyone and that the line was down the street and around the corner. Someone must have seen the despair in my face and the condolence book was closed. The director went out to tell the crowd that we were starting and that they could sign the book after the service. That’s when the crowd started rushing in.
I was able to finally sit down. I took a deep breath and grasped my husbands hand. Pastor began by welcoming everyone but before starting the eulogy, he asked the family to stand and look around at all the people that had come to not only support us but to pay tribute to our son. As we stood to look back at the audience, they all started rising and gave us a standing ovation! Tears started rolling down my face. This time though, it was not from sadness but from gratefulness and pride! These people, friends and family, were not giving US the ovation but they were giving it the man that we raised! They were honoring our precious son. A person that loved life and never took one minute of it for granted. Someone who embraced every beautiful sunrise and every stunning sunset. Every sunbeam warming his face, every cool breeze running through his hair, every rain drop on his face was a gift from God to him. He would savor every bite of food and indulge until he could take no more and then start all over. From the finest cut of steak, to macaroni and cheese from a box.. he would declare that it would be the best meal he’d ever eaten!
He would light up 4th of July fireworks like he was 10 years old again and run around squealing with his brother as one of the rockets would shoot around their feet! He would tease with his sister when she wished him a Happy Fathers day as a joke! “You a cray, cray foo!” he would joking yell while she would reply “Hey boy, you got some kid out there running around lookin’ for his daddeee!” He would laugh so hard at his fear of blood and recalled stories of himself passing out from the sight of it when he cut himself. He would make us laugh so hard that our stomachs would hurt when he recalled his hilarious shenanigans growing up and informed us of things we never knew he did! I would look at him in disbelief as he shared some outrageous stories of his high school high jinks and i would yell out at him “JOEY! OH MY GOD!” He would just laugh and reply, “Momma it was for the best you didn’t know then!” At family gatherings, he would take his grandma into his arms and dance around the kitchen floor as she giggled like a school girl. He would challenge his dad to ping pong and then talk smack when he won, leaving the rest of us in a heap of laughter. My carefree son, no matter the circumstance, would always laugh and shake his head at whatever life threw his way. ‘I’m alive and loving life’ he would say to me followed by a mischievous look as he spoke his favorite quote to me “Hakuna Matata, mom…Don’t worry…just be happy!”
Hakuna Matata, baby boy… no worries for the rest of your days