I had called his best friend and his ex-girlfriend earlier that day in the morning after the apnea test to let them know what was going on. They told a couple of people, I had gotten a message from one of his other best friends asking if it what he had been told was true and I knew it was only a matter of time before the rumors would start. I couldn't have this for Joseph. So after talking to my mother we decided it was a good idea to post what I had wrote on FaceBook to let everyone know what happened and the real story. The calls and texts and messages started as quickly as I I hit "post". People couldn't believe it. It had been years since he spoke to some people messaging and months since others. Joey did a really good job at keeping his secret a secret. We kept it for him too. Everyone did. The people that knew, all kept it a secret. That is part of this. Everyone keeps it a secret because of the shame and stigma that comes with it. You wouldn't keep heart disease or diabetes a secret, but you keep addiction a secret.
The amount of messages I received and phone calls and post responses on the initial post was overwhelming. I don't think I messaged anyone back until the next day, I couldn't keep up. Why couldn't he see how loved he was? Didn't he realize that there were so many people out there that cared for him. I think we all struggle with this in one way or another. I think we focus on things we've done or not done, or if we've been a good enough friend that we don't realize people love us. Really, they do. It is in human nature to love. Maybe you can't see that part when you're in active addiction. You don't see it, or don't care or don't believe it. I'm not sure.
We called the family back and told them to come say their final goodbyes if they wanted. My mother, My Aunt and I met with the organ donation team from LiveOn NY. We went into a vacant hospital room at about 6:00pm and sat with a team of 3 women. They explained the whole process while offering their condolences and thankfulness for be able to make this choice to gift life to others during this time. We went through the paperwork and then came the checklist. It is as follows:
Heart, Lungs, Liver, Kidneys, Intestine, Pancreas, Cornea, Tendons, Valves, Veins, Skin, Bones and Tissues.
The questions are detailed and everything is explained, but that is the gist. We asked about the process while we went down the checklist. We allowed them to gift Joey's heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, intestine, pancreas, tendons, valves and veins, tissue and bone marrow. We didn't want his corneas taken, his skin or his bones. We just didn't. They told us that the process could take anywhere from 24 to 48 hours because of the organ harvesting and matching process. He would stay on the vent and kept exactly the was he was at that minute until it was time to harvest the organs. We could visit and be with him as much as we wanted until then.
We went back to the room and everyone was around him saying their goodbyes. We all left shortly after.
We went back to my parents house that night for a bit. Just my Mom, Dad and I. I remember sitting at the table and my Mom yelling "No More Fucking Secrets". We agreed, no more. We were going to be honest with people when they asked about Joey. Honest about his life, his addiction... all of it. We sat there and talked, and cried, and talked some more. I went back to the hospital to be with him again. Tomorrow Dan and I would have to tell the our kids and get this whole wake/visiting/cremation process started.
When I got there everything was all ready for me. They knew I would be back. I did my routine with Joey and went to sleep.
The next day we had the meeting at the funeral home at 1pm. I woke up, brushed his hair, wiped his face and kissed him goodbye, I told him I'd be back later. I went to my house. The kids were up and hanging out, laying out the couch watch TV. It was school vacation so my son was home. We agreed that it was time to tell them so we did. We asked them to come on the couch because Mommy and Daddy needed to talk to them about something. They sat down next to us.
My daughter is only 3.5 and my son is 5. They are young, so we knew this would be tough for them to understand. We've talked to them about heaven before, as that is our belief, but it would be different this time. The only person that we talked about being in heaven is my husband's father. I never met Hank, but we make sure to talk about him so the kids know who he was. Since I never met him because he passed before I met Dan, the kids clearly never have. So although they know he is there, they never felt his loss like they would Joey.
Joey was a huge part of my kids lives. When we had my son Joey had gotten sober for a long time. He was my daughter's Godfather. He was at all of their birthday's, holidays, events, when he was sober and could handle the social anxiety that came with being around mine and my husband's family. Whenever they slept over my parents house, Uncle Joey was the highlight of the night. So many times all 3 of them fell asleep watching a movie on his bed. They played superhero's and tag and chase and hide and seek. In the spring and summer Joey and my parents taught them gardening and yard work. They would get ice cream and play on the bikes. The first time my kids ever rode a bike Joey was there. He held the backs of the bikes and helped teach them. He was a huge part of their lives. They were going to feel this.
We sat with the kids on the couch. We said:
"You guys know how we always tell you that Pop in is heaven? Well Uncle Joey got really sick and he couldn't get better, and he's in heaven now. It's okay to be sad, it's okay to cry... You're going to see Mommy and Daddy and Nanny and Mema and Pop cry, we all are going to miss Uncle Joey very much." My son got very still. He was trying to take in what we just said. My daughter was jumping around. Almost like she was trying not to hear us. My son started to cry and I started to cry. He hid his head and I hugged him. Told him that is it okay to cry and be sad. We all were going to be. He asked me what the hurt in his throat. He was trying to hold back his tears and it was causing a knot is his throat. I told him that sometimes that happens when we try not to be sad but we are.
We all sat on the couch together for a bit. They didn't have to many questions. They asked if he was coming back and if we could visit. We told them no, that heaven didn't really work that way. I explained that heaven was good place, somewhere that we all once were and that we all go back to one day. I told my son that before he was in my tummy, he was in heaven and God picked him out special for me and put him there so I could grow him and he could be my baby. He smiled. It was a hard bit of time.
We sat for a bit longer and than I had to meet my parents shortly at the funeral home. I went to the store and got picked his outfit. Joey always liked what I would buy him. He would wear it ALL THE TIME after I bought it for him. Whether it was a shirt, pair of jeans, shoes, vest... didn't matter. He was so good like that. I walked over to the women's section and picked out a black jumper for myself. I wanted something that I could wear again (I have not since, but in my head I wanted to). I went over to the men's section... I picked out a blue and white plaid patterned shirt (my mother requested blue, Joey looked really good in blue), a nice pair of dark jeans, a crisp white shirt to wear underneath and a pair of cool sneakers. I ran into my little cousin. She worked at the store, it was the first person I saw outside the hospital that knew. We said hi and hugged, we haven't seen each other in a while... and then you could see on her face she remembered Joey. She said her apologies and I told her I was getting his outfit. Told her I had to go because I had to meet my parents at the funeral home. We hugged goodbye and I paid. I kept listening to "You Say" by Lauren Daigle (link at the bottom) it really is a beautiful song. My uncle told me to listen to it while we were at hospital earlier in the week with Joey. It would be the song my cousin set the picture memories CD to at the wake.
What organs can be donated?: https://www.organdonor.gov/about/what.html
Register in NY to be a donor: https://www.liveonny.org/be-an-organ-donor/
"You Say"- Lauren Daigle: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sIaT8Jl2zpI