Joey's services were set for Monday and Tuesday with a Mass on Wednesday. 2-4 and 7-9 each day and the Mass at 10:00 am. We choose two days as he was young, had many friends throughout his life and we felt we needed the time. We wanted to make sure that everyone who wanted to would have a chance to say their goodbyes. We called the church and asked to speak with the priest. We wanted to have a private meeting with him to really explain Joey to him, really let him get to know our Joseph... The Joey behind the addiction, the Joey we loved so much and who loved everyone in his life with everything he had. We wanted to make sure that he would be portrayed this way by the priest when he came to say his words at the wake and during the mass. Father Ryan is fairly new to our church but has already made a big impact on the community. He sat with my father and I and listened. He didn't listen to just to listen... he listened to really take in what we were saying. He was open to our words and let them resonate with him. He was able to understand and comprehend the essence of Joey, what made him Joey. We left confident that he would do his service in communicating that essence out in his words when it was his time to speak of him. He told us how good it was that we were not keeping it a secret, the way he passed, because so many families do and all it does it feed the cycle. We agreed and thanked him for his time. We went back to my parents and chose the pallbearers. My father, my husband, our cousins Alex and Frankie, My uncle Johnny and his friend Luis. I think he would have been happy with the choices.
I went to order the food, sandwiches and salads, my mother ordered the hot food for the day after mass. I ordered from TJ's Heroes and my mother ordered from Giacalone's, both of these places are popular in the community and had some of Joey's favorite foods. We had family and friends send Edible Arrangements, Cold Cut trays, Italian Pastries, Baskets of food... We had it covered. We knew there would be people at the house after and in between services, it's just how these things work. I stopped at Floyd Harbor Florist, another local shop... They did the flowers for Joey's prom and mine, flowers for other wakes we went to in the past and again just a big part of the community. We ordered his piece from Dan and I, a beautiful piece filled with yellow kalalilies, and than from the kids. We decided on a Captain America shield from them. Joey LOVED Marvel and all the movies and comic books. We would talk about them and he would always engage the kids. He taught them who was who, the heroes, anti-heroes and villains. He took so much time to show my kids his old comic books from when he was young and he used to get so excited when they would listen. He was such an amazing uncle, he really would have been a terrific father.
The first day of the wake, we were welcomed in 1/2 hour before the visiting was set to begin. We could barely find parking. Our family and friends were already there. They were ready to pay their respects to both Joey and us. Myself, my mother, father and husband went in to see Joseph. The flower arrangements were beautiful and overwhelming. There were so many pieces. "Beloved Son" ,"Beloved Brother", "Beloved Grandson", "Beloved Cousin", "Beloved Friend", "Uncle Joey" are just some of the roles he played in life and these were the words that adorned the flowers that were displayed on each side of his casket. We walked over to him and looked. He didn't look like himself, of course. But he didn't look bad. To people who didn't know the nuances of his face, he probably looked good. But we do. We know those faces of the people we love. We know what they look like when they smile, laugh, grimace, frown, are happy or hurting. It is one of the first indicators that something is wrong or something is right in their world. Regardless, nothing was right in this world at this moment, not for us.
2:00pm came and everyone else was allowed in... The funeral director waited for us to say it was okay. The line formed quickly. There were so many people. Everyone was upset and sad. We greeted everyone, talked briefly and then the next person was in front of us. It's all kind of a whirlwind when it is happening. I was back in managing mode. This was a trait I would come to learn about myself durning this time. There was always inklings of it when panic was happening around me, I may suffer from anxiety but in moments of chaos I tend to be quite calm. But I didn't know it really about me until this all happened. It's interesting, the things you learn about yourself and others in times of grief. I was making sure everyone had tissues, my mother was protected, no on was upsetting her more than she already was, making sure no one really touched Joey, making sure his dealer didn't come into the wake (yes this is a possibility), making sure everyone who wanted to talk and understand what happened had the chance... It's an important part of grieving, to show love and receive it from the people closest to the person's wake you're attending. At least I think it is. People need to know that you know they are there for you. It truly is a welcomed sense of family that everyone has when someone they care for is in pain. After the first visit we invited everyone back to the house for food and a chance to sit together before the night service. It was nice to have everyone at my parents house. To sit and talk about Joey, be sad together, laugh a little together, cry a little together. It was just a calm that I think we all kind of needed.
The night service came and there were even more people. People we hadn't seen in years. Some of his childhood friends, his old baseball team mates, lifelong friends, newer friends, our family, friends to us that never knew Joey... So much support and love filled that room. We as a family, despite this terrible tragedy, are truly blessed. There is no other way to describe it. I was doing okay on this round until I saw his one friend. He walked toward me and big tears filled his eyes. I've not seen many men cry, a shame really because they should feel they can more often than they do, but this was different. It struck me, hit me instantly like a truck. We hugged and for the first time in all of this I felt the depth of sadness that this would take on other people who loved him outside our family. The feeling lingered for a minute and I let him go to pay his respects to Joey and my parents.
Many people came back to the house that night. His friends came too. I had asked them to a few days earlier as we wanted to talk about Joey and talk about good time has with him. We wanted to remember how funny he was, how he could make you laugh so easily, how happy he was or at least how happy he seemed. They were all in the outside room. We laughed, they laughed, we cried, they cried... It was just nice. I can't explain it any other way. The family was inside the house doing the same. We all had this heavy sadness around us, but we were able to share in it together...which is some weird way made it easier to get through. The second day and night were similar, with the exception of my grandmother nearly collapsing on the last night. She was OK, but this had hit her hard. You're not supposed to say goodbye forever to someone younger than you. It's just not the natural way, especially a grandmother to grandson... she too, like my parents, were heartbroken.
The days were long and we were tired. But the mass was the next day. I think I got home about 1:00 am the second day. We got up the next and got ready. We decided that the kids would come to my parents after the service. They were too young to have them attend the wake and mass. We went to the funeral home to say our final goodbyes. Myself, husband, my parents, aunts and uncles were there. We each had time with him. We said what we needed, kissed him and left. We drove to the church. Everyone was already there. The pallbearers were waiting out front. They took their positions, followed instructions and walked him in. I walked in with my mother behind his casket. We sat where we instructed. They called me nearly instantly to do my reading. The priest spoke and than Erica did hers. When the mass was over the pallbearers took their positions and walked him out. There was a basket of roses that we were all able to place on his casket as we left. This might have been the saddest part of the three days for me... watching everyone place a rose on Joey. Each rose held their final prayers, their final thoughts, wishes for him and every single rose held their tears. It was heartbreaking to watch. I left before the line of people was finished. It was too much. We had arranged to drive past our house that we grew up in. A final drive by the house that Joey loved... the house that he played so many baseball games in the backyard of, the house where most of our childhood was spent. We then drove to the house where my parents currently live... the driver got out and placed a rose on the front step and we all parked. We went in to the house, and similar to the days before we ate and talked and cried... the kids were there, so it brought a different kind of life into the house.
This was the hardest week of our lives. It's been nearly 3 months and to be honest, it hasn't gotten easier. I still cry everyday on the way to work, I'm waiting for the day when it stops, I almost have a kind of countdown in my head. If it didn't happen on the way to work, it will at some point. I have yet to get through a day. My mother is the same, but much more often. We talk everyday and about Joey all the time and we have our moments, but it hard to grieve together sometimes. We almost just make each other more sad, if that makes sense. It's weird, I can't stand seeing her that way and not being able to nothing about it and she can't stand seeing me that way feeling the same. I'm sure as time passes it won't be so in our face, it won't be a constant ache to just hear him, see him, smell him, feel his big hugs. I have no idea if that that lessens or not... I almost hope it doesn't. But I do hope the perpetual sadness subsides. Even when you're happy, you're sad. It's such a strange feeling.