We decided June 7, 2018, would be the day we celebrate the life of our only son, and eldest of 3 children, Joseph Anthony Suarez. Joe’s life began on August 31, 1990, and he went home to be with God on May 28, 2018. As I reflect on June 7, 2018, two words come to my mind, SPIRITUALLY POWERFUL
People often will say (with good intention of course) you were blessed for 27 years, be thankful, he’s at peace, God has him now, it’s God’s will….but those words don’t help me much because 27 years wasn’t enough time. I wanted more time with my son, my husband wanted more time, we needed MORE TIME! and most of all, Joe needed more time. But, I quickly realized time doesn’t stop for anyone, it just keeps moving forward. I always thought time would take me to old age while my husband and I watched our children become adults, find love, start a career, get married, have a family. Time doesn’t heal it just hurts more because it’s that much longer Joe isn’t here with us.
We had so many people surrounding us with prayers and love when word spread about Joe’s death. And, I know every prayer spoken gave me and my family strength, there’s no other answer I have as to how we all kept standing. Preparation for Joe’s memorial service went into full throttle by the end of that first week. It was like watching a movie, everyone had a role. Our girls, Allie, Juliana, and my niece Aileen all worked hard to give Joe the greatest gift. Every detail was well thought out, specifically to represent Joe and his beautiful spirit. I’m so thankful my niece Aileen was there to give my girls the love and support they needed to plan Joe’s day. Aileen, she was there every step of the way, thank you, God! Our girls needed her strength, so many people stepped up to help it’s impossible to name everyone (you all know who you are and I love you to no end, always!) There were T-shirts made with Joe’s handwriting- it was one of his ideas to name his business, rosaries were ordered, each rosary was placed into a small plastic pouch with a picture of Joe and a prayer printed on the backside. Julie & Allie selected the prayer, Aileen’s friend made all the booklets and prayer cards. The church music, bible verses, reception, food (much love and my forever thank you to Luigi’s for the fabulous food!!♥️), flowers (our love to Kika and Tia’s Cindy & Sally for helping with flowers) music (thank you to our lifetime family friend Noe Garcia), thank you to our Holguin family for helping us at the hall, it was all done with a handful of love! To all those who helped with Joe’s day, we are forever thankful. My husband and I were extremely proud of our girls, they were in such heavy heartache for their brother yet were strong enough to plan his final day. I was just as proud of Aileen “my person” in my heart I believe it was her way of giving one final gift to Joe, as well as allowing herself time to process the reality of what had happened. They were extremely close and her love for Joe shined like a bright light throughout the entire day. Together, she and our girls shared every single step that was planned, asked for our approval before any decision or purchase was made, etc. I remember this blue spiral notebook Aileen had with her 24/7, she wrote everything down in that notebook. Then, gave it to me after everything was over. I keep it in a box I have with several other mementos that belong to Joe.
In addition to that first week, Kolby Halley, one of Joe’s closest friends had asked me if he could start a GoFundMe for Joe. I hadn’t given money much thought, I remember us having a life policy on all our kids, including us, but had not contacted our insurance agent yet. My mind was everywhere and unfocused, but I had people thinking for me and what a blessing they have been in my life. I gave Kolby the go-ahead and in the meantime called my agent only to discover Joe’s life policy had not been renewed, therefore he had no life insurance. Another big blow! Every day I thank God for Kolby’s quick thinking, he has always been a forward-thinking kind of guy. I remember Joe would tell me how prepared he was when they planned their TRYBE outings. He loved and respected his brother Kolby, and I’m so blessed he remains in our life.
Kolby got the ball rolling and created a GoFundMe account, he posted it to social media, and that thing immediately skyrocketed thru the roof! I remember looking at Facebook briefly to see it and my heart skipped a few beats, it was like watching the most phenomenal event happen right before my eyes! Kolby had set a goal of $8000, however, by the second-day donations had exceeded that goal and a week later Kolby handed me a check for $12,000, but before that, he gave me a check for $500 from his dad. I was so humbled and beyond thankful. Every day going forward a new miracle happened, it was like watching God place all these monumental blessings in my lap and I remember feeling as if someone was holding me in their arms, carrying me through this ugly dark storm. Protecting me from all the bad things that could kill me. We will forever be grateful to every single person who took a minute to donate towards Joe’s day. It’s one of those “unforgettable” moments when God proves to you just how powerful He can be, and He had my attention!
I love you, Kolby Halley, thank you for loving our son unconditionally as your brother. He admired and loved you very much. I can hear his voice out loud saying “Danngg Bro! I love you!”
Please click link below♥️sharing a Joe & Leena moment. Together they made life in the moment sooo much better!
As we drove up to the church I could see cars and so many people walking towards the church. I remember thinking, who are all these people? I quickly noticed Joe’s circle of closest friends, he referred to them as his “TRYBE” (this was a group of tightly bonded best friends he often called his brothers from other mothers. Not sure who created the name TRYBE, but it was clear they are all extremely close and Joe was their brother.) They walked over to embrace us, respect, honor, and love for their brother were the words that immediately came to my mind as I hugged them. I knew this was just as difficult for them as it was for us. I could feel the pain in their heart. Joe had so many friends, it was remarkable to see them all come to the service. Our family, our friends, the love of so many people consumed our hearts, it truly was and still is such a feeling of warmth that soothes my soul.
Izzy and I connected hands very tightly, our girls next to us and we made our way to be seated. Together we sat down and as our eyes looked up in front of us, there stood Joe in poster-size pictures. Our girls’ only brother, our only son, our firstborn child. Disbelief is the word I remember thinking. My entire body was trembling, my legs felt numb, my mind was spinning out of control and my eyes were beginning to hurt from tears. Suddenly, the music stopped and the sounds behind me faded to silence.
Kolby made his way to the front podium to give Joe’s eulogy. I know this was not easy for him, it took a lot of strength to stand up there and try to put Joe into a limited number of words. At the same time so much sorrow at the loss of his best friend, whom he always referred to as his brother. We were honored to have him speak on our behalf. Kolby would often call or message me to check on Joe if he wasn’t answering his texts or phone calls. I reassured him Joe was home and doing just fine. I would often do the same and message, Kolby, telling him I’m worried about Joe, and he would help to calm me down. It was our LOVE for Joe, genuine and unconditional. Kolby hit the mark when he spoke about Joe and who he was as a man, a son, a brother, an uncle, a friend, his notorious humor, and his love for living life at the moment. He also talked about what Joe’s life meant to him and the impact he made on so many others. He honored our son, perfectly! I was extremely proud of him. I’ve attached a copy of Kolby’s eulogy, please click the hyperlink. Joseph’s Eulogy by Kolby Halley
Then, it was Allie, Julie, Angela & Aileen slowly making their way up to the front. Juliana was first. I’m staring at my baby girl as she begins to speak. She spoke scriptures from God so eloquently and with such grace. I could feel her love in each word. She held herself together very proudly and did a beautiful job honoring her brother. Sibling love amongst our three kids is a bond so strong, I truly believe her brother was by her side holding her up the entire time. He will forever watch over both his sisters.
Next was Allie. She too spoke with So much love and respect for her brother, as she spoke the word of the Lord. I also believe Joe stood right next to his sister, telling her “c’mon Sis you can do this, I got your back.” She was almost done, then her eyes looked up, and could see everyone carefully listening to her every word. She held on and again that proud moment overcame us as she walked back to her seat.
It was Angela’s turn. Angela and Joe grew up together. They started pre-school together and remained very close their entire life. But, like everyone else, once high school is done they went different directions. Joe and Ang would see each other at family get-togethers and it was as if no time had passed. He loved her like a sister and he was happy she found a great guy to spend her life with and raise a family.
Finally, it was Aileen’s turn to speak. The last speaker usually tied it all together and the most difficult because she had stood up there and witnessed 3 of her family members speak God’s word to a church filled with people who love and respect Joe. She too did a beautiful job keeping her composure and honoring her “Jeh” (aka Joe) with intense love and respect. God’s strength, Joe’s love gave each one the ability to hold it all together up there in front of over 1,000 people, the immense love for Joe held them all so very strong.
The church was over its capacity, maximum seating was 900. There were not enough seats for everyone attending, it was standing room only. They had to get chairs to place along the walls so people could sit down. People were standing at the entry or outside, they just wanted to be there, for Joe.
I quietly whispered to Izzy, “babe, I’m not gonna make it out those doors.” Then I looked up and Father Joseph was standing in front of us. He could see I was falling apart. I had nothing left in me to keep standing. He put his hands on mine and spoke to us with his calm and peaceful voice, “Momma, Joseph is here and you must be strong. You must stand strong for him, he needs you both to do this, he is here.” Suddenly, I noticed Izzy straighten up his back, he pulled himself together standing tall, and placed his left arm around me, and said, “c’mon babe, we gotta do this for our son” and suddenly I felt my entire body lean on him. Get strong Elaine, pull yourself together for Joe and your daughters!! I repeated these words over and over again.
Father Joseph spoke of our son as if he had known him his entire life. I now know that was God talking, and yes, he did know Joe his entire 27 years of life. The words spoken by Father Joseph were absolutely beautiful and described Joe exactly 100%. Suddenly, my heartfelt warmth and it wasn’t pounding as hard inside my chest. My soul felt calm, I had this different feeling come thru me, it was like warm soothing water. It’s very hard to describe, I just know it felt good and I was stronger, so much stronger.
As we began to walk out of the church I looked at all the people and I could feel every heart and prayer coming at me. At some point, Joe had crossed paths with each one and touched their life in a way that brought them here, on that day, to give their respect, love, and to honor him.
I no longer felt like I was in a nightmare. I was breathing life and life was giving me a moment that would forever remain in my mind and my heart. I was stronger walking out of a church that day, much stronger. Joe was there.