This is my story of “Losing Joe” and how the darkness of grief found it’s way into my life.
As I’m writing this, it feels like this moment happened only “yesterday”; to be honest, every day feels like that “yesterday” repeating itself over and over in my head. The day was an ordinary afternoon, and I was lying down in my room next to Ella. I could feel the sun’s warmth coming through my bedroom sliding glass doors as I gazed at the beautiful tree outside my bedroom. My husband and I were home babysitting our grandbaby, Ella; she was suddenly sick to her tummy and had vomited a few times. Aside from her not feeling well, it was just another day. We lived our normal day-to-day thing, and I had no complaints. I was happy, we were happy, our family was happy, and I was looking forward to a massive celebration at the end of August. I was retiring from my job of 25 years, and it was Joe’s 28th birthday too; August 31, 2018, was going to be a double party, and it was a big deal; we were both looking forward to a long day of celebrating.
It was almost 1:15 p.m., and I knew Joe would be coming home soon. I had spoken to him earlier that morning; Joe told me he would be home sometime around Noon. I remember feeling completely relaxed; my mind was calm, and no distractions were in my head; it was a peaceful day. Just as I started to doze off, I woke up to the screeching sound of the front door opening, and I heard Joe’s voice loudly say, “Momma, I’m home! Where you at, Ma?” I asked him to come upstairs so we could talk, but all I heard was the sound of his footsteps moving quickly downstairs, doors opening then shutting (laundry room door, his bathroom door, his bedroom door, etc.). It was apparent he was in a hurry. The funny thing is Joe was loud in every way; he talked loud, he laughed aloud, and he even walked loud (if that’s possible). In fact, within a few more minutes, he loudly said to me, “Meh, I love you; I’ll be home later, k.” And, before I had a chance to say anything, I heard the front door close after him as quickly as it opened. Just like that, Joe came home, and then he left. I did not see him; I only heard him.
The strangest thing about that moment when Joe left the condo was there was no sound. The loud squeaky noise from the front door just minutes earlier was gone. Everything seemed to go silent. It somewhat felt like the world outside stopped in those few seconds. I heard no cars driving by outside our condo; it’s typically a hectic road; no vagrants were walking by yelling or just talking crazy, no car horns honking, no dogs barking, nothing seemed to move. It was an uncomfortable and eerie stillness. It was the absence of sound.
So, I did what any mom would do I grabbed my cell phone and called him. He answered with his usual loud and funny self, “Yes, Mehhhhh?? Wassup?” We talked briefly, very briefly, actually too briefly. I asked why he didn’t come upstairs before leaving? I told him I felt as though he was avoiding me or not wanting to be at home? He replied with a laugh, “Meh, it’s Memorial Day, and I’m hanging out with friends Mehhhh.” We hung up, but something in his voice seemed different. It was not sitting well with me, so I texted him. He responded to several texts but did not reply to the last few. I kept messaging him throughout the evening, too (5:00 p.m., 8:00 p.m., 10:00 p.m., then midnight), but no reply. I didn’t know who he was with, and I had no idea where he could be. In the last text, I asked if he was coming home and to please reply. My husband kept asking, “Where’s Joe?” and all I could say was, “Babe, I don’t know!”
I had a difficult time falling asleep that Monday night. I could not get comfortable, and my mind kept racing. Finally, around 1:30 am, I read a prayer and my eyes slowly got heavy. I fell asleep when suddenly I heard this loud bang popping sound outside, it startled me, and I jumped, then sat up in bed. It was the sound similar to a car backfiring, but it was so loud it seemed to be right by our window. I quickly felt my heart beating so hard I thought it would jump out of my chest! I looked at my phone. It was 2:15 a.m.
I had no missed calls or messages from Joe. I woke up my husband, and he heard that loud bang noise too, loud noise. Okay, NOW I’m getting nervous. I told him, “babe, I’m feeling scared.” It was just a car; stop worrying, he tells me. But I knew he could feel what I was feeling too. He looked outside, but it was nothing. I went downstairs to get a glass of water, my whole body was hurting, and I felt sick. I kept thinking, maybe I had caught what Ella had, so I took a Motrin. But, I could not stop shaking. I walked down the hall and looked in Joe’s room. He wasn’t there.
I’m hovering again, I thought to myself. Joe was 27, a grown man, but as a Mother, the worry never really stopped. It doesn’t matter if your child is 5, 10, or 27. A child grows inside a Mothers body for nine months; there’s a bond that never goes away. It’s a lifetime connection of pure and beautiful love. I know and can feel every breath and heartbeat of each one of my children; 27 (Joe), 25 (Allie), and (20) Juliana. I just knew when something wasn’t right. At that moment, the feeling was so intense I wanted to get in my car and look for him but had no idea where to even begin.
I then messaged Joe’s friend and asked her if she had spoken to him? I knew he had stayed overnight at her house the night before, and she told me she had been trying to reach him all evening, but he wasn’t answering. The last time she spoke to him was around 5:15 p.m. She was worried too, and I could hear the sound in her voice as if she had been crying. We hung up, and again I tried calling than texting Joe but got no reply. Time seemed to move, so dam slow but eventually, the sun came up, and at 7:30 a.m. I called my niece for a ride to the office. I needed to grab a few things and briefly talk to one of our executives regarding an email I had sent out the previous week. When she got to the condo, I told her Joe didn’t come home, and he wasn’t answering my calls; I was getting nervous. I’m sure he is asleep at his friend’s house, he’ll be home, don’t worry, she says. Yeah, I’m working myself into a frenzy, overthinking…again!
Once again, I called and left him a voicemail telling him I left the front door unlocked and to contact him as soon as he woke up! Then, a text message, “Joseph Anthony, where are you!! Can you please at least reply, son, so I know you’re okay? Please!” I rushed into the office that morning, grabbed a few things, and called his friend again. She still had not heard from Joe and was very surprised by my phone call. I told her I was freaking out, and it isn’t like him not to call or reply to me. Then I asked her to call his best friend and call me back as soon as she talked to him. It’s now close to 11 a.m., and I’m getting ready to leave the office and drive to his friend’s house. I could feel that anxious thing coming on strong (heart racing, my head hurt from no sleep, inside my soul, I was trembling). I felt something terrible was about to happen. I call it “fear.” My heart was hurting, it was a stinging sensation, and it scared me. Then my phone rang, it was his friend, and I was relieved that she was calling me back. My first thoughts were, thank God she finally talked to Joe. That was not the case, not even close! I answered my cell, and all I could hear was a mumbling sound. I couldn’t understand what she was saying, my voice got louder and louder, “What is it!! I can’t hear you, sweetie! Slow down! Please, what are you saying because I can’t understand you!”
I remember that moment quite vividly as she spoke one word. It was a word I still hear in my head, over and over again…CORONER! At that moment, everything seemed like it all faded to black. Instantly, my world turned to complete darkness. Uninvited and without warning, this ugly, dark shadow called “grief” had slipped in and found its way into my life. I was not prepared for what was about to happen, my mind was in some other place, and all I could do was stand there screaming. I was ultimately out of control! All I could think was, I have to get to my husband. I need to get to Isadore. God, help us.