A Little Joey Reminder

I am the kind of person who believes in spirits.  I can’t wrap my mind around the fact that if a person truly believes that there is an afterlife, then how is it not possible that some spirits get “stuck” here or choose to stay behind?  Or that perhaps the part of our being that does live on after our bodies die is so strong that it can “signal” to us from the great beyond?

In the weeks and months after Joey’s death, and even now, I was constantly searching for signs that he was still with us.   I knew I would never “see” his spirit or anything like that, for if there truly is a Heaven, Joey was let right in, and commenced partying immediately. I can’t see that fun-loving child coming back here for anything.

But I wanted to believe, I needed to believe, that he would at least send us signals that he was still keeping tabs on us.  After all, Joey loved to be the center of attention, and I doubt that would stop in his afterlife.

Everywhere I looked, though, I came up empty.

In my formal living room, which is a pretty room that never gets used and happens to be the room where Joey died, hangs our beautiful family picture taken shortly after Joey was diagnosed.

Surrounding it are individual pictures of each of the boys.  Often, as I walked through that room, I would notice that Joey’s picture was crooked.  I would smile and straighten it, thinking surely that must be my sign -  Joey’s attention-getting way of showing me he was still there.

Until one day I saw one of the boys bound down the stairs on the other side of the wall rattling the pictures out of place.

And then there is the picture of all of the boys on an end table in the family room.  I noticed quite frequently that it would be lying down rather than propped up.

Knox, Slim, Lil' C and Joey in 2009

Yes, of course.  My brilliant little Joey had learned, a la Patrick Swayze in Ghost, how to push over an object to get my attention.

Until I saw one of the boys aggressively knock the picture over while playing with toy cars on that same end table.

I became a bit distraught.  I wanted to see signs of him so badly that I became almost jealous of another woman’s heartbreak.  This woman lost her husband, the father of their three small children, very suddenly about two months before Joey died.  She had a reading with psychic Rebecca Rosin, who told her that when she found pennies, that was her husband’s way of contacting her.

Pennies, you say?  Pennies are so commonly found all the time, you say.  But this woman was finding pennies in the most unlikely of places, even before she talked to Rebecca.

Rebecca Rosin gave a talk in my city last spring.  Friends encouraged me to go.  Perhaps Joey would come through and send me a message, they said.  The thought was so delightfully tempting.  I could imagine her picking me out of the crowd and telling me there was a little boy whose name began with J who had something wrong with his head moving to the front of the pack.  He would be smiling and laughing and all the other spirits were letting him through because he was so cute and sweet.  He would want me to know that he would always be my boy, my Sweetface.  You see, I would always sing him You Are My Sunshine, but I would change the words to “You are my Sweetface,” and I would tell him, “Joey, you are so my boy,” because he always wanted to be with me.

My fingers hovered over “purchase tickets” to her show on the website for a moment before I shut down my computer.  I would be devastated if she didn’t pick me. If Joey didn’t come through to give me a sign.

But for all of this looking for specific signs, I think I was missing the simple signs that were in front of me all along.  I’ve heard people say that the signs are there, and that a person just needs to be open to accepting them.

Like the green jeep I see frequently driving in our neighborhood.  Joey loved green and jeeps.

Like every time I see a yellow car.  We used to play this game in the car when Joey and Slim were four and Knox was two. We'd pick out a certain color car to help Knox learn his colors.  We started with yellow since it was an unlikely color for a car.  Once we moved on to another color, Knox would keep pointing out all the yellow cars.  Joey would say, “We gotta stop looking for yellow cars,” giggling hysterically every time.

Like every time I see the same striped cat wandering through my yard.  Joey’s favorite stuffed animal was named Stripey Kitten.  We still have her, and Slim and I often fight over who gets to cuddle with her at night.

Like the green boat I kept seeing on our vacation last week.  A really big, really cool green boat that always seemed to be anchored in the lake in front of our condo or parked in the slip just down from our boat.  Joey would have loved that boat.

These things are surely just coincidences – the green jeep’s and the cat’s owners live in our neighborhood, and someone in the same condo building owns the green boat.  And really, yellow cars are a lot more common than you would think.

But then there are those signs that really make me take pause, that make me wonder, Could they be directly from him?

Like the number 444.  Joey died at 4:44 a.m.  When I look at the clock and its 4:44, or I’m handed my latte and the total is $4.44, I get a shiver.

Or when I hear the song I Can Only Imagine by Mercy Me.  I came across that song a few days before Joey died and decided I wanted it played at Joey’s funeral.  On Knox’s fifth birthday, two months after Joey died, he got a toy motorized truck to ride in.  The very first time he got in it and turned on the radio, I Can Only Imagine was playing.  I think it was Joey’s way of telling his little buddy that he would always be his co-pilot.

Knox and Lil' C

And this week at the lake we heard the song just as we brought out the new inner tube to pull behind the boat.  The boys were all too chicken to get in, and even though I hate lake water more than a manicure that chips the next day, I got in to prove to them it wasn’t scary.  Around that time , the song came on the radio, reminding me that had Joey been there, he would have been the first person in that inner tube with me.

Two years after Joey's death, I fear my memories of him are fading even though I think about him daily.  And though the logical part of me says that all of these signs are merely coincidences, they serve as little Joey reminders, which I sometimes need.  If all of these things - cats and cars, boats and songs and numbers, make me think of him, I'll take them as the signs I seek.

The last night of our vacation, as we were cleaning the condo, Daddy cranked up LMFAO’s Party Rock Anthem, and an impromptu dance party broke out – Joey style!  We used to have dance parties in the basement all the time when Joey was alive.  Hubby, Joey, Slim, Knox and I would dance and laugh until our sides hurt.

We needed a little fun just then, and it took a little Joey reminder to get us there.

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