It is sometime during the 4:00 hour. I am lying, wide awake, in my bed sucking on a lozenge because I can't stop coughing. I've got a toddler's head rammed between my shoulder blades. I'm hot from all the blankets and lovies my ten-year-old has brought into my huge king-sized bed with him.
The house is quiet and feels a little emptier with Hubby on a business trip despite all of the company I have in bed with me.
Edgie has been pushing Slim in his sleep, "Move over Slim!! This my bed." And I roll my eyes because, no, it's MY bed; but I smile in spite of it.
I must have drifted back to sleep when suddenly I hear, "No Joey!" And Edgie stirs in his sleep.
I freeze in the dark, trying to decide if I misheard him. 'Joey' sounds nothing like 'Slim.' And Edgie doesn't know Joey, just of Joey.
I feel a whisper of cold air and hear a thump.
I sit up. Is it 4:44 a.m., the time he died? No, but it's 4:22 a.m., the date he was diagnosed, April 22nd. I shiver.
No. I tell myself. No, Joey is not here. He's never been here.
I know this. We told him it was okay to go. I know he took the hand of the spirit guide who came to get him from his earthly pain. He was such a sweet, trusting child. He is with the angels having a lovely time, getting to know his grandparents and all the other little children lost too soon.
But still . . .
I lay in the dark feeling the feeling of sadness that has been overtaking me a lot in the last few weeks. We are going to be moving, and I have been slowly packing up things that we don't need. Each time I pack a box, instead of excitement, I feel sad and a little sick to my stomach. I know it's time to leave here, to build our "forever" home.
But this home was the only home Joey knew.
He did inhabit two other places - our little brick ranch for six months, and our rental on Long Island for two years.
But he lived here.
He pushed trucks through the landscaping rocks in the front yard. He helped Daddy build the sandbox in the backyard. He slid down the slide on the swing set naked in the water from the hose because it was faster that way. He tried on my make-up and shoes and strutted down the upstairs hallway. He sat on the basement steps with his brothers posing for pictures. He ran to the garage door to greet Daddy wearing his first pair of "big boy" underwear. He sat on the fireplace and mugged for the camera with Slim on kindergarten round-up day and lined up all of his stuffed animals on the couch and played pet doctor when he got his veterinarian kit from Aunt Ann and Uncle Bob. Carving pumpkins at the kitchen table and coloring Easter eggs in the dining room. Sitting on the bed and leading his brothers in a rousing preschool chorus of "If You're Happy and You Know It."
He also died here.
Paramedics and firefighters rushing in to see about a boy having seizures. Sitting on the couch with the big round yellow "puke bowl" because he couldn't stop vomiting. Sitting at the front window staring at the outdoors that he once loved, but now could only watch creep slowly by. Sitting in the same chair asking the same questions. A bed from hospice in the front room next to the ugly pink couch that I wouldn't leave because I didn't want to leave him. Saying good-bye and going upstairs, only to come back down to an empty hospice bed and the same ugly pink couch.
I know he's not here. I know his spirit, as much as I want it to be here, does not live here anymore. As much as I want to see signs, like crooked pictures and times on a clock, his spirit is with God.
But his soul is here. His soul, his beautiful mind and emotions - they are in everything I see. I know I can bring his "stuff" to our new home. I can look at pictures and artwork and hold his much-loved Stripey Kitten and wrap us all up in a quilt I intend to make of his clothes, but I won't be able to "see" him in our new home.
He'll have never walked the staircase to the boys' bedrooms. He'll have never done his homework in the study. He'll have never laughed as he sat at the kitchen bar or played basketball in the driveway or chased his brothers around the horseshoe shaped street on his bicycle.
Will I still see him?
Will I see him in the eyes of his brothers as they excitedly pick out their new rooms? Will I hear him in their laughs as they strap on their Rollerblades and skate across the concrete floor of the basement? Will his footsteps echo with theirs as they bound down the stairs in the morning for breakfast? Will his hands work side-by-side with Hubby's as he plants his garden in the new grass of the backyard?
I can't be sure.
What I do know is that his soul stays with me. Wherever I go, he goes with me. I hear his laugh in my ears and feel his hug around my neck. I can see the brightness of his eyes and feel the excitement of his movements.
His soul is burned into mine.
Wherever I go, he will be there.
I will take him, and he will be there.