Shortly after he got sick, he developed this habit of demanding that stoplights turn green. We'd be on the way to preschool or to the hospital for an appointment when a red light would stop us.
"When will the light turn green?" He'd ask.
"I don't know," I'd answer, "we just have to wait for it."
True to his impatient nature, he'd keep asking, "When will the light turn green? When will the light turn green? When will the light turn green?"
One time, on the second request, the light actually turned green.
After that, it became sort of a game to see how many times he would have to say it until the light would turn green.
As Joey grew sicker and weaker, the game became more agonizing to me. I could hear his little weak voice in the back seat of the car asking when the light would turn green and we could move the car ahead. I would be in the front seat wondering when our personal nightmare would be over and we could move ahead with our lives.
And I hated that. I hated that impatience with my own son's illness and impending death. I wanted to drink in every moment, slow time so that I would have him for as long as I could. But the end outcome was a reality that I could not simply drive away from.
So instead of stopping to look around, enjoying the delay, I just wanted to get moving. I was miserably stuck in my own grief and agony, and I just wanted to be able to move ahead.
There are so many times in the life that grief stops us in our tracks. Some are known to us: birthdays, holidays, special days, crapiversaries. Others blindside us in the most cruel ways: the message from someone with the story just like ours, the babies that we learned died after birth, the post on Facebook that punched us in the gut, a random story line on our favorite television show.
They turn the light red again, and we have to wait and wonder when the light will turn green again and we can continue on our forward path to healing.
"Grief is a road with many twists and turns. It has stops and starts and detours that we can't anticipate. There is no endpoint, no final destination. Over the next hill there is another; and around the next curve is another sharp turn. The best we can do is to keep moving ahead, keep traveling the road. Take in the scenery, even when the light is red. Have confidence in the fact that the light will turn green again and you can continue moving ahead."
Joey knew that no light ever stays red. He was also one not to wallow too long in any sort of misery. He wanted all the lights to be green.
And they are, even when we're grieving. We just need to accept the fact that it's okay to GO. You don't have to wait. It's okay to move ahead.
I move ahead every day, even when it's hard, even when moving ahead feels just like marching in place.
I can always hear him, though. I hear Joey in my head saying, "When will the light turn green?"
And I know it's okay to go.