Wednesday, August 17, 2011

My Beautiful Boy

I remember the day I gave birth to this beautiful child. I didn't know I was having a boy, but having had our two darling girls, and pink everything and rhinestones and princess costumes,we were ready to walk on the wild side over snips and snails and puppy dog tails. Joey came home and snuggled immediately into the family circle. There was no 3rd child adjustment--he just slid in and sync'ed into the rhythm. And he was always that way, wherever he went. He seemed to slide into any new environment with ease--kindergarten, youth group, his new school in Maui, his college dorm. He made friends easily and knew how to make strangers laugh. He was easy to know and love.


 Here he is at one, with a bump on his forehead, sitting on his big boy flip-down chair. I loved that little jacket with the wooly collar. I guess that's why he's wearing it with his shorts! Loved the knees--so round and smooth, and the little folded hands. That was before his limbs got all long and gangly. He eventually grew into his ears, but the soft eyes and the smooth line of his smile never changed.

Sitting by a campfire, 27 years later, on the road someplace north,  maybe Alaska. He was never so happy as when he was sitting in the great outdoors, breathing it in. Trees, campfires, stars, beaches, waves, mountains, snow. All of it. Staring at it and thinking, absorbing. Thanks to Rachel's artist eye and quick camera, we have many of these treasured moments preserved.

His heart and soul were big enough for the sweeping beauty behind him. He fit there and celebrated it.
And because of this, I believe he is having a very similar experience in Paradise. Celebrating and exploring a universe of unbelievable sights.

He lived with zest and passion. He could make fun in a split second. He was highly verbal, especially for a boy, and always had a story to tell. He was a typical family baby--he loved to entertain, and he vitalized any gathering with his humor. I miss his wit and energy so much...and his wisdom and wry insight too.

He was an explorer. He was curious. He was an adventurer. I am so glad he got out and saw the world, and encouraged me to do the same. He was so vibrant and alive that it was contagious. He widened my view. He lead the way. He continues to do that from Heaven, as he has opened my eyes to th world to come.  I have come to an assurance that even though he is far away, he is all the more alive, and he is waiting with family and new friends for the day we join him.  

His other happy place: in a studio, or on a stage, with a guitar in his hands. He was a singer, a song writer, a musician at his core. This was what he was doing on the final night of his life, and at around 2 am he went to bed... and woke up in another world. Did he smile when he understood? Did two angels whisk him up into the stratosphere and beyond?  And that moment of being in the presence of God? --on his knees, face down, grateful and awestruck. What a rush of reality. We are waiting with faith and hope for that moment of reunion and our own inevitable merciful encounter with the Holy One.

For now, we are earthbound. We are trying to live despite our loss, and love those around us better than we ever have.

On Joey's last birthday before he died, the last we ever shared with him, we had a big poker night at his sister Jaime's house. Hours at the green felt table, joking, strategizing, bluffing his way through-- seriously intent on winning a pile of colored chips.  He was always competitive.  I can't remember now if he won, or if he came in second, but what mattered was this: we all won. It was a rich night of friendship, companionship,  laughter and love. It was good. A memory for the decades to come.

It's so important to make sweet memories with those you love. You never know when they will  have to sustain someone for the rest of their earthly lives.

Vintage Joey. Long limbs, t-shirt and jeans, sitting in the woods, breathing deeply in the cool, green-filled air. I picture him like this now. Peaceful, appreciative, thoughtful, content, alive to what stands before him, alive to a universe full of love and beauty, and waiting for us.

I have spent the past three years trying to understand the mystery of life, the whys of my own journey, and the purpose of Joey's short life. Through the tears and the sorrow, my heart has broken open. New things have been planted in that fertile ground. My faith has grown. I sometimes wondered if I would ever trust God again. But I do, and more than ever. We are a candle in the wind. He is eternal. He will explain it all someday and it will make sense. For now, Jesus loves me, and faith, hope and love abide.

Happy Birthday, my precious Joey, my beautiful son. Thank you for all you gave to all of us. Your mother loves you, loves knowing you are safe, misses you deeply, and longs for you with hope and a promise of the world to come.






We are gathered in a circle of love today, our family with Rachel and Kevin and Molly and Josie and Ryan, and remembering beautiful you.

John 14:1-3
 “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me.  In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.

14 comments:

Beckypdj said...

Happy Birthday Joey. Thanks for sharing his birthday with us.

Anonymous said...

What would Ray do at a time like this? Get a scope on his pistol probably..Happy birthday Joey. I Love and Miss your ass.

Ray #2

Anonymous said...

Ray sounds crazy...Happy BDay brother.
Sean

"Auntie for Hire" said...

Just beautiful! A heartfelt and stirring tribute full of love and sweet memories! May God give you extra hugs today! Love, Laura Wayland

Marina said...

Karen,
What a beautiful post. Hugs and love to all of you today!

Happy Birthday Joey!

Love the Zautner Ohana

karen gerstenberger said...

Happy Birthday, beautiful Joey. You have given the world so many gifts with your talented, open-hearted, generous life! Thank you for bringing your precious mother into my life. I look forward to meeting you on that glorious day...and I hope you have found our Katie where you are. Sending love to you, dear Joey, and to all of your family and loved ones.

Jeri said...

Happy Birthday Joey! Thank you for sharing Karen. Very beautiful tribute!
Much love, thoughts, and prayers,
Jeri & Cliff

Anonymous said...

TEARS, SORRY BUT THAT IS THE TRUTH NO MATTER HOW YOU LOOK AT IT. I LOVE THE PICTURES AND STORIES. HAPPY BIRTHDAY I HOPE YOU KNOW! XOXOX
SHARON

Anonymous said...

Thank you Karen for sharing these brave and beautiful love stories of your baby boy, of GOD, of your family. Such hope and joy through tears. Such a glorious message to God of belief. I cannot imagine anyone reading this post not being moved to their core. You are so proud and grateful for your Joey and so trusting of God. Your writing is both a tribute to Joey's life and a gift for all your readers of inspiration and possibility of how well life can be lived. Truly thank you. Valerie Ryden

Mackenzie said...

tears in my eyes, missing our dear Joe(y), remembering his beautiful life that we had the privilege to share with him for a time. love you, Johnson family xoxoxox from LA

Anonymous said...

I wondered how much burden Jesus has gone through with your loss. Not just with Joey but you, Joe and Family. I think He carries it all!
Love you.
Gary

Kay said...

Happy birthday to Joey. What a beautiful post for an amazing son. I know your heart is heavy today. Hugs.

Anonymous said...

I love that you still have Joey's post of his birthday. It makes me cry. We love them so much and is hard to carry on even though we know that they are in heaven. Oh there are many times I long to be with our children. Some day is a great thing to look forward o, our time in heaven!!! Love you so much Sharon

Anna said...

It's now September 7th but I know that these precious memories of Joey are there every day--his birthday is every day as are his most accomplished moments. I would want you to be my mom cause I'd want to be remembered like Joey.

Sweet hugs to you Karen....holding your heart in mine.