It's been 17+ years since we last saw our son's beautiful smile, touched his sweet face, or heard his amazing giggle. However, if I close my eyes, I am right back to that ordinary Tuesday evening in April 2005.
Like any other spring school night, Josh had done his homework, played a bit of PlayStation, ate a quick dinner, and got ready for travel soccer practice. My husband, Pat, was dropping him off, but had to coach our daughter, Katrina, on another field a half hour later. Due to only having one car, I was going to Josh's practice a bit late and staying to bring him home before picking up Katrina and Pat later.
As Josh rushed out the door, he quickly greeted Katrina, who had just returned from modified lacrosse practice. Over his shoulder he yelled, "Bye Mama! I love you!" I yelled back from the kitchen, "Love you too! Don't worry, buddy. Wait for me and I will be there!"
I remember rushing to get Katrina something to eat, getting her changed from her lacrosse stuff into soccer stuff, and jumping into the van that had just pulled back into the driveway.
I remember the overwhelming feeling that I had to get to Josh.
I quickly dropped Katrina and Pat off at their field and headed toward Josh. When I pulled into the church parking lot by the field, the boys were running, and the coach had just called for a water break. As I was setting up my chair, I observed Joshua beginning to run toward the parents assembled on the sideline. He began to walk very slowly like he couldn't pick up his feet. Suddenly, Joshua collapsed on the field, his legs buckling under him. My heart flipped in my chest, and I remember looking down. Almost like I had to take a second to collect myself. Then, the coach called for me and I was running toward my precious little man.
Though I tried my very best to bring Joshua back, I couldn't. I can still remember breathing into him. Telling him I loved him. Breathing again. His daddy loved him. Breathing again. His sissy loved him. Breathing again. Thanking him for being our Joshua; over and repeatedly. I remember closing my eyes and seeing the scene from above. I could see me working on Joshua. I saw the top of my own head, a nice lady standing next to me and Joshua's legs. I remember thinking "When Little Man comes back, he will tell me he saw me helping him."
It seemed like hours until the firetrucks and paramedics arrived. I stepped back to allow the professionals to take over. As I stood up, a priest was on either side of me. They had came out of the church when they heard the commotion.
Pat came rushing to the field. He was inconsolable and I began to pray with him. I was never an overly religious person, but this was just what I had to do. Time passed. Because I felt that I had "my time" with Josh, I told Pat to go in the ambulance with our son. I was told to get in my friend's car to follow them. As I was getting into her car, someone came running up with our folding chair yelling, "You forgot this!" This seemed so unbelievable to me at the time. “Why do I care about my folding chair?” I thought.
My friend took my keys and put the chair away in my van. As this was happening, I bowed my head and said, "I don't know why it is Joshy's time. But, please welcome him and tell him how much I love him. Please help me! Please show me my path!" Again, I never really prayed much before this. As I lifted my head and looked out of the car window, I saw my daughter, Katrina, wandering around the parking lot, looking scared and lost. Apparently, another parent from her team dropped her off when her practice was done (probably believing that Pat left because Josh was mildly hurt). Luckily, I was still at the field thanks to that woman returning my chair. Also, Pat came running up soon after because he was not allowed in the ambulance because they were still working on Josh. The three of us piled into my friend's car to follow the ambulance and I knew what my continued purpose was; to love and support these two amazing people I was still blessed with.
Devastation. Agony. Weariness. Yet, unbelievable gratitude and happiness that Joshua had been here at all. How can these emotions that are so opposite occur at the same time inside of me? How can I feel thankful, yet cheated?
The reason for Joshua’s sudden passing was not initially clear. However, after 18 weeks, we received the determination that Joshua had died from a probable seizure that was triggered by Megalencephaly with cortical micro dysgenesis. Very little is known of this congenital condition, even today. However, we were told that Joshua was blessed to have lived 10 ½ years without numerous ailments or symptoms.
I would be lying if I said that we handled everything correctly after Joshua passed away. There were struggles, arguments, and anger. The three of us had to relearn each other and our new positions in our family. We had to grieve while being next to each other. We had to forgive ourselves for past conflicts with Josh and each other, and we had to learn how to cope in our own personal ways. This will forever be a work in progress, but we are a strong unit because we have survived one of life's most difficult tragedies together.
I will forever be grateful that I was blessed to welcome Josh into this world, and I was blessed to be with him when he left it. Every morning I still say out loud, "Good morning, Joshua! How is Heaven today?" I thank him for being our Joshua and I end each day with, "Love you too! Don't worry, buddy! Wait for me and I will be there."
Life is good - not "perfect" anymore - but very good. We have been blessed to witness Katrina's growth into being an amazing woman. And every so often, we experience coincidences or "signs" that Joshua is watching over us; even now.