Ode to Josh

“The “Ode to Josh” blossomed into existence in March 1998. Apparently therapy of my own making, I have written poetry and letters to Josh and my favorite, the “Ode”, may be seen in a later chapter. One dark night I could hear rhyming verses in my head which literally woke me up out of a sound sleep. I felt compelled to go to the computer and get it down on “paper”. I feared that I would forget the words and consequently lose a priceless gift, one I now believe had sent to me by Spirit. Why else would this message come to me in my sleep? I had never written poetry before, but for the next months, my aching soul spilled out onto paper into a lengthy, cathartic poem. I worked on it for almost six months. The ode was the beginning of my return to any semblance of normality.”

Here it is in its entirety:

It’s been almost a year, I’ve been thinking of you,
It hurts as much now as when my loss was new.
I remember that day, the terror, the pain,
The weight on my chest, in that ER again.

When they felt for a pulse but could not find one,
They made me leave that room; then I knew I was done.
My heart, how it pounded; I screamed in my head,
“I can’t lose this boy, who’ll care for me?” I said.

“IT DOESN’T LOOK GOOD”… chilling words that will forever
Sound in my mind, allow my poor heart to never
Forget the worst thing ever said to a mom or a dad;
I can’t imagine anything else ever being so sad.

“Sensei Rick” was there too, trying, despite his own grief
To console us, our loss, so enormously deep.
A loss, I’ve learned, from talking with so many
Is shared by all who knew you, even just barely.

I felt the wrench in my gut, the spin in my head,
The grip on my heart, and wished I were dead.
I knew for weeks after, this was only a dream,
Surely, I’d wake up soon; all was not what it seemed.

Driving home in shock, I was so very amazed
How everyone else acted absolutely unfazed.
Didn’t they know my whole world just fell apart?
Heaven’s reclaimed angel went home to create a new chart.

That morning I returned home in utter disbelief
My heart feeling black, sunk so deep in its grief,
A FedEx box at the door delivered your new beeper
For your next set of lungs, borrowed from their last keeper.

I talked to Geoff on the phone; he was to see you in the ‘Burgh that day.
He wondered what had happened, in my shock, I couldn’t say.
From the hospital, in pain, we’d just returned,
Our friends down in Pittsburgh had all just now learned

Of your fate – today you would not be down,
We’d soon have to lay our dear son in the ground.
How could this happen? It’s just not right
That our sweet child is gone; so empty, so dark, so hollow the night.

So many who loved you – Gram, Stace, Candy and Dad…
So many in shock, thinking of fun we’d all had.
Suddenly all over, now how could this be?
I should be up there with you, or you down here with me!

I remember the big bear that you’d shot, standing tall, dark and scary
And how the taxidermist took too long to get it ready.
Your braces, still on, still doing their work, though not yet done
How could God call you now, so much left to do – work, play and fun?

The truck you promised to work so hard for,
To drive in only six months, well, that’s out the door!
It sat there on the lot, still at the dealer,
Waiting for you to climb in and drive; your very own four-wheeler.

You went to Charlotte with Make-A-Wish and Dad,
Met Earnhardt and others, a huge dream that you’d had.
You saw racecars, met drivers and owners, had your picture taken.
They autographed your jacket and hat; you were honored yet shaken.

My little black belt, I bragged far and wide,
Began young winning trophies, I boasted with pride.
Teaching others your skills in and out of the dojo
Everyone who met you loved and respected you so.

Craig, your “big brother”, hurt so much from this…
Remembers the fun things you both did, the guns and their clips.
The cardinal incident – oh, you learned much that day
From this big guy you admired, “Please, Mom, can’t we stay?”

You cried when we left him; you both wrote back and forth,
You looked forward to next time, not knowing you both
Would never set eyes on each other again,
No more laughter or shared secrets – too soon, a fallen friend.

He carried you high on those strong shoulders so wide,
You were proud and cocky up there, on your tall ride.
Lifted up like a feather, not a care did you have,
In heaven already, with him you were even more brave.

You wanted to be just like Craig; big strong and wise,
But you were so darn small and thin; a giant in disguise.
You didn’t know the strength and the courage you had,
He admires your determination and misses you; he’s so very sad.

He’s sad that you’re gone from us, taken all too soon,
He’ll miss all the things that you both liked to do.
I hope precious memories of you get him through
As they help all those many who admire and still love you.

You’d been put back on the waiting list, much to your dismay
And came home disappointed, sad, that last-appointment day.
So, we decided to take the Blazer and drive over “The Falls.”
We laughed out loud (crying inside); our spirits had hit a solid rock wall.

You still clearly remembered the pain, the hospital bed,
Your intense fear that you’d soon be dead.
I still see the look of terror on your face soon after transplant,
The very same one I saw that last day, as if to say, “Mom, I can’t…”

Later, Cindy shared with me what you’d said when I left that room
To reach out for help in Pittsburgh, those rip-your-heart-out words of gloom:
“Don’t tell my mom, I don’t want her to cry”.
Your concern was for me, though you knew to heaven you’d soon fly.

I thought I’d had a pact with God; He went back on his word.
If he’d give you your health (what a double-edged sword),
I’d trade places in a heartbeat, give you all the wealth;
The jewels of no worries; the gift of your breath.

The gems of no pills, no pain, tubes or knife,
No watching your struggle for breath, I’d give you my life!
Can’t I trade with him, O God, please just this one,
My life on this earth for that of my son?

What good was I, unable to keep you alive?
Wasn’t that my job, to protect and provide?
God, I so need that wonderful, great child
To be back in my house, in my arms, by my side.

I wanted so badly once more to hold you,
To talk, and to comfort and be fearless too,
Or at least say goodbye one very last time;
Never given the chance, my grief is honed fine.

I needed so much to hear your sweet voice, then…
Dreamed I heard you say “Mom”, then “MOM!” once again.
You stood there so close, right by my bed,
Scared me nearly to death ‘til your familiar chuckle echoed ‘round in my head.

In your short lifetime you offered so much, so true,
So much more to me than I could ever give you.
Perfect gift from God but not so well heeded,
Surprise child I didn’t realize I wanted, but profoundly needed.

You taught me no longer to be selfish or vain;
Dear, precious child, I tried to ease all your pain.
To talk, boast and brag about all you had done;
But ultimately, you and you alone were the important one.

God, please let us trade places, I’ve been here long enough.
Let my near-man come back; make his times here less tough.
Josh, you took my heart with you when you suddenly left,
I don’t know how to survive, absolutely bereft.

But I know if I show up in heaven too early
Before I’ve been able to honor your memory,
You’d surely kick butt for my giving up on life,
‘Cause my job down here now is to lead, help overcome strife.

After the pain, the close calls, that awful chopper trip,
Damn treatments, cutting, staples and those surgical clips,
The meds, breathless nights, protocols closely followed,
You paid so very dearly; it leaves my heart hollowed.

We did what we should, you took all those pills!
The biopsies, tests, x-rays, all such steep hills.
You endured all their probing, my pushing, their rules,
None of this was enough, God, you would not be fooled.

So many weeks in hospitals, together we spent.
Guess that wasn’t enough…oh, please let me vent
My deep pain, my frustration, with all this I thought
A good life several times over that surely, you’d bought.

So many reminders roam around work; there they stay.
Doctors, nurses and techs tried to save you that day.
Now the choppers fly in, send my window a-rattle,
They remind me of you as you fought your final battle.

To the hospital the last chopper from Pittsburgh fast flew,
But not fast enough, my pain grew and grew.
You lay there, finally resting, no more pain and at peace,
We stood there beside you, questioning how your life could have ceased.

You’d accepted her gift of lungs to extend your best times,
And after you’d done your finest, made an offering in kind.
You gave up your eyes so a baby boy who coos
Could see his whole life through your own baby-blues.

Memories of that day never stop – it’s unending doom.
Words that were spoken, friends’ faces, profound gloom!
Sometimes I still don’t believe that this happened, just a dream, I am sure.
I’ll wake up any time; now you’ll be here – my sweet cure.

The chest film I did, only two weeks later was in that same room.
Poor old man, short of breath, all tubed up, made my head boom,
It tore my heart out – I nearly lost my cool head,
I could only think of you going to heaven from that very same bed.

Leaving there, next door, I saw a friend who had cared,
He asked how you were; that day my heart was not to be spared.
I told him what happened, our loss was so great.
He felt bad for asking. How much longer do I carry this weight?

The week after you left, Make-A-Wish called about a new NASCAR thing.
They knew that you’d love it, so they gave us a ring.
They had yet not heard about our terrible loss;
They thought of this gift only for my beloved Josh.

The magazines of motocross, of transplants, of guns
Continued to come, so I called them one by one.
I asked please, quit sending a monthly reminder.
You were no longer here to read them; I could phrase it no kinder.

Then came a friend from out of town who hadn’t heard,
She asked how I was, and about you too, how you fared.
My pain was so great, but that, I knew I must weather.
Escaping back to my office, I tried to put my shattered heart back together.

I know you would like my new best-friend man,
He’s even sometimes a Dale Earnhardt fan!
Though you met just a few times, he’s your kind of guy
Honest, forthright and kind…and a little bit shy.

Now please Josh, lend your strength, your sharp wit;
Your courage, your humor, your immense spirit;
The jokes and the laughs, that twinkle in your eye,
The love of your friends, (now I’ll make me cry!).

Give me the strength that helped you through pain, fear and dread.
Help me help those, who in our shoes must now tread
Through the months of their sickness, remind me of you,
All the worries, the terror, torment you went through.

Can I bear my own pain, be strong for them all?
I’m not sure I have it, Josh: Oh, please give me a call!
For those who need lungs, a kidney, heart, liver…
Can I do this for them? Memories make me quiver.

Help me be strong, keep your love in my head.
Some of these new friends hang on just by a thread.
Give me the strength which kept you alive
For so long; the doctors were amazed you’d survived.

Give to me, my young Sensei, sweet son almost driving,
That which sustained you, kept you constantly striving
For life, fun and laughter; hunting, fishing, four-wheelers,
Motorcycles and friends, those crazy snowmobilers.

Look down on me from your special place up there in heaven,
Lend me your clarity, your now crystal-clear vision.
Gaze down upon me, lend me your strength;
You will see that I give it my all, going to any length.

Just to know that you’re up there in heaven looking out,
Those eyes watching and guiding me, stumbling blindly about,
Forgiving life’s errors, flaws and faults in each,
Helps my heart find a comforting corner of peace.

For all those deer, the squirrels, bear, and turkey,
For that man, we knew in our hearts was so “jerky”.
Give me your strength, your humor, and power of life,
After this, I will never know comparable strife.

To Alaska with Dad, for hunting with bow,
Hopes and plans that you made; yeah honey, I know.
For all those things you so badly needed to do,
You ran out of time, so now I offer this humble tribute to you:

Greatest person I’ve known, the best kid that I’ve met,
The closest to God on this Earth I’ll ever get!
So honored to have known you, only child of mine,
Wish it could’ve been me; let you stay here, feeling fine.

Up there greeting children leaving Earth at too young an age,
Helping them adjust to their new life, to turn their own page.
Teach them as you did me, to love without doubt,
Show them white beaming light, your joyful, “visual shout”.

If all our precious memories make a kings’ palace bright,
In heaven, there’s a throne (or at least a motorcycle) in dazzling white light.
If all these things exist, as I know they must, then you surely fit,
And there’s a place near the Pearly Gates, on your bike, where you sit.

With unending Love and Respect,

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