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March 28, 2011

See You in Another Life, Brother.

It is extremely rare for me to post personal blogs here, but there were friends and family who couldn't attend the memorial service (we had on March 5, 2011) for my brother Joey and they asked if there was a way I could share some of the celebration with them. Posting here was the easiest and broadest way to do it with its easy Internet access; especially because there are many family members who don't partake in the "social sites" and it was important to my mom that family had a way to share all the Joeyness of Joey.   I think I'll only leave this post up for a short while.

For those of you who don't know what has happened...well, here goes...
A few days before Thanksgiving my brother passed away from an asthma attack.  It has been a heartbreaking few months for me and my family.   Writing his eulogy and putting together the memorial video was extremely emotional for me. I just wanted to pay my brother the honor he deserves.
Theresa presents mom the flag flown on a mission in Joey's honor, by Theresa's son Jamie.
 Randy reads Kristen's memorial to her Uncle Joey.
Me giving Joey's eulogy.

Joey’s Eulogy: A Celebration of Life.

Thank you all for joining my sister Theresa, our mom Anita and our family in celebrating my brother, Joey’s life. Can I just say that…this sucks! I can’t even believe I’m in this room with all of you memorializing my baby brother. This all feels so unreal.

I welcome those who feel moved to get up and share a story; a memory of Joey.
Joey, I hope you can feel all the love we have for you.

On November 22, 2010, you all lost a friend and fellow musician. My sister Theresa and I and our husbands lost our brother, niece and nephews lost their uncle, our grandmother lost her grandson, and our mother lost her only son.

Most of us in this room know Joey the musician and creative person. Everyone in this room shared different relationships with Joey and we all saw very different sides to him. There’s no denying Joey was a character and a laugh riot and he was definitely unique.

Joey was born with debilitating asthma. I remember him having terrible attacks all throughout his life. I knew in my heart that because of the asthma I wasn’t going to have him forever and this caused me to spend a lot of my life worrying about him.

My brother was every bit our father Joseph’s pride and joy. Joey was his baby and my brother knew it. They loved each other a lot. In 1981 our father passed away suddenly and this turned Joey’s life completely upside down and left him in a lot of pain that lasted his entire life.

Our mother dedicated her life to being a single mom raising her three very individual kids. Life was pretty damn hard for us as we were very poor and lived together with our Grandmother. There were times Joey or J2 as some of you know him, kind of hated being in a house of all women and he let us know it.

Joey’s life’s journey was a very long and winding road. I’m not going to sugar coat it…It was fuckin’ rough. His love of music was his only refuge and his outlet. We were lucky because we grew up in a house filled with music…a lot of cursing…but a lot of music and unconditional love.

Joey truly was a King of the Highway. He loved to travel. It brought him joy that being a musician took him to new places. He really was one who took every experience in no matter what it was.
He had always been a man of faith who believed in Jesus and the bible. He was very proud to be an American and showed support for our troops every time he could. He was extremely proud of his nephew Jamie who is in service in the Air Force today.

Joey could spend hours watching history shows and the news. He took such an interest in what was going on in the world. Now mind you, I know firsthand how opinionated he can be with some topics like religion and politics. Those are two subjects you didn’t want to get into a conversation with him about. He was very opinionated and stood strong on his views. So for me and him these subjects were off the table…waaay off!

Joey loved taking photographs of everything, writing stories and writing music, basically anything that would cultivate his creativity. Joey and I shared enthusiasm for creativity.

Whenever there was a family event and a video camera handy, it was Joey who was the cameraman and narrator. Whenever we’d watch a playback of the event he videotaped you just had to laugh out loud because his narration was hysterical… very Joey.

Joey was an amazing artist, as opposed to me who can’t even draw a straight line with a ruler. When we were in the band All Fired Up together he literally created our newsletters and flyers by cutting out his own clip art and pasting them on to paper, hence his new work of art would be born. No computers were ever involved in any of those newsletters and flyers!

I know that it was through his creativity that Joey really loved showing us the world through his eyes.
Joey was deep, but you had to be careful because he could get very intense with how deep he would get with his thoughts. Not for nothing, but sometimes he was a real pain in the ass about it! But that was Joey and one of the many reasons I loved him.

Joey was everything a brother is…totally funny, opinionated, yeah, sometimes a pain in the ass, yet extremely caring, very supportive, protective and loved us deeply.

Something that took people by surprise was that there was a six year age difference between me and Joey; people thought we were very close in age because we shared a close bond.

For me there are moments I can say Joey was the typical brother, as I was the typical sister, and we would get in to arguments. But those stupid moments mean nothing as there were often very special moments he played a direct role in my own life. I can only speak for myself here, as my sister will share her sentiments shortly. But I can tell you Joey enjoyed spending as much time as he could with our sister Theresa and her family. After all, Theresa and Wally throw the best parties!

Joey walked me down the aisle on my wedding day; he and Cris remodeled our first apartment, and helped me and Cris move down to Florida. My brother even literally picked me up off the floor in a moment of personal heartbreak. I also know it was extremely hard for Joey when I was battling cancer.

A weird thing is that me and my mother were recently talking about when I was in the hospital during the time I was sick, and I was really out of it and don’t remember certain things with clarity or even at all…but my mother said that Joey had such a hard time with me being sick that he couldn’t bring himself to see me in the hospital. The weird thing is that I can see in my mind’s eye Joey in that hospital room sitting in the chair next to me and I can see him walking out to leave…so I think the chance does exist that Joey did indeed come and sit with me but I don’t remember, I can’t remember! And not remembering if it really happened or not pisses me off!

Of course I hold very close to my heart the years we played all those All Fired Up gigs together. We got to share our love of music and entertained people together. I know he was very proud of that time together.

Cris and I brought Joey in to our band All Fired Up. Remember, Joey was a bass player. But we wanted to keep the band a family project, so we nudged Joey out of his comfort zone and encouraged him to play guitar for our four piece band. Although he was very nervous at first, he did a great job. In the beginning Cris worked with him on the songs, but Cris taught him so much more. I know for a fact Joey was appreciative of all of this because Joey actually told me two weeks before he passed away.

Joey and I shared and celebrated our relationship as brother and sister at every gig by performing a duet together, just me and him. It would totally blow people away when they realized we were brother and sister.

The most important thing to Joey and the only thing he could ever truly bank on was family.
His living with asthma was a terribly frightening and frustrating thing for him. I know his frustration with not being able to breathe was the basis for his anger and frustrations.
People may say that Joey may have been many things, good or bad…but no one could ever argue or take away the fact that Joey was a brave man.

Some people didn’t understand why Joey only dedicated his life to music and never got a “real job”, and still lived home with my mother. And some people were outright shits to him about it. The only way I explain it is that was the way it always was supposed to be. My mother and Joey loved each other very much and they shared a very tight mother/son bond. Creativity was Joey’s gift, his purpose. Joey knew his time on this Earth was limited and the greatest gift my mother could give Joey was the freedom to live …and to live his life making music.

My mother was there for Joey’s very first breath into this existence and she was the only one there for his very last breath. In my heart I know that’s the way it was always meant to be.

My brother had some sort of gift of “knowing” things. (Which that too would make him a pain in the ass at times) but because of his “knowing” about his life, he didn’t leave a wife and children behind. I personally feel like the pain and trauma he felt when our dad died was something he never wanted to leave his own wife and children with.

Two weeks before Joey passed, I sat with him for a couple of hours after he got home from the Emergency Room with another bad asthma attack, and we talked, I should say Joey talked. I am very blessed that I got to hear what he had to say to me and share with me and I will hold it close to my heart every day. But it was in this conversation that he revealed that he knew the asthma was going to kill him now and that his time left here was short.

I hate that I’ll never get to hug him again. I knew I wouldn’t have Joey forever and I still took his presence for granted and that is weighing on me heavily. That’s what life does, it gets in the way and we take “time” and each other for granted.

I cared so much and worried so much about Joey’s health and well being. And it broke my heart to see how alone his was and how lonely he always felt. Music was Joey’s only place of safety. People didn’t understand his intensity and frustration with his life, but what it really was- was his frustration not being able to literally breathe.

With all the Joeyness that is Joey, no one can ever take away the fact that Joey cared about people and family. He loved giving back, whether it was teaching or encouraging another musician, and it didn’t even matter if they were a first timer or a seasoned professional. He never cared how much money you had, where you lived, what you look like or what insecurities you possessed, and he always tried to push you to do better or do more. He really only ever wanted the best for others. This is part of Joey I was always most proud of.

Joey, along with our mother, Anita, donated their hair to Locks of Love. And a finale testament to his character can be noted when he literally donated himself as part of the donor program to others in need, so they could go on living their lives ... that in of itself makes him a true fuckin’ ROCK STAR!

The thing about life is that we all have our own path to travel. Sure, we meet others along the path, but the path is still individualized for each of us for our own lessons, in our own time. Paths cross and then separate, and low and behold, they will re-cross if they are meant to. You live your path and Joey lived his path. I feel that once Joey ultimately "learned" what he was supposed to learn during his rough journey, his path literally ended. It’s as if Joey literally authored and scripted his life story, the beginning, the middle and the end.

Now that Joey's path has ended, I totally understand and have respect for his journey and what he endured and where it led him along the way.

Joey’s legacy is that he did touch people and he loved deeply, even when he didn’t want you to know it.
What I want to impress upon you all is that the Joeyness of Joey may have been hard for some to comprehend, but know that Joey always had the best intentions of making your life more fun, challenging, creative and most importantly he wanted you to feel the love.

I hope Joey’s story motivates you to never take a photo opportunity for granted, capture the world through your eyes and savor all the memories you can, and I also hope Joey inspired you to keep your family close.

My mother raised us in a crazy house where we all had to endure some very poor, scary and painful times. But even with the crazy time we never had to wonder if we all loved each other, because through the good bad and ugly of life, we do love each other. And Joey knew the importance of all of this.
Family is the foundation we are built on. We really do only need a few things to survive in this word…Water, Food, Shelter and people who love us. We don’t need everyone to love us, but it sure helps when you can bank on your family’s unconditional love, even when the rest of the world is behaving ugly.

Joey didn’t want for very much. All he really ever wanted was to be able to breathe like a normal person, he wanted to share his music and creativity with the world, he dreamed of taking care of me, Theresa and our mother and he wanted a family that loved him unconditionally. I can rest comfortably knowing we, his family loved him unconditionally.

Joey left this Earth without a wife or girlfriend, no children, no home or car of his own and NONE of that matters, none of it…as long as we had each other, us, family and all of us here today. It is true…the best things in life aren’t “things” it is us and the love and inspiration we leave with each other. Joey is the epitome of that sentiment.

The end of Joey’s path, his story, leaves us to have to go on without him. A huge part of me died with losing Joey and I’m not sure how to find a way to live without him around. But I must try because that’s what Joey always wanted. He wanted us to love him, to let go of him, but most importantly to never forget him.

I know Joey can’t hear me and that only adds to my pain. I am having a really, really hard time without him here. My heart is so broken. Even though we shared so much before he left, there is still so much I want him to know and I'll never get to say to him. My only place of true peace comes from knowing that he is free from his suffering. I thank him for the years he blessed me by letting me be his little big sister and for all the things we shared. I'm not happy that my path will no longer have him on it, but I understand and know we walked it together for as long as we were supposed to. I just need for him to know that I love him.

Joey, I hope you are finally having your moment in the sun. And you are right Joey, you and I both "get it". My baby brother, I love you and miss you desperately and you are part of me forever.

I hope you don’t forget Joey. I hope there are times in your life when you can recall a moment that Joey made your day a little more "Joey-like".

Memorial Video:
I created this is the memorial video to honor Joey and to share his story with you. All of the images and footage in conjunction with the songs and their words say something important.  Everything in the video represents everything that was part of Joey and what was important to him.
These are real images and footage and some of it old and the quality isn’t very good, but I tried. There were so many more images that I wanted to include but I still think you’ll get a clear understand of the Joeyness of Joey.
Now I want Joey to tell you his story. Enjoy!

3 comments:

  1. Karen....I can't even speak. The tears are running down my face and dripping onto my pants. What a beautiful eulogy, if a better one exists, I doubt it compares. I feel I know Joey now, and what a wonderful human being. I am leaving this reading, a better person. Shit that I think matters, just doesn't. Having lifelong asthma myself, I understand the frustration completely. I know in my heart, Joey put all his pain aside, and DID come see you in the hospital. He is inside your soul now and always. Thank you for allowing us to share your pain and comfort you. I love you~Debby

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  2. Thank you Debby. Now that part is behind us and now I have to move forward as best I can.
    Love ya back!

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  3. You're welcome Karen! I'm sure you will move forward with grace and live life to the fullest in honor of Joey's memory. You have proven how strong you are :) xoxo

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