Out of the hospital’s ER unit in time to write Part two of the New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado road trip, but I didn’t feel so hot, so this is the substitute:
Wrote this in 2007, six months after my son, Josiah died. You may want to skip it. It’s not lighthearted. Consider yourself warned.
* * *
Josiah did things early. Walked at nine months, rode a bike at three and one-half years, ran like the wind at six years. Always in a hurry, as if he knew his time was short.
My daughter, Valerie, found some stocks worth $450 that she had bought for Josiah—he was too young to buy them. He could have used that money his last year. He’d been influenced by a famous speaker named Anthony Robbins whose basic teaching was, “You, too, can be rich.” Now we’re being hounded by people for money that Josiah owed while he was trying to get rich. He had nothing when he died.
My son, Caleb, repaired Josiah’s “flip” house. It’s now for sale. I don’t expect much from it. It was really the bank’s problem, but Karyl and I thought it would honor Josiah if we sold it for him. That included paying the back taxes for 2005 and 2006, paying to get the water and electricity back on and, getting nasty calls from the city warning us to trim the trees off the power lines behind the house, and of course, dealing with the crack cocaine addict next door. We’ll take almost any offer on the stupid house. Caleb thinks Josiah is watching from heaven and he wants to honor his brother. Maybe he’s right. I drove an hour each week to mow the grass but didn’t help Caleb much. Like a lot of things lately, I couldn’t seem to manage it. Pathetic.
Spent Wednesday night in the hospital. They take good care of you. For example, they wake you every hour to see if you’re sleeping okay. Not only that but a blood pressure cuff automatically fires up and squeezes your arm without warning all night, just in case you manage to fall asleep. Six months after Josiah died, my blood pressure shot up and the meds weren’t bringing it down. The doctors didn’t like the way my heart chart looked. Tomorrow I go back to the heart specialist. But I know what’s wrong. My heart doesn’t beat the same since Josiah died. You would think it could go on beating as it did so faithfully for fifty-five years, but part of it died with Josiah. For a while, I wanted to die too, but that’s God’s decision, isn’t it? He’ll do what’s right and good in His own time.
We grieve differently. My wife, Karyl, wanted everything belonging to Josiah moved into our house. I didn’t. Even a fleeting glance at his keys would twist my heart so hard that my eyes started leaking.
Valerie is helping Karyl design a fancy gravestone made with photocopying lasers. The stone will have my son’s image wearing his Karate garb (karategi) doing a high kick. The laser technology might put some stone masons out of work, but for some reason, I just don’t care. I’m too wrapped up in my own selfish world of pain. Pathetic.
Last Wednesday we visited a church called Aldersgate. On the way, I asked the Lord to let Josiah know that I miss him. Not knowing the rules, I wasn’t sure whether this was possible, so I asked Him to give me a token if He relayed the message. At church, the song leader asked for requests. I raised my hand each time, but other people were chosen for the three songs. The leader closed her book and walked away. At the door, she suddenly whirled and marched back. “We have time for one more,” she said. This time she chose me and we sang “It is Well with My Soul.” I moved my lips, but nothing came out as I accepted God’s token. It is well with my soul, but not with my stupid heart. That song was sung at Josiah’s funeral and it is a great comfort to me. To Karyl it’s the opposite. She never wants to hear it again. We mourn differently.
I sat through the Bible study with my head up. I tried to look normal. I don’t think anyone noticed that my eyes were spilling tears. Pathetic.
There are many things worse than a son’s death. Many, many things. I remind my heart every day. I tell it to stop whining and do its job as it did for fifty-five years, but it is not listening. It is remembering my son. It is crying like King David “Oh my son, my son! Would to God I had died in your place.”
I am not as depressed now, but my blasted heart just isn’t beating right. I get horrific headaches on my right temple from high blood pressure. The CAT scanned my head and said it looked okay, but who’d trust a cat with a thing like that? I think my head is in a war with my heart to see who’s in charge. I’m wondering if anyone is. There’s nothing quite as pathetic as a heart that refuses to do its job and a head that won’t take control.
I miss my son. I have three other children who make me proud every day. I didn’t love Josiah more—just differently.
Last night I had a dream. I stood at a picnic table with ten sitting people. Josiah looked up and saw me.
“Hey, Dad! It’s great up here,” he said.
Behind me I heard Karyl say, “Let me see, Johnny. I wanna see our son, too.”
“You can’t, Honey,” I said, “It’s my private dream.”
Editor: Tell Mrs. Harmon, my seventh grade English teacher, that Johnny knows that ‘lotta’ and ‘wanna’ are not real words. Tell her his readers will figger it out. He’ll be back to his superficial, shallow, flippant self in no time. But some things have to be faced alone and Johnny needs to walk through this without us.
Johnny Hayre worked at E-Systems/Raytheon/L-3 until he retired in 2013. He and wife Karyl have lived in Greenville since 2002 and are now “empty-nesters.” They have three living children and seven grandchildren, who are each beautiful, intelligent and all the usual parent-grandparent praises. Email him at GHB.JohnnyHayre@gmail.com.