As told in an email by his father
I was just on the internet searching
desperately for some clue as how to survive my son’s suicide when I discovered
your site. My son, Joshua, was just a few weeks short of his 16th
birthday when he took his life on August 20, 2006. To say I am stunned
does not begin to explain my state of mind. I never saw this coming!
There was no history of mental illness, no apparent depression, no indication
this was a possibility. I am struggling to accept that this has happened;
just to get through each day; praying that the pain will somehow subside.
I don’t think that is going to happen.
|As I replay the last few months
of Joshua’s life in my mind, I can now see now all of the clues he was
giving me that he needed help. I missed them all and I should have
paid closer attention to what was going on in his life. I have so
much guilt and regret for letting him down. It is like watching the
movie, “Sixth Sense.” I missed all the clues on the first viewing,
but with the advantage of a second viewing, one suddenly sees all of the
clues that now appear so clear and obvious. Joshua is also survived
by his mother, Janice, my wife of the last 26 years; two sisters, Amanda
25 and Samantha 22.
My wife and I own a fireworks display
company, and following a successful July 4th season, had planned on taking
a three day weekend at the lake. This lake is about a 4 hour drive
from our house and we keep our ski boat that Joshua loved, there.
But, Josh refused to go on this trip, mostly because no friends were available
to come along. I initially delayed the trip a day and was not going
to go without Josh. Joshua was able to talk his mother and me into
going without him, and in the process making us feel somehow that it was
We arranged for his 22 year old
sister to spend the weekend at our house with her brother while we went
out of town. We left that morning with Joshua still sleeping.
It all seemed so normal. Until the next morning at 2 am.
I was awakened by a telephone call
from Joshua’s sister telling me that he had shot himself. She didn’t
know if he was alive or not.
||We jumped into our truck, partially
dressed and began our journey through hell. The gates of hell opened
with a telephone call, and then closed behind me as I drove 4 hours to
the hospital. I have not been able to escape hell since.
My wife is a Registered Nurse at
the hospital where Josh was taken. For some unknown reason, the attending
physician decided to tell my wife that Joshua, was being kept alive on
life support, but that he was “fixed and dilated,” brain dead to us laymen.
We spent the last hour of our drive knowing that there was no hope for
our son. We then made the most difficult decision of a life – to
donate organs. He was maintained on life support for the next 18
hours before being taken to the operating room for the procedure.
Our journey then took us to a funeral
home to make the arrangements for our son’s burial. I remember being
asked by the funeral director how many prayer cards I wanted. How
many prayer cards? How was I supposed to know? I asked him
how many are typically ordered. He said 100-200, so I asked for 250
because Joshua was so young. Our parish priest had accompanied us
and suggested that since and my wife and I are fairly well known in our
community, that we get at least 500. Well, over 1,100 people showed
up including several hundred kids. All I could think of was where
were all of these kids when Josh was looking for someone to go to the lake
with. Where were they then! I’d still have my son and I wouldn’t
be trapped in hell. It would just have been a normal weekend.
I asked each of these kid’s to kneel before Joshua’s closed casket and
say a prayer for him. I just wanted Josh to know that he had so many
friends and that he is loved.
I found no relief in Joshua’s
wake – all those people and no one could tell me how it came to this.
His funeral mass filled our Church to overflowing capacity, but again I
found no answers. I must send you the homily that Father Leo said
for Josh. It was beautiful! He discussed how he believed that
in Joshua’s mind, taking his own life was somehow a confused and misguided
act of love. A friend who suffered a similar tragedy commented later
that he had waited nine years for someone to tell him those words.
They tell me that nearly 200 cars were in Joshua’s funeral procession,
but I still feel so alone and abandoned. I can’t explain it.
In the days following his burial, I began to feel afraid that he would
be forgotten as people got on with their lives. I then began planning
a celebration of Joshua’s life. I was still looking for some form
of comfort and acceptance that neither his wake, funeral or burial provided
.So on his 16th birthday, September
26, 2006, we held a huge party for Joshua. I had this event in a
park very near where Joshua is buried. I wanted him to be able to
see and hear the fireworks display that we provided for him.
I also arranged for a shuttle bus,
so that the 400-500 guests could be taken to Joshua’s grave site.
I both wanted for Joshua to know that they were there and for them to know
where to find him, hoping that they would return and visit him if they
knew where he is buried. I also wanted it to be Joshua’s party and
not mine, so I had his ipod, completely uncensored, played through a huge
professional sound system. Josh would have loved it!!! His
friends all did!
Being surrounded by all those kids
helped that night, but I can’t do a huge party often enough to get me through
this. I do think it had an effect though. I didn’t waste the
opportunity to reach out to these kids and tell them if they know of anyone
talking about suicide to tell someone, tell anyone, tell everyone!!!
Also, the last two Fridays, car loads of kids have shown up at Joshua’s
grave site. They sit and have pizza and talk with each other, mostly
telling each other their favorite Josh story.
||I’m afraid that I’m beginning to
ramble. I’m not sure why I’ve sat here and laid out my horrible story.
I guess I just think that you will understand and hope you are able to
offer some secret way to tell me how to survive the pain of his loss.
If you have the time look at Joshua’s on-line guest book. I think
it provides some insight to him from other people the address for his guest
book is - (http://www.legacy.com/STLToday/DeathNotices.asp?Page=MailStory&PersonID=18970256).
You see Joshua was picked on in
grade school. As he grew older he also grew taller. Joshua
was over 6’3” tall and towered over most of the one time bullies.
He hated to see anyone picked on and if he did he always went to their
defense. He was a great supporter of the underdog. I carry
a coin representing Saint Jude in Joshua’s honor. You see Saint Jude
is the Patron Saint of Hopeless Causes, so was Joshua.
Godspeed and God bless you,
(and as Joshua would surely say, Peace…)
Emails can be sent to John at John@gatewayfireworks.com
A link to Joshua's memorial website
can be found at www.gatewayfireworks.com
my hand, give me hugs, share my tears, and smiles, ...love me as I heal.".
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There, Done That'
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Meaning of Life
Jared's Sister says: