Seven years ago tomorrow was supposed to be a fun day. We were with a big group of our friends thousands of miles out in the ocean on a huge cruise ship gathered together to celebrate our 28th wedding anniversary. We had just finished some pleasant island shopping on St. Thomas. I had bought Josh a tee shirt, "So many bars, so little time" I knew he'd get a kick out of that one. Josh was always foremost in my mind. He was my angel, my most brilliant creation, my GIFT to the world!
But..let me tell you life can change in a micro second!
It's well placed advise from someone who has lived it...never, ever, think that you will have your loved ones forever.
Even when they might annoy you, remember...you never can count on seeing them tomorrow.
May 17th, seven years ago was the WORST day of my entire life. It was the day we got a phone call out in the middle of the deep blue sea that the absolute LOVE of his father's and my life was dead.
DEAD...my mind just couldn't accept it!
When I heard this news from a homicide detective that had tracked us down through one of Josh's friends I felt my soul lift up out of my body and hover above to observe a screaming hysterical little lady collapsed to the floor of the ship.
She was writhing in agony smack in the middle of it's lobby with thousands of strangers milling all around her.
WHO was that crazy human down there...I was always so dignified and so together in times of crisis...it certainly couldn't be ME...I didn't even allow myself to scream out in labor pains delivering my 10 pound 11 oz baby boy...it was just so heathen...not me...not ME at all!
But yet...there I was..I didn't care WHO saw me or WHAT they thought...I had just lost my everything!
My Mother's intuition had been screaming to me before this trip...very loudly and very CLEARLY! "DON'T GO!" I absolutely did NOT want to go on this cruise, even though it had been planned and paid for 6 months prior. I just had a nagging feeling that our young adult son aged 22 needed us at home.
Josh and I had just arrived back home a few days earlier...from a 10 day mother/son trip to NYC for the Tribeca Film Fest. It was something that Josh coveted...he LOVED the city, and he wanted to be a film maker so "The Becca" was his idea of heaven.
His father will not step a foot into the city...but his momma is always up for adventure so off we went. It was good times, broadway shows, film screenings, travel to the museums, and lots of wonderful restaurants. Each day we were up early with a whole list of things to do. We were out and about until the wee hours of the morning and frankly I was pooped from the trip.
Josh was taking a film writing workshop, I wanted to scout out some cool bead shops, we went to the top of the rock at Rockerfeller Center...it was all non stop fun. But yet...there was this little nagging 'mother feeling' that something was a little 'off' with Josh. I couldn't put my finger on it exactly...but it WAS there!
Josh and I LOVED the Museum of Natural History..it was our favorite attraction in NYC.
Josh in Little Italy...he was such a handsome young man! So talented and so accepting of other people. I remember walking in Times Square evenings where local young artists were trying to get people to buy their c.ds.
I would rush past them...always safety conscious from my many years in the banking industy about personal protection...but not Josh...he patiently listened to their c.ds with the headphones they offered him. Then he took the time to stand there in the swarming masses of tourists and give them input on how commercial he thought their tunes might be. He was quite the song writer himself and had been in a rock group. He was taking guitar lessons so he knew what he was talking about and they seemed to appreciate his input.
In the meantime I was impatiently standing to the side, giving Josh the 'hairy eyeball' while tapping my foot..."Come ON Josh, you can't be all things to all people ALL the time!"
But he could...and he was!
Josh and his buddies started an irreverent group called "The Gods of MySpace" this was when that site was the IT thing. He wrote blogs on different things that annoyed him called "This Really Grinds my Gears" he had such a funny sarcastic way of looking at things. He always made me laugh so hard I'd think my sides would split.
I miss his sick jokes!
Josh was a natural performer. He loved to dress up in character and make people laugh. Sometimes he'd even make himself laugh. I'm "SO STELLAR"...he'd say!
But often this was a facade. Deep down inside he was a deep thinker and a very sensitive guy. He never really ever gave himself credit for his vast and deep talents. He always told me "Hey mummers, I'm just the good guy on the outside looking in."
People really didn't 'get' Josh.
Mundane people rarely do recognize greatness..even when it is right in front of them.
His friends were quick to pour out their hearts when they were down in the dumps. I used to walk by Josh on his cellphone where he'd sit and listen to them for HOURS and point to my watch and roll my eyes!
He spent SO much of his life consoling his friends. But where were they when Josh needed them? I know he called at least 5 of them the night he was SO desperate for help. His cellphone had their stored numbers of outgoing calls with the times he made them and a few of their return 'don't bother me now' messages back to him...Hey Josh, it's late. Call me tomorrow.
There was NO tomorrow for Josh...at least here on the earth plane. If I were one of those kids or the kid that was with him in our house when he breathed his last breathe...I'd never be able to live with myself. Why DO these kids have no soul? Are they desensitized by all the brutal video games they play all day? I don't get it!
Even on the ship we were cruising on it was soooo eery went a young teen with his big graduation group went missing. The ship's investigation crew later found video of how he had drank himself stupid with his large group of friends while they were filming him and his apathy like some kind of sick snuff film. Using this poor guy and his helpless state for their own personal SICK entertainment.
He later staggered up on the ships top balcony with no one stopping him and leaned over the balcony to throw up. The winds were so strong that night they swept him overboard. No one there to help him...no one there to witness the sad event other than the security camera. I said to my husband when we heard of this that his parents might die when they heard and saw how heartless these other kids in his group were.
But then, there WE were right beside them in the same horrifying situation.
We almost chose to end our own sad lives that night. We could easily have jumped off our balcony late into the night after we heard of the news about our Josh. None of our friends offered to stay with us, or even worried about what a vulnerable state we were in.
I guess you just don't think of those things if it's not your child.
DH and I were leaning WAY out and over the balcony rail off our stateroom holding hands crying our eyes out, the swirling black waters were churning far below. They seemed to be beckoning us to come and join our Josh.
It's only at the last minute a freighting though flashed in my mind about our two cats at home with no one left to feed them. This sad thought on top of the trauma we had already experienced miraculously made me pull back. "The CATS...I shrieked who will take care of the CATS!?!"
Josh died of a drug overdose. It shouldn't have happened. I think that the kid that was staying with him used Josh as a human guinea pig to see just how many drugs any human could ingest at one sitting.
Even in that totally helpless state...Josh made sure that he will still help other kids. He filmed most of this sad situation. How he managed to get the film out of the camera and put it in his fresh film box I'll never know.
I'm sure the other guy would have taken the film out of our house and destroyed if Josh had left it in his camera. He was on probation for drug charges in CA. He had came back to FL to move back in with his parents so they could supervise him. He and Josh had gone to high school together, then lost contact and they had only ran into each other a 6 short months prior. It only took 6 months for Josh to let this kid influence him to completely throw his life away.
I never knew for sure that Josh was using. He was an actor after all. He knew well how to manipulate an audience. He always managed to stay away from the house if he thought I'd detect anything weird.
I DO know what the effects of drugs look like...and although I won't even take an aspirin unless I'm really really in need of one...I saw first hand what they do to a person, my daughter's life illustrated the destruction up close and personal.
Then too...you don't own a construction business for over 30 years without meeting young adults that use. DH always told them that if they chose drugs..they didn't chose him or his business.
He treated our employees like gold. He showered them with fishing trips, special dinners honoring them for their work. He made sure that when Christmas bonus checks were handed out..the employees got put on the distribution list before we did.
We took them to our annual conventions and made sure that they got the recognition they needed and deserved. After all construction in concrete work is NO picnic in the hot days of SW FL. We knew without these talented young men working on our crews we'd be nobody. We did the pool decks and driveways for the premiere builders in our area.
So Josh knew he could never pull one over on his super sleuth of a detective ma'dre momma. I always told him that his sister had almost killed me with her drug love affair and that if he EVER touched them I'd take his head off!
There was 13 years difference between their ages and Josh was still very susceptible to his sister's influence.
After 10 years of putting her into expensive drug rehab programs to have her check herself out days later and restarting her life over and over...I had HAD it with drugs.
These programs are not refundable. They figure if the client doesn't care, they don't either. Actually I think all of our drug programs fall short in Florida.
I HAD had it with this beautiful young woman that had the world by the tail but who would lie, cheat, steal, and rip your heart out over and over just to step over your dead body when she was ready for her next drug party.
You see she really didn't want to quit...and you can't help those who won't help themselves. She learned how to manipulate us with the uncomfortable down time she had to endure with no drugs until her next opportunity rolled around for her.
They rolled around off and on for a good ten years. Even a mother reaches her limit after that long!
I had to cut off all contact to save my own sanity, and the life of my son. I will still always suspect that she was the one that turned Josh onto pot in his senior year of high school.
But he'd never rat out his older half sister and I never could prove it for sure.
If she did I have forgiven her because I can't keep eating myself up over the blame game. I have since reconciled with her and am praying that that horrible period of her life is over for good.
I always told Josh that drugs were the DEVIL
and they'd steal your soul! They tricked you into thinking they were a good party, but the clean up after that party was not worth it.
I pleaded with him not to even do pot because it put you in touch with more hardened druggies that infiltrated the younger groups looking for a sucker. I told him that when you were 'high' you didn't reason things out well and you were vulnerable to other's influences.
I harassed him about late hours and told him that NOTHING good ever happened out on the streets after midnight. He had a 10 p.m. curfew on school nights and a midnight curfew on weekends when he was 18.
But once he turned 21 that was just not a fight I was going to win. I couldn't keep my eyes open on most nights to listen for the security alarm when he came in the door. But when I did...I threw on ALL the lights and scrutinized his eyes and hugged him soundly and told him I was SO relieved and happy he was home.
Josh knew this could happen on any random night and hopefully it helped him stay on the straight and narrow. Until he hooked back up with this Damian kid.
Do you know the meaning of the word Damian...it means son of the devil. And he surely was.
This is what happens with these kinds. They are the dark light that is attracted to the bright light...then they just want to snuff out the flame!
Josh made sure I never met him until the day we left for the cruise. He knew I'd sniff out his evilness in a NY minute. He gave every excuse in the book why he couldn't introduce him to his father and I.
He was always working, or he spent all of his spare time with his mom. Josh tried to conjole me with the fact that he was really super close with his mom, just like Josh and I were.
Be careful about your kids telling you what you WANT to hear. Be careful about ignoring feelings that your inner angels are trying to warn you with that just don't FEEL right. If you have those feelings of doom...they are there for a reason. You CAN change ANY fate in front of you with your own free will. But we really need to listen to that small still voice...LISTEN please....do LISTEN.
I wish I would have heeded my own inner warnings. I wish I would never have backed down from my feelings that we shouldn't have taken the trip even with despite the pleadings of the other friends who had booked the cruise so many months earlier. You CAN'T cancel this trip..we are only going because of YOU! We've paid for this you HAVE to go. This in spite of the fact I told them I had heebie~jeebie feelings about Josh.
You see...we are ALL vulnerable to peer pressure...even at our age and believe me we are no spring chick~a~dees....we were worried about what our friends would think if we canceled that cruise.
If that happens at OUR age...imagine how much harder it is for our kids and young adults to resist. It's nearly impossible so they have to look to you to shield them from unwise choices.
It's good information that you know the portion of their brain that weighs actions against consequences doesn't even fully form until the LATE 20's. Yet we Americans kick our kids out of the nest at age 18? This is ludicrous...then we wonder why they need to come back home to live.
I wish I would have realized all of these important life lessons then...rather than now.
But I CAN use that hard won knowledge and horrendous lessons to share with you to protect your loved ones. If your child keeps someone away from you...there IS a reason. Don't tolerate it! If you have to move mountains to keep them away from rotten people DO IT! They need you to be their rock, their protector, their role model.
Josh with his sweet Andrea. I often wonder if she wasn't so far away from him if it would have made a difference in his life for the better. She lived in Vermont and Josh and she had an off and on again romance.
Josh had many many girls in his young 22 years, he died about two weeks shy of May 31st his birthday.
He was pretty fickle. But he was also completely 'true blue' whilst in a relationship. He told me that he absolutely would not tolerate a girl who was a player...who knew that young women could be termed that? Josh sensed that Andrea was not always totally faithful to him and that caused him deep and serious angst.
I know that he was also extremely frustrated that he wasn't yet in Film School. His dad had told him (and I fully agreed) that he had to show us he was mature enough to hold down a full time job before he shelled out over $80,000 for Full Sail in Orlando. This was a very intensive film school and we were afraid that Josh would just party hearty and not apply himself. He was only about 4 months away from making this full time job commitment completion. So close and yet so far.
Maybe we didn't do the right thing in holding him back. We'll never know will we?
Josh in his 'full out' Wolfman phase. He even duct taped steak knives to his fingers for the wolf man claws. It freaked me out a little...but that was Josh no last detail in a good costume ignored.
Josh in his "I'm SO STELLAR...rock star pose" he was clowning around here with Andrea his true love.
Yes...Josh was a smoocher~ he was never afraid to show his love. That was SUCH an extraordinary gift of his!
He loved his friends...this was his graduation in 2002. His whole life in front of him. He was full of hope, beauty, and grace.
Yes Josh...you are TA BOMB! You graced our lives with joy and happiness and love and respect. I will never ever forget the awesome lessons you taught your dad and I about acceptance, and talent and showing who you REALLY were...ALL the time...whether people liked you or did not...being REAL is worth it.
Now on this VERY sad day for your momma and your dad and all of your friends...go pinch an angel and tell her a joke. Rain down your love and let us use your beautiful example in this world for the better of all.
On Josh's memorial card:
JOSHUA GAVIN SIGNS
written for him by one of his good friends mother
"A beautiful mind, a beautiful person, surrounded by an insensitive world. Gone too soon, missed by many, loved by all who knew him. A bright light extinguished. May his restless soul now find peace.
And added at the end of the card by his momma:
Love Josh by loving yourself. His future was white hot, finish if for him!