Monday, May 26, 2008

Remembering Joey ...

Joey was just a high school kid when we first met him. The Johnsons moved in to the house next to our little cottage in Mikoi Place. I still can remember his smile when I first met him. He was such a sweet teenager, I just love his countenance. Even with the big age gap, Joey and my husband Bradley became buddies. We have a lot of fun memories of him.

Joey was here on Maui last week, for Mothers Day and for his sister's graduation. I saw him at church and gave him a hug. I am glad I did. Who would have known that that would be our last hug?

A couple months ago we were e-mailing each other about some work related stuff. In the midst of the e-mail correspondence I told him that I am assuming he is doing well but to let me know if there is something I can pray for him. He e-mailed back saying that yes he's doing well but he can always use some prayers. He asked that I pray for God's direction in his life. He said he doesn't know yet.

As I sit here thinking about Joey, I am pondering that maybe, just maybe, the reason why God hasn't revealed His plan to Joey's life at that time is because God knows his time on earth will be short...

But Joey ... Joey lived his life to its fullest. He loves to worship God through songs (like his dad). He traveled to see the world. He has a lot of friends. He is loved by many.... He is just 20 something years old but he's mature beyond his age, and has accomplished more than many of us older than he is ...

Joey was my encourager on blogging when I was just starting to blog. I remember during one of his Maui visits, he and my husband were talking about his blog and my husband told him that I am blogging too. He said "I know. Your wife's blog is good". At that time, my husband was unsure about my blogging. But Joey's words gave him an assurance that I am doing something good.

Joey is like a little brother to me. His parents are practically "the savior of our marriage". Karen is our marriage counselor. Joe is Bradley's Promise Keeper bro. Their guidance and love made my husband and I stuck with each other during rough times in our marriage (my husband and I are doing well now) . I wish I can do something to ease the pain they are feeling because of Joey's death. Death. These five letter word is so hard to type... but as the verse on the header reminded us, Joey is now with Jesus, for he believed in Jesus; and Jesus said "whoever believes in him shall not die but have an everlasting life..."

As we think of ways to express support to the Johnson's family, I request that we also think of the warm memories we have of Joey. Do you have stories on how Joey touched your life? How he was an encouragement to you? If so, would you consider sharing that with us on the comment section of this post?

I thought it would be encouraging that while we express our sorrow and grief on Joey's death, we can also celebrate his life as we share our memories of him while he was here with us.

Let's keep the comments coming while we wait for the details on when and where the Memorial is going to be...

In Christ,


Anonymous said...

I just can't imagine how hard this must be for all those who knew and loved Joey. Michael and I had only met Joey briefly, but we know what amazing people Joe and Karen are, so we know that their son must be very special. What can be said at such a time, except that we love you, our hearts ache for and with you, and we are praying for you. If only there was something we could do to make this time less devastating. But that isn’t within our power, so we just fall at God’s feet and beg him to surround you with His love, His grace and His comfort.

Katie Shannon said...

Joe was one of my best friends in High school. I met him when I was a senior and he was a junior, and had just moved to maui. It was over the summer, just before school started, and I remember him telling me he was going to Seabury... all of us in our group of friend were like " can't go there! You have to go to BALDWIN!!" Well, I guess Seabury lasted a few weeks before Joe finally convinced his parents to let him come to Baldwin.

I have so many fond memories of Joe. The times he took me surfing and so patiently waited though the really big waves so he could ride the smaller ones with me. All the nights at Youth Group where he sang his heart out with his guitar in hand. The youth group mission trip to Ensenada, Mexico where Joe and I won the bible trivia competition. And how could I forget the trip to California to go skiing with his entire family? What a blast we had. So many memories I have of you...and so many I will keep in my heart forever.

Joe and I had completely lost touch over the years. We both grew up and went off to college and just sort of went our separate ways. But I have never forgotten him. The Joe I will remember is a funny, smart, talented, friendly, outgoing, Man of God. It breaks my heart to think I can't reconnect with him after all these years, but I know that I will see him again in heaven.

I will miss you my friend...

Katie Shannon
Washington, DC

Bill and Lu Kepler said...

Dear, dear sweet Joe and Karen, dear loving and strong Joe and Karen, dear Joe Life-of-the-Party, dear Karen affirmer-and-lover-of-all-you-meet, dear great and wonderful Christians,

It was so hard for us to absorb that phone call. We felt as if we had been punched in the stomach as we sat alone in Ke`anae with our granddaughters, trying to take it in. We pulled the girls into a prayer circle and prayed so earnestly, and we prayed again after talking to Bradley (many times) and a third time after speaking to Joe. We agonized about going back to be with you. Oh, how we wanted to do that.

Lu and I grieve for you and have cried every day for you. We have had constant memories of Joey. That crazy red-headed kid who talked Kelly into jumping off the back of a boat just outside of Lahaina harbor. Wow, did they get in trouble! He was the guy who bit into an extreme red hot chili pepper on a dare, then almost needed a trip to the ER as he turned red, sweat poured down his face, and he struggled to breath. He paid Kelly a surprise visit in Bellingham, from behind a newspaper in a coffee shop. Early on he even appreciated my guitar playing (. . . generous to a fault, like his dad.) Later, I appreciated his guitar far more. There was a time when we thought we could be co-grandparents with you. But God led Kelly and Joey in different directions. Joey was so talented, so creative, so easy to love. He experienced far more in his short 28 years than most people do in a full life time.

Yesterday Craig Mauck led an extremely sensitive and beautiful worship. All the songs he chose were ones that Joe and I have sung many times. Lu and I sat in the third row and cried softly.

We thank God for your great supportive network of friends. We thank God that we knew and loved Joey. Our love for you remains boundless.

Dear, precious friends, Karen and Joe,

Where does one begin to tell you how much our hearts ache for you and how much we love you? There are many feelings deep within my soul that just have to be unleashed. It is very hard for me to write in a blog. In fact, I have never done it before. Some things are so personal that they shouldn’t be shared with others. But since I have seen healing come through Kit’s blog and now yours, I want to take this step. I will wait to share those most intimate thoughts and memories that are in my heart until we are alone together.

How I longed to be with both of you on Friday evening! Karen, I just wanted to hold you, stroke your hair, wipe your tears, and weep with you. I wasn’t able to do that and I’ve cried everyday knowing I wasn’t there when you most needed friends at your side. I rest in knowing many others were there. It was excruciating to get that news and not be able to leave Keanae because we were alone out there with Chris’s little girls. Sadly, we had to remain at Keanae, but our hearts were with you in Kihei in a little condo by the sea.

Sweet, sweet Joey! The boy with the red curly hair who first captured our daughter’s heart, and then ours! The boy with such boundless enthusiasm, innate talent, profound wisdom, outrageous smile, and incredible integrity. No one could ever feel “down” when Joey was around. He brightened our lives and made us smile again and again, and again.

You were (and still are) the model parents and grandparents that Bill and I aspire to be. I know all the dreams you had for Joey will be fulfilled . . . but not in the way we all imagined. God’s dreams for him are far and above anything we can imagine. And so, we rest, knowing he is in the arms of Jesus. Please know that Bill and I will stand by your sides through the difficult days and years that lie ahead for you. Our hearts become one with yours in claiming eternal life for Joey through the resurrecting power of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

We will always love Joey . . . and both of you. Your friend, for all eternity,

Kandi O'Brien said...

Dear Joe, Karen, Jaime and family: Please know how much our hearts ache for your loss of Joey your precious son and brother. We want you to know we love you so very much and are praying for God's spirit to wrap huge wings of comfort and strength around you and your family as you walk through this time together. Today is Memorial Day Joe and we will miss seeing you leading worship on the beach, and I know that you will be reunited with your son one day to Rock the universe with songs of praise and glory and faithfulness. We are here for you, praying for you and your family, we love you so very much, Love, Pat, Kandi & Jazzie O'Brien

Anonymous said...

Only a few weeks ago Kay and I were enjoying a mini Bible Study reunion dinner at the Englert home; McMahons, Pattersons, Englerts, Whites and Johnsons, bantering about Study stories from 30 years ago. I sat across from Karen and Joe, who sat facing the wall so that Kay and I could enjoy a marvelous Maui sunset. Even in shadow their faces glowed. An unmistakable walk of joy and peace with the Lord: loving, selfless and sacrificial servants of His. Their capacity for reflecting Christ is amazing, both seen and unseen.

Discussions then centered on stories of the children. When Karen and Joe filled us in on Joey, my mind took me back so many years ago when the Johnsons lived nearby and we were able to enjoy seeing Joanne, Jamie and Joey grow.

Upon returning to California, I was prodded by the Lord to watch our old movies converted to video of those Bible Study years. There they were. Movie clips of Joey’s birth at the Berman’s birthing center. I haven’t watched our movies of the 70’s since they were converted more than 10 years ago. Well that’s easy to burn to a DVD for our friends. So a variety of clips from 1975 through 1979 filled up a DVD and off went copies to the “sunset dinner” families.

There was no way for me to know there was a heavenly purpose in that duty fulfilled. Karen and Joe sent a heartfelt thanks to me that the DVD was going to be so much fun to view with Joey when he returned to Maui for Joanne’s graduation and the Johnson family reunion. Karen reported that Joey saw the old sound movies of friends and family cheering his birth. Then the news. Tears. Heartache. More tears.

Why Joey? Why now? Why the Johnson’s?

Children are His, that in His love he grants us some days with them in our arms, loaning them to us that we might enjoy His gifts, learn about being parents and come to understand Him more wholly as our Father. His message is clear: His love is not to be confused with what we expect, or how we might grieve for what we could have had. It is ours. It is unconditional. And it is complete.

Now we weep and celebrate. We surrender to the pain of this loss. We love Christ back for Joey’s place in our hearts and his life on Earth. And love Him also for the assurance of Joey’s new home in paradise.

May God and His faithful carry you gently through this time, dear Johnson family.

We love you,
Roger and Kay White
Auburn, CA