Thursday, July 3, 2008

Wheels Up or Wheels Down?

Joey was less than 2 years old when I first met him. We were home on leave from Africa visiting Joe and Karen.

Joe and I had to go somewhere and Joey was coming along. This was back in the days when car seats were not required and seat belts...well not even sure they were in the car!

Anyway...Joe got in the car and I could tell this was a habit of Joey's...He would stand up in the front seat of the car - wedge his way behind Joe's shoulder and back and drive with his dad.

As we were driving along Joe noticed a cement truck and again I could tell this was a game he and Joey played often. Joe would say to Joey, "There is a cement truck Joey, wheels up? or wheels down?" Joey would respond with glee that the wheels were down that time.

I asked Joe what that meant? He explained to me that when the wheels are down on the truck it means there is a heavy load of cement and when the wheels are up -most of the time it is empty and has finished it delivery.Something I didn't know. I could see Joey checking out the traffic for another cement replay the game once again.

Joe was always making up games like that with his kids. Probably why Joey was so great with kids and games himself.

So for the last 26 years every time I would see a cement truck I would ask myself - wheels up? or wheels down? and smile and I would remember my brother and his son having so much fun with this little game. I have played this game with my own kids and grandkids many times.

I saw 3 trucks on my way home yesterday. It gave me the opportunity to play the game once again, this time I saw my brother and his son and smiled and I prayed for my brother Joe and for the loss of his precious son and the games they played.

These are precious memories. Stories that I know both Joe and Karen love to hear.

I love you both and I am lifting you and your family before the throne this always.

Love you - Viv


Joe and Karen, I hope that one of these days, or in the future when you can, you would write a book or lead a class on parenting, specifically teaching us parents how to teach our kids to enjoy life. Joey's life was so rich, I hope I would be able to guide my kids to have such a full life, the same way you lead Joey to live a life that is so rich and full. - Liza


Anonymous said...

Dear Joe & Karen,

That picture of Joey just melts my heart. I remember "all those days" with much joy & gladness...

Karen - I remember your "surprise" 30th B-Day party that Joe planned & beautifully organized at Calvary.

One moment - is frozen in time for me - was the slide show photos & the special music with it.

That special moment - was when the photo slides showed many photos of Jo Anne & Jaime & Joey and the music was Crosby, Stills & Nash singing "Teach Your Children Well"...

Joe & Karen - you not only taught your children well - you loved & cheerished them "all" well...

I find it in GOD's providence & love & kindness that everything that has happened recently with Joey's passing through to Heaven - all happened between Mother's Day & Father's Day.

Joey was able to spend another Mother's Day with his fabulous earthly Mom. And Joey's earthly life was celebrated on Father's Day...

Joey is now able to spend "eternity" in Heaven forever with his Heavenly Father.

Joe - was the absolute best earthy father to Joey. They had a special bond of love, fellowship, music & friendship in the Spirit...

I have never met another loving & caring couple & Joe & Karen. They are God's special blessing to all of us...

There are so many memories & moments to cheerish about Joey by Joe & Karen and all of us...

It is a great comfort & healing knowing that "Joey - is safe in the arms of Jesus...forever"

God's Love & Healing...

Love you, Kevin & Shirley

Joe and Karen said...

Dear Kevin and Shirley...your words touched us so much and made us cry. We did not make the connection about Joey's passing being between Mother's and Father's Day. We do so cherish our children. We were blessed to have Joey for 28 years...we are blessed to have our daughters, our son-in-laws, our five beautiful grand-darlings. Thanks for reminding us how much we have been blessed, even when we are hurting. There's no denying God's goodness to us.
We love you...

Garnett and Scott said...

Just waned to let ya'll know we are continually praying for you and thank you to Liza for keeping the blog filled with so many beauitful stories and pictures. I just want to remind the entire Johnson family and Rachel that even if we have not been writing everyday, it does not mean we have stopped praying and thinking about each of you. We love you all and send hugs.
Love you, Garnett and Scott

Anonymous said...

Dearest Joe and Karen,
Still a day doesn't go by that we do not think of you...cry with you and pray for you! We love you so much!! Love and hugs,
Lori and Wes

p.s. Love the wheels up or Wheels down story! I am sure there were so many other beautiful stories like that knowing the amazing parents that you two are! xoxoxoxo

Valerie Ryden said...

Dear Karen and Joe,

I was so sorry to hear of your son’s death.
I have been thinking of you and praying for you daily.
I’m not sure you will remember us. My husband Cliff and I were blessed to participate in your Marriage and Family class 7 years ago just months after we were married. In fact, it was your work for God through your amazing class and Kit’s Friday messages that spoke to us. 7 years ago we opened our hearts and lives to God accepting Christ as our Saviour. Joe has continued to offer wise counsel to Cliff as he seeks to move our family to Maui. Karen, you were there with your patient, gentle, clear and warm God centred counseling when we came to you for support in our marriage. Your support and prayers were such a blessing to us. And so, although we do not know your family, and did not know your son, we have been thinking of you, reading this blog, and praying for you.

I have experienced much loss in my life; my mother, father, two very close friends and recently my only sibling. I know grief. I have WANTED to write to you and say that even in the depths of your yearning to have Joey with you again, in the wrenching pain of your heart, when you feel you can’t breathe, when the ache of loss and absence consumes you, that I know you will always be aware of God’s quiet presence and love keeping you safe as you travel this journey of grieving Joey’s departure from this physical world. But then, I realized, that I do NOT know your grief. That I cannot imagine losing a child, the most unimaginable loss. And so, I have not yet reached out or written to you. Feeling unable to find adequate words and not wanting to intrude.

And then today I had an experience that compelled me to finally write to you. Today I realized that I am at the beginning of the journey you have traveled of raising a boy to manhood and watching him live his life as he embarks from your protective arms. All day today as I cared for my one year old baby boy I thought of you raising Joey. I thought of you remembering these moments. Stroking his impossibly soft cheeks and his downy baby hair. Smelling his baby scent. Holding his warm little body close to you, feeling his little breaths and sighs. Smiling into his eyes. Listening to his giggles. Feeling his hands on your face and his wet little kisses. As I mothered my son today I realized how much love was expressed from myself to him. He doesn’t completely understand my words yet but he sees, feels, and responds to my love. He just soaks it up. It is how he is growing so healthy and bright. Looking at the images of your grown boy Joey it is clear how much loving care you showered upon him as a baby. And then today I suddenly realized that for all this depth of my passion and love for my baby boy, that for all the love I am pouring over my baby boy right now and all the love you poured over Joey as a baby, that GOD loves him more…isn’t that incredible!?… that he is wrapped in the radiant love of our Lord, his Father in Heaven. I thought of this today and began to write this letter to you and then opened your blog and saw the beautiful photo of your beautiful baby boy – all smiles in his little diaper. I couldn’t believe the timing of my contribution to your blog. GOD is amazing.

Karen and Joe, you have created a tribute to your son beyond what I have ever witnessed. How blessed is he to have such incredible parents. The blog, the memorial program, the photos, the descriptions of Joey… are so proud, so beautiful. What an incredible young man. What a shining example of a life well lived for GOD. Find comfort in the glorious shining days that your son clearly lived to the fullest. Know how many people – near and far – are holding you up in prayer and wrapping their arms around you in comfort. Know how many people you are touching with your grace, your honesty, your beautiful tributes to your son. You are inspiring us all with how to raise a family with GOD at the centre. How to live life full of heart and joy. I echo another contributors request that one day you might offer a parenting class!

It is so hard to know what to say and how much to say. It is sometimes easier or safer to not say anything than to try and put into words the most intense experiences of our lives. I just couldn’t not reach out to you. So this was my attempt.

Bless you.
May you feel GOD’s loving arms around you.

With love
Valerie and Cliff Ryden
Kallalei, Sierra and Sage Ryden