Joshua was born on January 17th, 1989. What a beautiful baby boy! After settling in at home, I noticed his right arm tended to fold in a peculiar manner. I thought to myself, “This is odd,” and I would massage his arm to get it to be in the “normal” position. As it wasn’t resolving, I consulted with a few physicians. The only explanation I got was that Josh was double-jointed and could easily move his arm beyond the normal range of motion of other people and this would eventually resolve itself.
At the young age of three or four years old, Joshua proved to be quite intelligent, social, and witty. He absolutely loved making people laugh with his jokes and had a contagious sense of humor about whatever he found odd or absurd about life; he would make a joke and get on with it. As he grew older, it was clear that he had a personality that was lively and lovable and with many potentialities. He was thin and nimble and loved doing cartwheels wherever he found himself to be. Showing a keen interest in gymnastics from an early age, I took him to a gymnastics school near us, and he seemed to love it and thrive.
I was overjoyed that he found a passion so early in life. He was innately skilled at the sport and continued training well into his teenage years. We moved to Florida and quickly found a place where he could continue training. He entered local team competitions, winning first and second place every single time. In school, he had high marks and the good fortune of not having to study really hard as his memory served him well.
I was always impressed with his self-discipline and inner motivation and thought to myself many times how I wished that I too, could share the same positive quality of self-discipline. Josh would go to the gym to train every single day after school, regardless of how he felt, how far the gym was from our house, or how long he had to wait for the bus to come to take him there. Practicing and training was clearly his life and passion. He could not feel happier and I along with him. He competed both locally and regionally throughout the state of Florida. One day he received an unexpected letter informing him that he had been accepted into the Junior Olympics and he was to prepare for this competition. He was ecstatic about it! I was happy but a bit worried and concerned over his obsession with regard to the event. It was a big deal for him as it had the potential to qualify him for the Olympics later on. I understood that and supported him as much as I could.
One day, as I watched him train I suddenly had an epiphany about his arm and his ability to move it in all directions; I could see what an asset it was to him in the gym!
All was well up until I received a life-altering phone call from his trainer just a couple of days away from the big competition saying that Josh had fallen and badly broken his right arm. Ironically, it was the same arm that from birth seemed to bend in the opposite direction. He needed immediate surgery and off we went to the hospital for admission. I was desperate and heartbroken. Joshua was in agonizing pain and the doctors prescribed several types of opioids that were well known for managing or “killing” the pain he was experiencing. He had to have metal nails inserted to reconnect his arm to the elbow and, as his pain did not subside, he was on these painkillers for many weeks.
Missing school for weeks on end did not help the situation. He now was confined to home as he recovered from surgery. Follow-up doctor appointments confirmed time and again that his career in gymnastics had come to an abrupt halt and he would not be able to compete any longer nor train anymore.
Josh began a different kind of journey that fateful summer. Depression set in. He could hardly get out of bed. He would go to school to catch up and finish high school but he was not the same lively and enthusiastic, self-disciplined teenager I knew.
Looking at it retrospectively, I can now see how all these opioids and medications contributed towards his eventual addiction, although neither one of us were aware of the risk at the time.
After high school graduation, he was accepted at many universities, including Penn State University, which offered the very program he wanted to study, Kinesiology. He chose Penn State and set his sights to become either a physical therapist or physician assistant. He loved both career options and started working towards his goal.
Despite his strong ambition, he experienced many challenges including difficult courses, romantic setbacks (a longtime girlfriend whom he had planned to marry), his best friend dying from a drug overdose, being far away from home and exposed to wrong influences, a tendency towards depression from not being able to pursue his passion as a gymnast, and an unceasing sense of not belonging in what seemed to him a harsh and challenging world. An overwhelming sense of failure and insecurity took a devastating toll, and he took to medicating himself with drugs and alcohol.
Recognizing his precarious state, Joshua came home for a semester with the intention to heal. Despite my pleas, as well as those from mental health professionals, Joshua at first refused to enter a drug rehabilitation facility; however, he finally acceded for a very limited time. He completed 30 days and “having made much progress,” he pleaded with me to allow him to come home. I was set against it and so were his doctors and mentors because the program was supposed to be much longer; however, no amount of talking or persuasion would change his mind to stay there any longer. Against my own intuition, I gave in to his request and picked him up from the rehab for fear of him retaliating. Once home, he appeared to be doing well or so it seemed at the time. By the end of the semester, it was time to make yet another decision to go back to school and finish his only two courses left to graduate with a Bachelors in Kinesiology from Penn State University as planned. We thought at the time, he should go back to school to finish his degree; after all, he was so very close to the finish line and he thought it would be all right. Looking back, we were both in denial about his true condition. He relapsed, and this time, there was no “returning home,” at least not to his earthly home. Josh’s life ended, returning his soul to his eternal home, to HIS creator. Whether it was an accident or by intention, we’ll never know.
This tragic and life-altering event initiated me into a journey I had not expected, nor was I prepared to do, as I was immersed in my own depression and anxiety. As a bereaved parent, now a year into my grieving, it was necessary for me to prepare for his memorial service, but I felt totally ill-equipped to do so. While sitting on my beige couch with tears rolling down my face, intensely deliberating how I was going to manage, I began to talk to myself and to my deceased son, not knowing what I was doing, except venting many conflicted feelings. “Tell me; tell me, Josh, how in the world am I supposed to do this? I don’t know what to do, how to do it, or what to say. I am so broken, I don’t know if any words will come out of me.”
To my shock and utter surprise, I heard my son Josh reply. I heard his voice, right there in the room with me. “Now I have really lost it,” I thought.
“Is that you Josh, are you here?” I asked. “If it’s you, please, darling, tell me. Let me hear you, loud and clear.”
I am here, I am here, take your pen and write this song, a song of truth, a song of old, a song written by the light, a song rewritten many times, for those we leave behind.
It’s true that I am near. It’s true, Mom, do you hear, that I am near, when you think of me, when you pray for me, when you talk with me, and when you cry for me.
Cry for a while, cry if you must, and then trust, that I am here, that I am safe, that I simply am, that I am closer to G-D than I have ever been, that I am closer to you, just, you can’t see., and when you think you’ve lost your mind, and you don’t know how you’ll survive, that’s when I come through your heart, to let you know that you will be all right. How so, you ask? How can I be all right? Because I know who you are. You know it too but just forgot.
No more worries, for I am well, I am right here. I belong, next to you and next to G-D, next to loved ones by my side, what a sight, I kid you not. That was your dream, was it not?
I came to you, when you asked, to let you know, that I am fine, that I am free, that I am alive, that your prayers reached the heavens, and touched the heart of the Divine.
We flew and then we danced, your spirit soared along with mine. Keep on flying, keep your smile, keep on flying, as will I. And all the things you tried so hard, to instill in me — oh, how you tried — remain with me, they do not die. And all the love you gave to me, is still intact, locked in my heart. Keep on flying, keep our dance, keep it going through your nights, ‘cause I will be watching you, no doubt.
So before you even call, rest assured, I hear your voice. No busy signals anymore, no interference, no lost calls. Just your thoughts, just your prayers, just your heart-waves vibrating through the heavens.
Have no doubts, and have no fear, that’s my prayer for you both, that’s my prayer for you all. And while it’s much easier said from here, I know, I understand, that’s what I most want you to hear.
G-D is with me and with you, and with all who call and whisper in His ear; G-D is with you and with me, remember? That’s what you always said to me. G-D is with you, have no fear, that’s my message, that’s my song, that’s G-D’s promise to us all.
The day of his memorial service represented the end of an old cycle and the beginning of a new one. Josh challenged me severely to make peace with his transition, to see the bigger picture, to find meaning, the gifts, and the wholeness, right in the midst of my brokenness, or perhaps, I would find it precisely because of it. My challenge became clear then, I must be able to both grieve a heartbreaking loss and yet keep my heart open to new beginnings, whatever they would be.
His messages, which were collected and published in a book entitled Joshua’s Song, beckoned me again and again to find a way to make his loss sacred. I knew then with every fiber of my being, that it was only a matter of time before we would be working together, and this time bridging the realms of reality.
Healing Hearts Healing Minds, Inc. was born on November 24, 2014. All services, therapeutic healing modalities, and programs are my humble offering to all who struggle with depression, anxiety, loss, and trauma, regardless of circumstance. May these offerings heal you from the inside out as they have healed me and countless others along the way.