The Day My Life Changed

By , Hastings, MI

April 20, 2008 was a tragic day. Tragic is an understatement. That was the day my family fell apart. April 20 through the rest of our lives would never be the same and would never be complete. I remember that day like it was yesterday. It was just an average Sunday, or so we thought. My first memory of that day is me, my mom, and my brother Joey all squeezing into our little bathroom scrambling to get ready for church. Joey’s favorite thing was to annoy me. He would always look at me and raise his eyebrows and it would piss me off so bad. Me being 8 years old, I would throw a fit. I was brushing my teeth and me and him made eye contact in the mirror, he started to raise his eyebrows at me. “JOEY! STOP, YOU’RE NOT BEING FUNNY!” I would yell. Joey just carried on doing it and laughed at my annoyance. I continued to yell at him and my mom started to yell at me and ignored what he was doing to annoy me. This made me furious. The rest of the morning I was so mad at Joey. Once we got to church, we split up and I went to Sunday school. When church was over, I asked my mom where he was and she told me that him and his best friend Jon went to the mall to return a belt. Joey had just turned 16 and this was his first time driving in the car with a friend. I just said okay and we went home.


I had a friend named Chloe and her grandma lived across the street so she would always go over there on Sundays for a potluck. Chloe brought her dog Boo over to my house and we were playing in the front yard while my mom was inside taking a nap on the couch. My mom told me that she woke up and the news was on the TV. There was a woman telling the camera that there had been 2 teen boys killed in a car accident. My mom immediately knew it was Joey. She panicked and told my dad to go up to the scene. I remember laughing with Chloe out in the front yard and all of the sudden a police car pulls into our driveway. My mom bursts out the front door falling to her knees and screams, “Where’s Joey?” I ran up to her, confused. My older sister, Julie, stands there looking devastated. I rush into my dad's arms and we sat on the porch crying. I whispered, “Daddy, where’s Joey?” He told me, “He’s with Jesus, baby.” I was so confused with what was going on. Our neighbor Melissa runs over, “What the hell is going on?” This part of the memory is a blur, but I’ll never forget the feeling I had. It’s something I cannot quite describe.


The next day I remember sitting in the living room and watching family members and friends pour through our door. It was such an unbearable feeling. A newspaper was cut out and being passed through the room. My mother wouldn’t let me look at it. Now I’ve seen it and I’m thankful they did not let me look. It was a picture of my brothers car, it was completely crushed. My moms best friend Claudia went with me to the bathroom, she rubbed my back as I curled over the toilet. I was so upset that I thought I might vomit, but I never did. Claudia told me that we had to go back out there because my mom needed her.


The viewing was at the funeral home, everyone was hysterical. Going up to the casket, I could barely look. Once I did look, I just stared. It was not my brother. It was not the funny, energetic, loving boy I once knew. His face was caked with makeup to cover to cuts and bruises. Colorless and lifeless. He laid there completely still, I still could not believe this was my brother. The image of him still to this day burns a hole through my heart. My mom made me come away from the casket and told me “This is not him. I don’t want you to remember him like this.” She was right, that was not him. Just simply his body.    The funeral was worse. There was one last time I could go up and look at my only brother. My grandma  was weeping and holding a tissue to her nose. My mom put her arms around her and my grandma brushed Joey’s hair back with her hand and kissed his forehead. That sight still haunts me. Seeing the church completely filled with mourning friends and family. I sat on the right side, front pew. Our pastor preached a sad message. Joey was on a hockey team, all of his teammates were there. Some of them spoke and shared memories. Seeing the casket up there, I was too young and could not wrap my head around that he was really in there.


Outside in the cemetery, there were seats for me, my mom, my dad, and my sister. It was silent other than cries. We sat there in complete sadness. I became angry, I just wanted to kick and scream. The casket lowered in and I couldn’t stand to watch.  We finally went home and food and flowers were everywhere.


I took a few weeks off of school to recover from this tragedy. One night, the student body of Joey's school all held candles and walked to our house. This meant so much to my family, Joey was so loved.


Almost 9 years later, I still think about my wonderful brother everyday. I never really grieved properly because I was so young, and sometimes it still hits me hard. I know that one day I will be with him again, and the thought of that gives me peace.






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