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Wednesday, February 05, 2014

My brother Joey

This has been the longest and worst week of my life. My brother Joey passed away a week ago today, since that time, we have had a wedding, a wake and a funeral. Talk about ups and downs and emotions and stress. Being a pallbearer for your brother is just as nightmarish as it sounds.

My brother was the youngest of four boys. He was never sick a day in his life. He was young, fit and what we thought was "healthy." He worked out, didn't eat red meat, didn't smoke, hardly drank.  Joey was a germaphobe. They would set out paper plates and plastic utensils for him at family functions, "That's Joey's place," everyone would know. So I guess when your time is up, your time is up.

He had been feeling chest pains and was out of breath, a day before he was to leave for Las Vegas for my nephew's (and his nephew's) bachelor party, his wife Denise made him go to the doctor. They found 95% blockage in his arteries.  His heart was strong. They took him right in to the hospital and the next day put a stent in, he was to come back for another one at a later date (6 months! which should maybe have been 6 weeks or less). The doctor, who should lose his license, sent him home the next day with instructions to walk 40 minutes a day and take his pills. Most people with stents are eased into physical activity, not sent out to walk around the neighborhood.

As the days went on, Joey felt bad again, he felt chest pain and heartburn. Twice he went back to the doctor and was told it was nothing. It was the pills. It was food. It was "normal."

It wasn't normal. One day while walking he dropped dead on the street. He never regained consciousness. I'll never forget my father's voice on the phone telling me, "Joey passed away," as I was driving to the hospital that final day. I remember screaming in my car. The only good news is that he didn't suffer and it wasn't a lingering illness. But he knew it was the end, for weeks he was scared and helpless since the doctors didn't seem to want to help. He texted my nieces and nephews that he wouldn't be around long, he told them he would not make it to the Superbowl. He didn't. He started putting things in order so his wife would have an easier time of it when he was gone. He knew he was going. The doctor(s) didn't care. I just wish he would have told us and not just the kids, my father would have been all over those doctors if he had known.

His wife Denise is/was inconsolable, but she pulled herself together and gave a beautiful speech at my nephew's wedding, "Because this is what Joey would have wanted to say."Joey treated all the nieces and nephews as if they were his own children. No exaggeration. He called or texted them daily, even when he was traveling around the world for business. His last nice thing for one of my nephews was to pay for his plane ticket and hotel room for the Vegas bachelor party, which of course Joey never was able to attend. Denise also gave an excellent talk at the wake; very composed and I still don't know how she did it.

Joey had a great business and was known by hundreds of people around the world. He traveled all over. I used to joke that when you looked at my iPhone, I would have the weather app set up for Miami, New York, Cambridge, Mass and Venice Florida. Joey would have his app set for Paris, Rio, Amsterdam and recently Alaska.

But even though he had a major business and major clients, when he was with us, he was with us. I don't ever remember seeing him on a business call or running to the computer to do anything business related. While most of us are glued to our phone, he never was. He enjoyed the family so much that he immersed himself in us.


As I was going through photos to use in a slideshow at the wake, I noticed something in every one of them. First off, he was always in a good mood and secondly, he was in the middle of every one of the photos. He was never off to the side, he was always in the center. He was sort of the star of every photo; direct center doing whatever it was we were doing, eating, laughing, playing poker, watching tv. Always right there. Thrilled to be with all of us. 

When we go to eat now, my father will choose places on how Joey felt about them, "No, let's not go there, Joey didn't like it." "Yes, Joey loved this place, let's go here." My parents have been very strong, I don't know how they do it. My other two brothers and  two nephews break down the most. They sometimes are inconsolable. The girls seem to be able to hold it together. I've been trying to be strong thinking this is the way it was written in the book of life long before Joey was born.

I've been living my life as "WWJD?" What would Joey do? I'm finding I am being more generous and loving and a better person, because I am now living like Joey did. 

To be continued. In part 2 I'll explain about our "visits" from Joey.

Please forgive me. I'm not entertaining comments on this post.

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