Age:[ 18 ] Gender:[ F ]
Death is very hard to comprehend especially when it hits close to home. The only way the loved ones can learn to cope with the loss is through memories. That's the way I feel about Joe Aguilera. I had known Joe since I was two years old. We were in the same play group at church. All through elementary school, he had to sit between Erin and me in the choir because we hated each other and would fight constantly. In the seventh grade, Erin and I became best friends and he loved it. No matter how I was feeling, he could make me laugh and feel good about myself. He passed no judgment on anyone, and he was a happy-go-lucky child. In high school, all that changed. He got involved with the wrong crowd and began doing drugs. He seldom came to church, and no one was allowed to see him. After two years, it seemed that his life was turning around. I found out later that he had done some jail time earlier and had been sent back to rehab. In my mind, though, he will always remain the happy and free eighth grader that had no problems and a joke for everyone. April 20, 1997 is a day I will remember for the rest of my life. It started out as a normal Sunday when my friends and I went to church. I sat with four of my best friends, Caryn, Bickley, Erin Leeth and Olen in the back pew. Kristin and Kimber, two of my other best friends, sat a few rows in front of us because we had had a fight. My other best friend, Chris Webb, didn't come to church that Sunday. Before the service started, Olen's dad called Olen out of the sanctuary and told him something. Olen scrawled a quick note and passed the tightly folded piece of paper to Caryn who was sitting at the other end of our group. She unfolded the note, glanced at it, and began to cry. Questions of "What's wrong?" were answered with "You'll find out soon enough." As we came to the call to prayer, I knew something was definitely going to happen. Our associate pastor, Ralph, stood up to address the current concerns and mention anyone else who needed a prayer as always, but this time something was amiss. I looked away from him to the sculpture of Jesus Christ that is on the front wall of our sanctuary. Somehow I knew I would need His help very soon. I could see the pain in Ralph's eyes, and I prepared myself for the worst except there was nothing that could have prepared me for his words. "I have some very saddening news. Joe Aguilera has died. He has taken his own life. . ." I'm sure he said more, but I couldn't hear the rest of what he said over the sound of my own tears. I was sobbing as were all the rest of my friends. After the prayer, I knew I couldn't stay in the service any longer. Erin called her mom and asked her to pick her up because she knew she couldn't drive in the state she was in. Kristin and Kimber met us as did Nancy, our choir director and friend. Hugs were passed around, and we were ushered into the tiny chapel in the back of the church, so we could talk and cry without disrupting the service. Wes, my pastor, came in to talk to us and explain as much as he could about what had happened that morning. As he talked, I looked at the stained glass window behind him, which depicted Jesus holding a lost sheep, and wondered what had gone wrong. There were a few adults with us too. One couple, whom I had never seen before and haven't seen since, had followed us out. They had been sitting in front of us and seen how upset we were. They wanted to support us and show us that they cared. After talking a while, we decided we needed to go home. We tried to call everyone who had not been at church and let them know what was going on. Joe's best friend, Tommy, was in Florida and would not return until late afternoon. I felt so bad for him to have to come home to find out that his best friend had committed suicide. As I went home, I couldn't believe what had happened. I was hoping it was some horrible nightmare. But it wasn't. Joe was dead. It was hard to fathom that day, as it still is over two years later. When we arrived at the Aguilera's home, it was hard to know what to expect. They had family there and lots of food and visitors. We weren't sure if our presence would be appreciated or not. Mrs. Aguilera greeted each one of us with a hug and told us to make ourselves at home. Then she told us to talk about Joe. She wanted to hear all the stories we had about him. She got out old photos, and we went through them, knowing if Joe were there, he would be so embarrassed. After spending about an hour there, we decided to leave and let the Aguileras visit with their other guests. Spirits were low as we went to choir practice that evening. In the middle of practice, Chris got up and walked out. The reason he left was because Tommy had arrived, and Chris was telling him what had happened. After choir, my friends and I walked outside. Right outside the door were Tommy, Olen, and Chris crying. It was the first time I had ever seen them cry. I hugged Olen and let him cry on my shoulder. Then I put my arms around Tommy, and for the first time ever he hugged me back. At youth group, we discussed what had happened. We had had another topic planned, but there was no way we could do anything that night, except talk about Joe. It sort of healed us, but no one was at peace with Joe's death yet. I was confused, and I kept wondering if there was something I could have done. As we walked out to our cars that night, I apologized to Chris for the fight we had had the day before. We hugged, and everyone went home alone. After school on Monday, I stopped at Caryn's house to drop of a green ribbon. Green was the color that reminded us of Joe, and we wore ribbons to remember him. Then I went to Chris's. It was on shaky ground that I stood when I knocked on his door. But when we started talking I knew that we could put our differences aside and support each other through this. I gave him his ribbon and my cross pin to hold it with because he couldn't find a safety pin. I gave him a hug and said I would see him at bells that night. Friday was Adam's birthday, one of Joe's close friends as well as one of mine. Kimber picked me up and we drove to Caryn's house where we were meeting Bickley and the four of us were going to go over to Adam's together. Friday was also the day Joe was buried in a private service. As we drove, Kimber and I saw a rainbow. We decided that it was Joe's rainbow telling us that he was at peace, and everything was okay up in Heaven. Ever since then, rainbows are a constant reminder of Joe. Sunday, April 27, 1997, at six o'clock was Joe's memorial service. Everyone met at Bickley's house around four. She lived right across the street from Canterbury Woods, where he had died, and we had our own special good-bye planned. We were going to launch balloons with messages for Joe tied to them. Everyone had brought flowers and their letters to Joe. We picked our balloon, tied on our message, and walked across the street to Canterbury Woods Elementary School. It was hard to stand at the spot on the jungle gym where Joe had spent his last time on Earth. The group of us stood in a circle around the pole and just stared at it. Caryn broke the silence and suggested we put our flowers down. Each one of us reached down and put our flowers at the base of the pole. Caryn read a prayer that she had written, and the tears started to flow. As we began to cry silently, it began to drizzle, as if Joe, too, were crying with us. As the moment felt right, we each let go of our balloon. We stared up into the sky, letting the rain pour on our faces, watching as our messengers carried our letters to Joe. Although we let them go at different times, they all disappeared at once, as if Joe reached out grabbed them all. Everyone was crying, and everyone was comforting someone. Adam cut a cross into his finger and let it bleed on the pole. Erin, Chris Meyer, Chris Webb and I held hands and leaned on each other. Some of my friends went home to change, but others, including myself, stayed at Bickley's to change. When we arrived at the church, we were confronted with pictures of Joe. As six o'clock approached, we decided to go in to the sanctuary. I was overwhelmed at the number of people there. The sanctuary was overflowing with the people whose lives Joe had touched. Chris Meyer, Erin, Chris Webb and I held hands as we walked towards our pew. Erin sat between Kris and Chris Webb. I sat between him and Jon. Kimber and Kristin were next, and I couldn't see who else was in our row. I have never cried so hard in my whole life. We went through three boxes of tissues. The Carol, our organist, played a piece for the prelude. When she started to play, Chris started to sob. It was the first time I had ever really seen him cry so openly. I reached for his hand, and he squeezed it tight. I think everyone broke down when Joe's parents and 14-year-old brother walked to their seats. Although days before, Chris Webb and I had been having major problems, we hugged, held hands, got tissues, and held each other close as the service for our beloved Joe went on. I have never felt closer to him or any of the rest of my friends than on that day. Both Joe's mother and father spoke as did Olen and Mr. Crane, Olen's father. There was scripture read and hymns sung. I don't know how anyone sang the last hymn, "On Eagle's Wings." I will never be able to hear that song again without thinking of him. On the last verse, I saw that Chris was almost ready to lose it again, and I stopped singing. Jon saw it, too, and put away the hymnal we were sharing and held my hand. I held Chris's hand, and Erin put away the hymnal they were sharing. Erin, Chris and I broke down and sobbed. As the final strains died away, I put my arms around Chris and held him. He cried on my shoulder, and I cried on his for several minutes. Then I hugged Jon and cried on his shoulder. Even my friends' parents were there with a shoulder to cry on. After the service, my friends and I didn't want to leave each other. It was too hard to say good-bye to Joe and each other. We decided to go to Olen's house and relax. Some people went to the basement and played Nintendo^Ù and others played ping pong. There was music playing, and everyone was joking around. It was nice to have a place to just let go and have a little fun after the day we had had. Around ten o'clock, I went home. As I drove home that night, I felt the wave of peace that I had felt after letting my balloon go, wash over me again. I knew that Joe was safe and happy in Heaven, and that it was us, his friends, that had needed that service in his memory. It's hard to talk about that week in April because the memory is still so fresh. I miss him a lot, and I still ask myself sometimes whether there was something I could have done. Yet I know that there was nothing I could have done because he made a decision, and he went through with it. As hard as Joe's death has been on me, it made me realize what the important things in life really are.
Sat Sep 4 22:20:53 1999 back to other Contributions page