What If..

Joey And I in 1975

I don’t think there is many of us who can say we don’t feel some sadness during this time of year when it comes to missing a loved one who has passed over. One of my greatest 3 is, my brother, Joey.
I do miss him dearly and of course hindsight is 20/20 and the what ifs are now I wish I had.

It was the late evening in the month of May – my phone rang – a baby sister – one of 4 younger sisters – I being the eldest daughter – sobbing on the phone telling me I need to get down to the river- something was wrong – Joey went into the water and had not come back out. Speed not a factor we raced down to the river – parking the vehicle up on the ridge – not being able to see what was below except the odd glimmer of the steel bars on a swing set or the sparkle of the half moon atop the water -which was like a plate of glass that night. I rushed down the stairs to come upon Joeys’ best friend wrapped in a blanket – his wife rubbing his arms to warm him up – tears in her eyes and his as he said to me – “I tried Cynthia – I tried to reach him but the water is so cold.”- I walked to the waters edge and began to call his name – over and over again – my throat beginning to pain – but I did not quit. Other family members started to arrive- the word was out- friends from town were launching their boats in the water up the river a ways I could hear the boat motors being started then the chugging of them as they began a slow pace along the rivers edge – the fire department and police arrived – Joeys’ best friend being questioned I could see from the corner of my eye – as I sat on the cool beach sand not 20 feet from the shore- I let my eyes drift from one side of the river – up and down – but could see nothing but the shadows of the trees across the way – my eyes kept descending on a spot not 50 feet from where I sat- where a slight more movement was than the rest of the water around it- it was a current- that is where he is I thought to myself – then at the same time thinking- that bugger was probably sitting on a rock across the way getting a chuckle from what was taking place- not that he would – but I guess for me was easier to believe he was alive and laughing as he was earlier that day when I seen him.

Several hours later a police officer come to us- Joeys’ siblings who were present to say- it has now come a search and recover not a search and rescue and paid their condolences to us. – there was shock on most of the faces – when I broke the silence saying that Mom and Dad needed to be told now- before we left to go to our parents home – I was volunteered to voice what had happened that evening to our parents once we all were in their home.

Getting our parents out of bed at 5:30 am to answer the door – was not a feat- as they always opened the door readily to their adult children over the last few years- having 11 children there always seemed to be some one in turmoil and looking for a place to sit it out for a day or 2 or just a night. They sat at the kitchen table as we stood around the kitchen – I began from the beginning- told them all that had taken place earlier and how the next day divers would be brought in to recover the body from the depths of the Sauble River.

There is no cry as hair raising or heart breaking as that of a Mother who has just been told her child had died – her repeating his name over and over almost as if she said it enough he would appear before us all.

Joeys’ funeral took place on the reservation – a 4 day rite – with a sacred fire burning 24 hours a day for 4 days – native drummers & singers coming in to chant daily over those hours-the mass of people that streamed thru the hall was astounding – I had a couple younger sisters sobbing heavily as I embraced them – I would go up to the coffin- lay my hand on his chest – say a prayer – talk to him – tell him I knew he was at peace –

I seen that as his body was brought from the depths of the river the next day – denim jeans, a shirt, bare feet and his glasses still sitting atop his nose- his face not strained but at peace.

I could feel the braces criss crossed over his chest to hold his body down within the coffin- periodically seeing a bead of water atop his nose – a sweat bead? -no- water exiting his body from being deep within for 24 hour. I had always heard that to drown is not a painful death- a slight burning in the chest- I believe that now after seeing his face when he was laid on the shore that afternoon.

This time of year, I seen his face and smile, hear his laughter before that day, but I also see the face that was brought from the water, to the shore.

I love my brother dearly, he was there for me in our childhood and teen years and answered the call in our adult years.

Pray is all I can say to do and what I do, to make it through the holiday season without the sound and touch of loved ones who have passed over.

This song is all about.. what ifs and learning to live with no regrets.. its about, Joey. And I will always be sorry I didn’t do something different earlier that evening, just maybe he would still be here today.. maybe..

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