Did you ever have a moment when you felt a powerful Connection to something larger than what you can see? Your mind and body are attuned to the surroundings, the moment, and the vaster view of a spiritual juncture. This short story is about friendship, connection, and a united decision.
When our daughter Jessica moved into the group home, we didn’t anticipate that our extended family would grow. The families of the five housemates feel like chosen kin. On October 8th, while my husband Mitch and I were traveling across the country in our RV, our friend ( whose daughter lives in the group home), Joe, passed away. The funeral was on day 39 of our Big Trip. We were in Antelope Island, Utah, and could not attend the funeral in person.
Our Friend JOE
Joe, his late wife Rena, Mitch, and I bonded from the day we met. He was born the same year as my dad. His daughter and our daughter, Jessica, have similar needs. Dr. Joe Merrick was a gentle, brilliant, sweet, loving friend, father, and husband. My book, Raising Jess, has many photos and references to Joe and his family. Together, Joe and his wife Rena raised their daughter in a time when the only options were residential. There were no support groups, Early Intervention services, accommodations, and other help that is currently available.
Online From Across the Country
As one might expect, attending an online funeral in Antelope Island, Utah, was difficult. I grabbed my E-Bike and held my phone high until I found 2-3 bars. The funeral started at the top of the hour as I searched the internet. Finally, I found a few phone bars and pulled over on the road to honor Joe and his family. Mitch found me several minutes later, and together we mourned our friend Joe.
When the funeral ended, Mitch and I drove to Lady Finger Point. It’s a short ½ mile hike that ends at a vista of sky and land. As the song goes, “I can see for Miles and Miles….” Mitch and I sat on the rocks and spoke about Joe and what he meant to our family.
In a moment of clarity? Spiritualism? Love? We decided to name all of our departed family and friends. At this age, this is not a short list. There are so many people we have not thought about in a long time. Mentioning the names signifies that they are not forgotten.
After an hour, Mitch and I recited the mourner’s kaddish for all those we mentioned and for Joe. A Jewish prayer traditionally recited after the death of a family member and on the anniversary of their passing. Many people stand and pray for those with no family and the millions who died in the Holocaust.
In the quiet moments that followed our prayer, Mitch looked at me and said, “This should be the turning point of our trip.” It was time to return home to family and friends after a fantastic journey.
It took 12 days to get home, and we still visited new cities, stayed in an amazing hotel in Salt Lake City, and enjoyed the concluding days of our trip. However, our mindset shifted from active touring and exploring to making our way back to family and friends.
Yesterday, I visited Jessica; you can see from her smile and mine that it was a wonderful reunion.
Jessica’s housemates sat with us and chatted. I gave Karen, Joe’s daughter, a big hug. Seeing everybody and surrounding myself with their friendship and love was refreshing.
Jessica gave me several kisses, and my heart melted. It feels good to be home.
Raising Jess Memoir 2022 Readers’ Favorite Gold Medal Winner !!
If You haven’t already purchased, Raising Jess: A Story of Hope – Please consider a copy for yourself, a friend, a teacher, a therapist, a mom, a sibling, or a book lover…
“A truly Enlightening Read” Kirkus Review
“As a professional in the field of developmental disabilities for over 40 years, I learned things I didn’t know. I encourage others in the field to read Raising Jess a Story of Hope to help understand the families and individuals you work with.” (Amazon)
“This book is a must-read for anyone looking to learn more about special needs families and their day-to-day challenges and triumphs or simply wants to immerse themselves in a compassionate and celebratory world.” (Amazon)
“Couldn’t Put it Down! Raising Jess is an amazing book! I started it at 9 pm and stayed up all night to finish it in one sitting. Vickie Rubin’s writing is masterful! Highly recommend!” – Mike S.