Dear Joey –
You would have started kindergarten today. I watched the little siblings of many of John’s friends walk into the school and head to the kindergarten classrooms and my heart ached for you to be among them. The class of 2028 will never know you. I imagine what you would be like. Would you enjoy soccer? Would you rather play hockey like your big brother John? You had the biggest feet. We joked when you were born that you were definitely a Barker. Would you have been tall? You had dark black hair, just like John. Would it have stayed black? Or would it have turned blonde, like your little brother Luke?
John started school on Tuesday. One of the questions his teacher asked was how many people were in his family. This is a question that bereaved parents everywhere loathe because the answer can be challenging. The reality is that the question isn’t any easier for siblings. John told me, “I answered 5, but I should have answered 6 because of Joey.” I told him that I struggle with how to answer that question as well and that either answer is just fine. Luke has strep this week, and when John went to bed on Tuesday night, he started to sob. I asked him what was wrong. He told me he was afraid of Luke dying. My initial instinct was to reassure him that Luke wouldn’t die. But I don’t know that. And he knows I don’t know that. He’s already lost one little brother. He misses you – fully and completely. He talks about how you would play with him now, attend the same school, and enjoy the same sports. He loves Luke and Ava immensely, but knows way too young the pain of intense loss.
Ava and Luke talk about you as well. It’s different, because they weren’t here when you died. They didn’t witness the first year, when I held it together pretty well during the work day but cried every evening on the way home until John finally told me that you wanted me to stop crying. But they still know you, and understand that you are an important part of our family. Luke will see a picture of baby and say, “Joey.” He’ll then talk about you not being able to leave the hospital and that you are dead. Tuesday he said, “I love Joey. I’ll see him in heaven.” Ava likes to say you’re in heaven “with the 3 dogs – Molly, Sadie, and Gracie.” You are still so much a part of our family even though you’re gone. We love you and miss you.
I wish more than anything that you had started school this week, that you would graduate in 2028. But I am grateful for the time that we did have with you and wouldn’t trade it for the world.