Loss is a part of Life. I understand that on an intellectual level, but accepting it on an emotional level can be a bit challenging.
This past month has been one very long lesson in the acceptance of loss and the acceptance of reality.
The night of September 11th and into the early hours of September 12th, everything changed dramatically for my beloved little town of Jamestown. The rain that had been with us all week became a torrential downpour and the steep hillside behind Joey Howlett’s house lost it’s grip. Joey’s house and Joey were lost in the resulting mudslide. Miraculously, his roommate Miles survived.
I’m not completely clear on what happened next. But the first responders (the Jamestown Volunteer Fire Department) got Miles out and realized that the whole town was in danger of flooding. Thru reverse 911 calls and knocking on doors they got everyone to safe shelter on higher ground.
The first thing I knew anything about this was the following morning. The power was out in our neighborhood, but our phone was working. We had gotten emails and phone calls in the early hours of the morning that school was canceled due to flooding. The news was that Jamestown had been badly flooded and that there was one fatality. My youngest son was sick, so that was a bit of a distraction from my worry about who had been taken from us.
When the power finally came on late that afternoon my husband and I turned on the news. Unfortunately we couldn’t find out much more than we had already learnt from the radio earlier in the day. Then the power went out again.
The next day the phones wouldn’t work to call out of the neighborhood, but I could call my immediate neighbors and they could call us. Later that morning I got a call from one of my friends in the neighborhood. We talked about what we knew of the flooding. I told her I knew there was a fatality in Jamestown, but not who. She said she knew who, but did I really want to know. I was very worried about the answer, but told her I wanted to know. She told me it was Joey.
My heart felt like it was suddenly filled with lead. Joey and Jamestown have been linked in my mind since I moved up to this mountain community in 1997. He was one of the first people I ever met in Jamestown and his smile and laughter were as much a part of the landscape of the town as our beautiful mountains.
My fondest memory of him is when he would have spaghetti dinners at the Merc right before Christmas. Joey would suddenly disappear and a few minutes later Santa Claus would arrive. This was the first Santa Claus my youngest ever met (he wasn’t too sure about the whole business) and the only Santa Claus that my oldest wasn’t afraid of.
The other losses are smaller in many ways for my family. But the devastation in Jamestown has been surprising in the losses newly discovered each day. Just the loss of anything remotely approaching “normal” for any of us has been a new test of our resiliency on a regular basis. The new normal will be absent Joey’s smile when it does finally come, but his memory will live on in all our hearts.
If you would like to learn more about Joey and our wonderful little town you can visit the Jamestown Connect blog. There you can see what Joey looked like when he wasn’t disguised as Santa.