It's been a while since Justin would have turned 18. Nevertheless he would pardon my tardiness, given the circumstance. I have thought endlessly about what it would be like to have him with us at this special age, and have had many feelings and thoughts that can't even begin to fit on a page. Alas, this is what I have come across on this very special year for all of us. Please bear with me.
The most difficult relationship of all is ...
The one with an absent child.
The most poignant birthday celebration is ...
One attended by grieving parents
Visiting their child's grave,
Lighting candles and sending up
Balloons that say,
"We Love and Miss You ... Happy Birthday"
The toughest graduation is ...
The one your child doesn't attend
The most sorrowful family gathering is ...
The one your child should have attended
The saddest sound on Earth is ...
At the same time, in the spirit of Justin's being, I am compelled to break the silence and share with you, his friends, and fellow graduates a few anecdotes of his life which really reflect what our dear son Justin stood by.
In his short young life Justin had the luck to be able to share his spirit with all of us, in a very unselfish manner. His deeds always delivered in an innocent fashion, were many times compared to a "Mother Theresa". In the city, I'll never forget how at a very tender age, Justin would look forward to handing his leftover meal (doggie bag) to any homeless person along our return home, followed by a handshake. He had no concept of difference in humanity, to him we were all created equal, and therefore we all deserve the same.
One day, after having lived 17 years in Manhattan, I returned home from house hunting in Long Island. I was frazzled by the many choices available. Justin sensed my utter confusion, and exasperation in trying to make the best decision. He simply said to me, "Mommy a home is not about what it looks like from the outside that matters, rather it's what you put into it, what's inside of it, that's important." It's as if he had a higher sense of karma, beyond what most of us experience in our lifetime.
He would forgive anyone quickly. Although his honesty got in his way at times, he felt good about it. His sense of humor was unreal, contagious, and a given particularly at times of distress amongst his friends and family. He had a knack for imitating accents, and loved to copy famous voices. He wanted to be a producer; he kept up with the film industry, and wrote a few sagas. In his honor, a media center will be built in the youth house at Temple Israel of Great Neck.
His love for animals was taken to an extreme, when he insisted on my calling up a service to rescue a house finch, which he climbed on the rooftop of our house to help. He sensed the bird could not see, as it kept crashing into a wall in flight. He was correct, it was treated with special drops, and later released by the bird rehabilitator. While in school and on the bus, at times he was eyewitness to some unjust circumstances. Justin felt a need to have them addressed immediately, even if it meant putting himself out for others in the name of a good cause.
On my last birthday with him, he arrived home from school having walked in the scorching summer heat, wearing his heavy backpack, holding an ice cream cake in his hands. It is this tremendous heart of his that we all miss, and draw inspiration from. Happy belated 18th birthday, Justin.
Somehow I hear him wishing us all,
Comfort on difficult days,
Smiles when sadness intrudes,
Rainbows to follow the clouds,
Laughter to kiss your lips,
Sunsets to warm your heart,
Gentle hugs when spirits sag,
Friendships to brighten your being,
Beauty for your eyes to see,
Confidence for when you doubt,
Faith so that you can believe,
Courage to know yourself,
Patience to accept the truth,
And love to complete your life.
With all our love, Elizabeth, Lenny, Jessica, Sammy Jay, and Justin forever in our hearts.