How does one tell an 88-year-old woman that her first-born son has tragically died? There is no good way. We were as gentle as we could be when we faced that task last Wednesday, both Peter and I holding Rusty’s hands as he shared the devastating news that Joe had been killed near the curb as he started to cross a busy street at sunset in Idaho Falls on Tuesday night.
We were concerned the shock could well do her in, but she is a strong soul, immediately more concerned about Joe’s wife Sandy, his twin daughters Erika and Michelle, and how the other boys (Bill and David) were taking it. Everyone is heart-broken.
Truly, such a shock; we are all stunned, and it has been a very rough week.
Joe’s passing leaves a gigantic hole in our family. Joe was the spark for Anderson get-togethers, always curious about everyone’s travels (although he much preferred to stay home), the first to help bring in stuff from the car, build a fire, to do whatever needed to be done. He had a giant guffaw of a laugh and a lopsided grin that couldn’t help but touch your heart.
As Rusty put it — and it’s completely absolutely true to those who knew him — Joe was “the most positive person she ever knew.” He was faithful about calling her every single night, no matter where he happened to be — home in Jackson, on the road somewhere for his sales job, or at the Jackson Hole airport fulfilling his hosting duties there. She didn’t want to talk to anyone but family, crying so often and rubbing her eyes so hard that by the end of that day, her sweet face was marked with a raccoon-like mask of bruises. Poignantly, Rusty said sadly that he was the last person to remember her when she and Emory were young — what a sad realization.
Normalcy seems distant. As Rusty said, she doesn’t feel like life should go on — dressing, eating, thinking about things like whether the cat box needs to be emptied and if there’s a kink in her oxygen hose. “Parents shouldn’t have to bury children,” as my sister Judy put it, and at 67, Joe should have a lot more time to enjoy his grand-kids and serve on the ski patrol (which he has done for FIVE decades). But such is not the case. We are now in the logistic muddle of memorial planning and at last reaching out for support. I appreciate the words of concern and offers to help. At the moment, there’s not much to be done.
Joe’s death is a terrific — in the true senses of the word (“of great size, amount or intensity,” and archaicly, “causing terror”) reminder of the fragility of life. It offers much needed perspective…. of what truly matters and what is valued.
Hug your loved ones today, or if they’re not in reach, call and share your love. We never know what might be our last communication with those we care about (and who care about us as well.)
Three special pix —
Peter, Joe and Bill, top of the tram in Jackson, from September 2009:
Rusty and her sons Bill, David, Peter and Joe, on her front porch on Easter, 2013:
Celebrating Easter 2016, at Rusty’s — Joe’s wife Sandy and the twins and their family were with Sandy’s sister but this was the first time the four boys had been together for a while, with Leslie and Theresa there, too.
Lastly, here’s the link to the story that was in the Jackson Hole Daily on Thursday. Joe’s obituary will be in Wednesday’s weekly Jackson Hole News and Guide.