To Josh: You Fought the Good Fight, We Love You and Are Eternally Grateful for the 23 Years We Had You
Joshua Wright – (1988-2012)
Most of my cousins under age 30 have a special place in my heart, whether I’ve been in their lives for the entire time, for bits and pieces, or for just a very short time. Whether they live in New York, New Jersey, Virginia, North Carolina, California or abroad — as they all do — if I remember them coming home from the hospital, there is an inextricable bond that forms.
Josh was no different.
Josh was a miracle baby of sorts. Born in the summer of 1988, his digestive system did not develop properly. While his mother had the agonizing decision to make — whether to have corrective surgery while he was still a toddler or spare him the years of rehabilitation and pain that he eventually would endure — Josh took everything in stride almost immediately.
I was nine years old when he was brought to our grandmother’s house for the first time. My grandmother was thrilled to see him, as was the rest of the family, all the aunts, uncles and cousins who were my age were passing him around and he loved every minute of it. The thing about Josh is that he loved his family dearly; and could do SPOT ON imitations of everyone from our grandmother, to his mother, to our uncle Curtis, and probably the funniest one that he did (in my opinion) was of me — doing one of my classic rants (people who know me best know how animated I get with pointed language, a sharp accent and a myriad of descriptive hand gestures that everyone who has ever spent time around me seems to make light of).
We were a bit too young to truly understand the magnitude of his difficulties early on, but by the time I got to high school, I knew what was going on with him. I respected his mother’s choice; after all, she carried him to term and he was her youngest child. You do not flippantly make that decision, regardless of how much of a no-brainer it appears from the outside. When I began college, they were living in Ohio, where his mother decided to go in order to be closer to a church that she had become part of. I did not see Josh for years, as I was back and forth between New York and North Carolina for the majority of that time. The last time our grandmother came back home to New Jersey just a couple of weeks before “9/11”, I wanted Josh to come with us, but his mother would not allow it — even though there was a caravan of family, including young cousins his age (13 at the time) — who came along.
Once social networking came alive and I encouraged Josh to come on board on Facebook in 2007 and Twitter later that year, we began to connect regularly. Our grandmother passed away that same year and Josh promised her that he would not allow anything to happen to our aunt Cynthia, who has been incapacitated for her entire life, at age 61 now. Aunt Cynthia moved in with Phyllis (Josh’s mother) shortly thereafter, and they cared for Cynthia daily for the next five years (Josh passed away just a month short of the fifth anniversary of our grandmother’s death in April 2007).
One thing that I had always noticed growing up is that Josh was very sheltered. He never really left home for more than a few hours at a time, and never left North Carolina except for the period of time that they lived in Ohio. When I initially moved back to New York a year after our grandmother passed, I promised Josh that I would take a week to just chauffeur him around and take him wherever he wanted to go. As someone who loves to drive, explore aimlessly on the road and sight-see, joke around and have fun, this was just as much fun for me as it was for Josh — who never stopped thanking me for doing something that was nothing more than family showing love to family.
I drove down from Staten Island to scoop Josh up, took the scenic route up Route 1 (after the I-95 stretch), pointing out the sights along the way. I had written about this (as those who remember my OLD page — before it was deleted by Facebook administrators back in June 2009, shortly after the trip) and included pictures and what not. We landed in Newark, got a hotel, ordered mounds of food and we ate like cholesterol, diabetes and high blood pressure were not concerns. The next day, I took Josh out to Short Hills, then up the Palisades so that he could see the City from that vantage point, explaining what was what, as I took the drive up through Orangeburg and the base of the Adirondacks — before going through Nyack and back down the Thruway to the Bronx (this was when “Death to Autotune” dropped — the FIRST NIGHT that Flex played it on Hot 97, 150 times that night, seemingly). I drove through the Bronx, Harlem, down the West Side Highway and then decided to go out to Staten Island, as I was due to start a job at the Day Camp out there at CSI (College of Staten Island) in a few weeks.
He met some of my other cousins, who I’ve also been near and dear with since their respective births. Little did they know that would be the first and only time that they would see him. Afterward, I drove over to CSI to check in with the camp administrators and then sped off to check out bridges (which Josh said he was dying to see), so I showed him every bridge that connected Staten Island to Jersey (except the Outerbridge), then the Verrazano, took the Belt over to Kennedy (he had never seen our airports in person, obviously and was amazed at the amount of traffic coming and going from JFK), up the Van Wyck, to the then-newly opened Citi Field, over to Flushing Meadow-Corona Park, where our grandfather lived for 25 years, in nearby Corona, over to our parents’ old house in Flushing on Farrington Street, and then across the Whitestone, before we decided to call it a day and ate like pigs again that night.
The next day, his brother Rick calls me and tells me to come out to Hollis in Queens, where another one of our cousins was having a BBQ at her grandmother’s house. We made it all the way out there, and as usual, for a Saturday — the Belt was ridiculously backed up, and coming from Newark just made me even more agitated than the 3rd grade directions that we were given — Josh’s imitations of me stemmed from my classic OMW anger that exploded through the phone, eventually leading me to shout @$%! IT and head up to Jamaica Avenue, after circling Merrick and Linden at least a half dozen times, since they would not give us the address to the house.
Josh wanted to see Rick, but fortunately, he did later that summer when our grandfather passed away.
However, despite the snafu with the BBQ, Josh wanted to see more of the city, so I doubled back and took the Throgs Neck and took the long way to Yankee Stadium — the new one — which had just opened two months prior. He was craning his neck as I came down the Grand Concourse, because he couldn’t believe the size of that place compared to what he had seen on TV and in pictures. By this point, it was late in the afternoon, and we came back through Harlem, as I showed him a few of the spots. He saw one of his favorite TV stars in the 40s downtown and couldn’t believe it. I told him that we see these “celebrities” nearly every day, but he wanted to hop out right there on Broadway and get an autograph.
I was willing to let him, but he got cold feet.
He wasn’t as bold as me; I saw Sandra Oh a couple of weeks later rushing to get to a restaurant on Restaurant Row and was tempted to trip her, because she barreled into me as if I was not even standing there. Yawn.
Everyone who knows me knows I’m like that gabby bartender who has (true) stories for days, with a loud, boisterous smoker’s laugh that reminds you of that old butcher at the Deli with blood stains on his shirt who always looks upset when they’re talking, but is really jovial if you’re engaged with them in conversation. Josh’s imitations became more prevalent from that point forward. I thought the kid had a future doing stand-up sometimes, I swear.
We left New York and went to Williamsburg, Virginia where his other brother Desmond lives with his family. Desmond was overjoyed to see us. This was doing the 2009 NBA Finals, so we stayed and watched the game, had a couple of cold ones and took a spin on Desmond’s Ducati (or was it a Suzuki, I’ll have to ask him — I’ll never get on that bike without a helmet again — Josh nearly keeled over when he saw me nearly lose control of the bike going 110 MPH up a CHILDREN AT PLAY street ha). These were good times. Desmond was overcome with joy to the point of tears (I had only seen him cry ONCE before, and that was when our grandmother passed away — Desmond having the most unique relationship with her and all) and thanked me repeatedly for taking Josh on the week long trip.
I WAS JUST AS GLAD TO BE AROUND JOSH AS HE WAS TO GET OUT AND SEE THE EAST COAST A LITTLE BIT.
Part of me felt bad for him, because he had so much potential. He was smart, loved his family immensely and just never could fully overcome his health issues long enough to focus on any of the myriad of things that he had going on for him. He had met several people in the music industry just last year, which was the last time I had actually seen him (other than Twitter and Facebook, we had no other way of seeing each other 500 miles apart), and it appeared that things were JUST about to break for him. I was just thinking about him a few weeks ago, and hit him up on Twitter. He saw that I had recently moved, and we talked about that and the embarrassment that was Jay-Z and Beyonce’s circus at Lenox Hill Hospital. In my typical pointed humor, I expressed my consternation and he was doubled over laughing.
HERE ARE OUR LAST TWEETS:
Joshua Wright @YUNGJERICHO
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Once again, congrats to the #GIANTS! #SUPERBOWLCHAMPS2012 I know my cousin @ServantLeader79 is somewhere in a good mood! lol.
Joshua Wright @YUNGJERICHO
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In reply to Michael D. Wright
11 Feb Joshua Wright @YUNGJERICHO
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@ServantLeader79 lol I hear you cuz, what’s your take on them renting out that hospital floor?
Michael D. Wright @ServantLeader79
Joshua Wright @YUNGJERICHO
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In reply to Michael D. Wright
He had his tweets protected, so I cannot retrieve each of them, but that was our final exchange. When I got the call from my mother, I was in shock, and still am, 36 hours later. We just dealt with the death of our aunt two months ago, and after building so much hope and encouragement in Josh over the past decade, the LORD saw fit to take him from us. I will say this, Josh was SAVED — and let it be made known, despite all the flaws and sins that we all have — he was an angel to our family. And ULTIMATELY, he’s out of pain now, because he was in pain nearly all of every day of his life, along with the chores of just maintaining himself daily. He fought the good fight in this life, and despite the agony, depression and isolation, his heart was poured into this life and our family, and apparently it gave all that it could, as he had a heart attack due to kidney stones, which subsequently led to gangrene and ultimately his heart overcompensating for the organ failure, which put him into his prolonged state of rest.
He was just 23, but he left an indelible mark as a unique member of our family, and over the past half of his life, I was grateful to see him at least begin to embark on adulthood and see his star shine for that short while. I haven’t grieved yet, and it will probably hit me when everything is taking place down south and I am once again unable to be with grieving family during the time of loss. I just hope that everyone both here in New York and down in Virginia and North Carolina are coping well and that we do not ever forget Josh.
I choose to focus on the fact that he is no longer in pain and suffering, but part of me (selfishly) wanted to see him excel, overcome and eventually have the surgery that he would have needed to live a more normal life. Ultimately, God knew what Josh’s purpose was for this world and our family, and apparently he has fulfilled that purpose.
Rest Peacefully, Josh.
Joshua and Desmond — Summer 1996.