This reflection was written in 2010 by Joe’s mom Diane Restaino in a blog she created called “Flower In A Sidewalk”
One year ago we were in Chattanooga on the eve of Joe’s last chapel talk.
HIs final goodbye to the students, faculty and the school he had loved for four years.
We packed him up between two cars, each carrying twelve oxygen tanks, along with his beloved Brooks Bothers navy blazer passed on to him from his father and his tie from graduation. The trip was slow and arduous, with us side stepping every bump in the road. Having that much oxygen in your car can be very scary. Joe slept most of the way waking only to tweak his talk.
We never looked at each other but at times our hands were drawn together in a tight grip. A grip only a mother can feel as her child is slipping away.
The night before was a routine of calling doctors to regulate his pain and his oxygen and having dinner with the Phillips who graciously provided food for us. In the morning Joe was so weak Mike had to dress him. Chat Phillips took on the job of the “protector of the oxygen tanks”. The effort for Joe to walk from the car to the chapel caused a horrendous coughing fit. The incredible strength it took for him to walk out to his chair on stage and start his talk would be like a healthy man running up a mountain.
He delivered his talk, the pages flying into Billy Faires hands, and in the end he weakly walked off stage only to fall into another coughing fit. We were there along with his bothers and grandparents. But also so many others made the effort to be by Joe’s side. It was Jonny who could only take one “no questions asked” leave from at the Air Force Academy; Michael, Stu and Frank who drove all night from Raleigh, Chris who drove in from Kentucky with his parents Susie and Robbie. And included in the group were Josh, Elliot and Kentucky, each of them driving for hours to see Joe. Mary Kay and Chat made the trip from Mississippi.
Our breaths were taken away by the support.
September 30, 2009 was Joe’s farewell to those he loved. October 1, 2009, as we drove back to Charlotte, the conversation was about his funeral.