My eulogy for Josh, posted by special request from my family.
[Author’s Note: I made sure to apologize to Jesus in advance.]
It’s a phrase that everyone in this room has said at least once in the last 25 years. I yelled it quite frequently throughout the writing of this essay.
And I cried every time.
Joshua Jarvis… would all be disappointed in us right now. No one stuck a fake mustache on the urn at the viewing. No one slipped a whoopee cushion under Cherie’s butt when she sat down in that pew. And Billy has not picked his nose with anything in this church…that I know of.
Technically, Josh was my nephew…but that word implies a certain distance. I am, in fact, closer in age to Josh than my own big sister. There should be a different word for what Josh was to me…what he was to us all…something that means grandson, nephew, cousin, friend…but also Brother.
Josh was a brother to everyone, the brat who enjoyed potty humor and cute girls and having as much fun as humanly possible. Josh was the boy who shaved his head to raise money for St. Jude’s hospital. He was the kid who wore seventeen gold chains into the Burger King before he had any idea who Mr. T was. He was the charmer who could get girls on the other side of the world to dance for him. He was the young man who was not too proud to throw up in the bushes and cry on his yia yia’s shoulder while his sister underwent a lifesaving surgery.
Even as a little kid, Josh had a big heart. It took his body a couple of decades to expand to a proportional volume, a size that provided Josh with the ability to give some of the best bear hugs on the planet. And inside that big heart was a tender and sensitive soul. For someone so young, Josh experienced his share of tragedy — beginning with the death of his friend Hunter while he was still a teen.
Perhaps Hunter’s passing impressed upon Josh the importance of living life–all of it–as hard as he could…stupid mistakes and all. In his too short life, Josh had experiences that some people only dream of (and we all have that picture of him with Seth Rogan to prove it). If this family knows one thing, it’s how to be loud…and Josh lived with the volume turned to eleven.
Several years ago, when I was at a writing retreat in TN and Josh was at school in KY, he sent me a message suggesting that we “go on an adventure.” Now…we were in very different places at the time, both mentally and physically…and I declined the invitation. As you can imagine, I’ve thought a lot about that moment this past week. If I *had* accepted Josh’s offer, what kind of adventure would we have had? I can just see us now…in a Nashville strip club. Josh is stuffing g-strings with dollar bills and I’m making sure all the dancers are covered in adequate amounts of glitter.
Regardless of whether or not that adventure actually happened, I’m treasuring that mental image all the same.
I can still hear Josh’s voice on Mom & Dad’s answering machine, boasting about selling two cars in one day. There was excitement in that voice. Happiness. Every day I worried a little less about Josh — he was on his own adventure now, living his life to the fullest.
Joshua George Jarvis. The boy born on St. Patrick’s Day. Our good luck charm, who will henceforth remind us every day that we should Eat, Drink, and Be Merry. Love with Bear Hugs. Go on adventures. Dance in glitter and g-strings. Laugh out loud. Party with all our hearts…and live with the volume turned up to 11.