October 12

By Darby Pritz


I’m trying to keep this blog lighthearted and resourceful. But today I’m going to heal through writing.

My brother took his life in June.

That sentence alone can bring me to my knees at times. It sneaks into my head and my heart and makes me useless.
So I pretend. I pretend he’s in Oklahoma and when I visit my family, home will be what it always was. But instead it’s the place where his absence is felt most. It’s raw.
I pretend he could call at any moment and we’ll have an awkward conversation. But the last time we talked on the phone he said goodbye. I just didn’t hear what he was saying.

So I’m going to stop pretending.

I’m going to let the pain of healing teach me.

It has already taught me so much. I try not to go down the “what if” road. In times like this you just can’t. You won’t survive. “What if” can ruin you so quickly. However, I can take the regrets I have and learn from them.

Did he know how much I love him? This is my biggest regret. The hardest thing is wondering if he ever doubted that his little sister looked up to, loved, and respected him.joelsnowboard

So here’s my challenge to you. But also, this is my challenge to me.
In an active way.
Show people you care.
Be genuine.
Allow people to be broken and share in their brokenness.
Allow yourself to be broken in front of others.

I’m so grateful to the people in Joel’s life who made themselves available to him. It’s one of my greatest comforts to know he had friends who loved and cared for him. Friends who prayed for and encouraged him.

Today is Joel’s birthday.

I love you Joel.
I want to love others for you.
Thank you for teaching me


Lynna Blackwell says

Thank you, Darby, for sharing your pain. Tears have rolled down my cheeks like a flood tonight as I posted pictures of Jo-Jo on Facebook in remembrance of his birthday. I think I had a special bond with Joel from getting to watch him struggle to be born, with the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck. I’m so thankful to your Mom for letting me come into the room where she was laboring so hard…that was a very special day for me. I’ve prayed for all my grandchildren from the day you were born, but prayed especially hard for Joel as he was having a difficult time making his entry into the world.

I have such good memories– things that made us laugh, especially when he and Kenny were together at our house at the Ranch…riding their toy “mo-mo’s” (little 3-wheelers) down the steep sidewalk, and getting in trouble for cutting down my big elephant ears with their “swords!” Your Dad made them come inside and apologize to me! Oh, those big blue eyes that both boys had were filled with terror as they had to say, “I’m sorry, Granny.” I could barely keep a straight face, but I accepted their apology and told them not to attack my pretty plants anymore. Then Joel asked, “But, Granny! What CAN we fight with our swords?!” Hmmm. Good question, Joel.

We had many good times with Joel (and all of you grandchildren) as you grew up. When Joel was grown, and attending university at JBU, I enjoyed having him call and say, “What’s up, Granny?” It was usually close to a meal time, so I would ask if he would like to come eat with us. He always accepted, ate heartily, and expressed his appreciation. Joel–still–always had good questions. He would ask something that got us to talking, and he always listened to what we had to say. We had some good times during those four years, and I would be so proud getting to go to watch and hear him play the trumpet so skillfully in the Jazz Band and as a part of the brass ensemble at the JBU Cathedral Christmas Concert each year.

We met for lunch a few times after he went to work and had his own apartment in Tulsa (when Pa-Pa and I had a doctor’s appointments there), and we texted back and forth occasionally–something usually short, just checking on each other. I grieved quietly as he grew more and more distant in the last couple of years, and I didn’t understand why. I still don’t…I just know that something was troubling him deeply, but he seemed afraid to be close…afraid that I might ask him what was wrong. It was obvious that he didn’t want to discuss whatever it was, so I hugged him one day–one of the last times he was at our house–and said, “Jo-Jo, I know you’re hurting, so I just want you to know that I love you, and I won’t ask you any questions.” I know he knew that I loved him, but when we saw him at your parents’ house on Father’s Day in June, he hardly spoke, couldn’t really hug me–though I hugged him–and he left before dinner–just saying, “I’ve got to go….I’ve got to go…” I was angry! I was hurt !… and heartbroken. I was being selfish–it wasn’t all about me. Your Mom and Dad had to be hurting, too. They just didn’t talk about it.

It’s hard not understanding why…but I am comforted that God knows, and Joel is with Him. When we see him again, the “why?” won’t matter. But the tears still come frequently, as I know they do with you and all the family. I know that Joel knew you loved him…he wouldn’t have teased you so much if he had not known that. He loved you, too, little sister! I hope it isn’t inappropriate for me to combine my pain with yours on your blog, and share such personal thoughts. You challenged us to be “real,” and that’s what I’m doing.

I love you so much Darby! Thank you for expressing your broken heart, which frees me to do the same. You are a gifted young woman, Darby. I thank God for your beauty, your talents, and especially for your sensitive spirit and love for our Lord Jesus. So thankful to be family–both here, and for eternity.
Love, Granny

Annette Blackwell (Nana) says

Oh Darby, that is wonderful. You spoke for all of us. Thank you. We love you so much.

zach says


Thena Gaulin says

Beautifully written and thank you so very much for sharing. I, too, lost someone so young and so close to my heart. I know you knew my Tommy. I wish I had known your brother. It takes a lot of courage to put it all out there in a blog or public posting. If more people had that kind of courage I think there would be less pain and suffering. Sharing the way you have is healing and in its way tells the world that the person we have lost has value, that his or her existence mattered. No life, no matter how short or the way it ended, should be hidden in our hearts. Sharing your love the way you have is beautiful and if Joel brought that out in you, then he too has a beautiful soul. He touched you in a special way. I believe his pain had nothing to do with any misconception about you or your family’s love for him. The why’s do not matter any more, as your grandmother stated, he is in good hands now, feeling no pain. Rejoice in that truth and remember the good times. Thank you again for sharing Joel’s story. I will continue to pray for you and your family.

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