I am so thankful for a loving Heavenly Father who doesn’t let his children know the future. We may think we wish we knew what was going to happen to us in certain situations, but we really should be satisfied to let God be completely in control. I didn’t really understand that until sometime after July 2, 1992, when Jay died. I can’t even imagine how I would have survived if I had known what would happen on Thursday of the week beginning on June 27, 1992.
I don’t have a very good memory about lots of things; however, everything that happened in my life from June 27 through July 6, 1992, is imprinted in my mind even today, a quarter of a century later. In 1993, because I was afraid at that time that I might forget, I wrote what I called “One Year Journal—A Piece of My Heart.” In it, I wrote down everything that I could remember of each day leading up to Jay’s death and of the days following. Since my journal was originally meant just for me, you may have trouble identifying some of the people; therefore, I have identified them within parentheses.
Saturday, June 27, 1992
Frank and I left home early so that we could arrive in Chattanooga before Velvet Melon’s gig began. I remember feeling the usual thrill of pride as Jay strode into the club, flipping his hair, and looking around, claiming his territory. If only I had the words to describe exactly how he looked as he walked into those clubs. All who knew him know exactly what I mean. Usually the first sound that we’d hear after he walked in was either a “Hey, man! How ya doin’?” or that laugh of his that started in his toes and traveled up to that Jay smile . . . the same one he had had since he was a baby. There’s not another one like it. Sometimes in the strangest places I hear that laugh, and I laugh through my tears. I know that somewhere on all the videos that laugh is recorded. Someday I’ll listen, but not yet . . . not yet. When will it not be too soon? Someday.
That June 27 gig was just like all the others that we attended at Yesterday’s . . . young people wall to wall, too much drinking, lots of noise, so many people that it was almost impossible to get to the restroom, great rock ‘n’ roll music, love flowing from the stage to the audience, especially from Jay. I recall that there was one guy who kept throwing money at Jay; someone told us that he was absolutely captivated by my boy. Not anything weird . . . that’s not what I mean. He just enjoyed watching Jay perform. He was one of the first to buy one of the new t-shirts that had the guys in the band on the front and Jimmy (the sound man) on the sleeve. Frank and I were wearing them, too. Actually, mine is different; it has only the VM logo on the front. I don’t know why I didn’t want the other kind. Maybe a premonition . . . I don’t know. I don’t really enjoy wearing the shirts with Jay’s picture on them. To tell you the truth, I don’t like the one I was wearing that night either. Crazy lady, I guess.
The audience was wild that night . . . absolutely wild. I remember that Jay came to sit with us during the second break. I can never understand parents and children who don’t have the relationship that we had with our children. Jay was always proud to have us in his audience, and whenever we were there, he found time to sit with us for a few minutes. As he sat with us that evening, sweat dripping from him and his hands combing through his hair in the usual manner, he said something that I will never forget. Neither will Frank. We’ve told so many people those words. He was sitting there with the chair turned backwards, between his mom and dad, and he said, ‘You’ll never know the feeling I get when I have those guys on the floor right in my hands! Whatever I tell them to do, they do . . . clap, jump up and down, yell . . . whatever! How can a job be so much fun?” With that, he pushed away and was off to table hop, making everyone feel special. That was just his way. He called it “working the crowd,” making everyone feel welcome.
Some of our friends thought we were crazy for supporting Jay in his chosen vocation. They didn’t understand how we, faithful First Baptist members, could approve of his making his living in bars. But, as Frank told many of them, if Jay had chosen to be a doctor, we’d have supported him. He just happened to choose music, and most professional musicians start out by playing in bars.
Toward the end of the gig, someone requested that the guys sing “Let It Be.” None of them knew all the words, but Jay, ever the entertainer, told the person who made the request to write the words, and he’d sing it. And he did. He went to the keyboard, never having played the song before but knowing the tune, and played and sang The Beatles’ “Let It Be,” making someone in the audience very happy. Someone besides his mother, who was filled with pride in her musician son.
After the gig was over, we stayed to watch the guys break down and pack up. As always, when we were present, Frank helped.
Sunday, June 28, 1992
Frank and I got up, had a leisurely breakfast and headed for Nashville to spend several days enjoying Jay and his new home. I always refer to the house in Nashville as Jay’s home. To me, that’s just what it was—his home; the others just lived with him in it. We stopped at a little winery on the way to Nashville, and I gloried in the gift shop while Frank tasted the wine. I bought Jay some special hot sauce, not plain old Tabasco.
When we arrived at the house, Jay was like a little kid with a new toy as he showed us around. I had seen videos, but the real thing was ever so much better! He was especially proud of his room and his waterbed. I must admit that his room was the most special to me. On the walls were some pictures that have always been favorites: the one of the lady of the evening in New Orleans very obviously being paid for her services, the Boardwalk picture with him leaping in the air, the cute picture of Tara (his girlfriend) looking at the camera over her shades, and the lovely photograph of the four of us— Frank in his brown suit, me in my pink dress and pouffy hair (wig!), Wendy in her brown dress with the leopard collar, and Jay in his red plaid jacket. That waterbed would play an important role during the next two days.
The main goal of the guys for the time we would be in Nashville was to write and record. I could hardly wait to listen. In fact, they were just taking a break when we arrived. We listened for a while; then we decided to go out to eat and to take in a movie, a rare treat for us. We ate at Chili’s and then went to see Patriot Games, an excellent thriller. Afterward, it was home to bed—the waterbed. Jay’s was very much different from ours. Ours was waveless, but his was “wavefull.” I have never been on anything so wavy in my life! So ended our first day in Jay’s home.
Monday, June 29, 1992
We just lazed around reading and listening to the guys. I always loved to hear them write and record, especially write. Since I have virtually no musical ability, I have the utmost admiration for those who do. It never ceased to give me a thrill to listen to those talented musicians compile their abilities and come out with a beautiful song. So much of it was trial and error, give and take, play and record. Then re-record because the first one didn’t sound just right. Someone didn’t come in exactly when he should. Someone missed a beat. Someone hit a wrong note. Always perfecting. Sometimes shouting. Always laughing. Always laughing. That laugh that I can’t forget. I love it. Does Jesus love it just as much as I do? Oh, how I hope so. I’m so selfish since Jay died. When my friend Ellen Lett died yesterday, June 28, 1993, I’m ashamed to say that I didn’t immediately mourn. All I could think of was that she would see Jay, maybe that he’d be the first friend to greet her.. I doubt that he was because she has so many closer loved ones there, and I know they were scrambling over each other to get to her. He had to wait in line. But I know he gave her one of those great Jay hugs as soon as he reached her. I just know that’s what happened! But back to 1992.
Sometime during the morning, Frank looked at me and said, ‘These kids need a washer and a dryer in this house. It’s not right for Terri to have to carry clothes out to the laundromat in her condition.’ (Terri was Jerry’s wife. He was the guitar player in Velvet Melon. And Terri was very much pregnant, as if she could be a little bit pregnant.) Thus, the washer/dryer idea was born. Jay concurred, and we approached the guys. They agreed to make the payments each month if we would put the appliances on our Sears credit card. We also suggested getting a mower since their rental agreement stipulated that they must keep the lawn up. To this they agreed, also. So later that afternoon we ran errands with Jay, including going to Sears.
I might mention here that I thoroughly enjoyed myself by reading to my heart’s content during the days when we were with Jay. The two books I definitely remember relishing were Daisy Fay and the Miracle Man, by Fannie Flagg, and The Outer Banks, by Anne Rivers Siddons. I laughed all the way through Daisy Fay, and I worried all the way through Outer Banks. I firmly believe that both books were intended for me at that very time. I needed to laugh—the greatest tragedy in my life was just around the corner. I needed the Siddons book because of the ideas presented, namely dealing with the death of a child. Isn’t it strange how you can pick up a book and not know the treasure that awaits you? That book is about a woman’s dealing with the death of a young child, not exactly what I would deal with very soon; however, her negative reactions came to me frequently in the immediate days as I tried to cope positively with Jay’s death. I didn’t copy the heroine in her attitude; rather, I tried to avoid her feelings. I know for sure that the Lord sent both to me.
Before heading to Sears, we went with Jay to see Bill Puryear from Crescent Moon Talent Agency. Bill very much wanted Jay to sign with him exclusively. We sat for about two hours in his office, listening to Jay and him talk business. I remember sitting in the background, saying nothing, just listening to my boy in his adult role. He was a peer with this thirty-something man. Proud is a mild adjective to use for what I felt. I was puffed up! Why was this very successful businessman pursuing my boy? He’s just a boy. Just my little boy. Just my son. Wrong! He, too, was a man. He, too, was a businessman. He was important. He had something that Bill Puryear wanted—talent. And he would have gotten that talent exclusively had Jay lived. Probably within a couple of weeks. But it was not meant to be.
Later, we went to Sears and made our purchases, with the promise that they would be delivered on Thursday, July 2. Jay and I acted silly while Frank did the business of the day. We invited the saleslady to be on the lookout for Velvet Melon in the Nashville area and to attend a gig. I wonder if she ever thought of that again. I feel sorry for her because she never got to see Jay in action.
We went to eat at a local restaurant afterwards. It was so wonderful to be alone with Jay. I always got a real charge out of watching him eat. He would eat for a while and then rest for a while. When resting, he’d put his arm over the back of the chair and just sit there as if he were waiting for the food to digest before continuing. All the time, he’d be talking, entertaining, laughing. And he’d tell stories . . . just little scraps of things that had happened during the past days, little things that people had said to him, but they would become great things, exciting tales. Nothing was ever ordinary with Jay. Nothing. (He certainly “gathered rosebuds,” evidently realizing that “old time is still a-flying.” I surely am literary tonight. It’s difficult to read literature for as long as I have and not have some lines to slip in every once in a while.)
I know that what we did together that afternoon probably sounds ho-hum to many, but even as it happened, I felt that it was a gloriously important day. I felt fulfilled as a mother. It’s been a long time since that afternoon and evening. Monday, June 29, 1992, was the last time we would be alone with our son. Does the “glory” of that day need further explanation? I doubt it.
Tuesday, June 30, 1992
We awoke, after a wavy night, to the scent of bacon frying. Jay was cooking breakfast for us! It was delicious, mainly because of the cook. I’m afraid he hadn’t yet developed much of a sense of the proper way to put a meal on the table, but it tasted great. Bacon, eggs, toast, juice—just what he liked every once in a while when he saw the world in the morning. Since all they were doing that week was writing and recording, he had no late, late nights: He could get up at a reasonable time in the morning, say 8:30 or so. Therefore—breakfast!
That day was probably the laziest, most unproductive day for us. We just lay around all morning and into the afternoon, reading and listening. I remember getting antsy some time in mid-afternoon because my old body just has to be up and doing occasionally. I really didn’t feel comfortable tackling housekeeping chores in someone else’s house, but I’m sure that Jay wouldn’t have minded. Actually, they hadn’t been there long enough for things to get too dirty. And let’s face it—I was on vacation and really had no desire for hard labor.
About four o’clock, we decided to get out of the house for a little while. I think we went to some bookstores just browsing. We had dinner at a really neat Oriental restaurant near Jay’s house. I’ve never seen so much food! I took about half of mine home to Jay, who promptly devoured it. He asked where the restaurant was so that he could go there himself sometime. The time never came.
That night was our third one on the perilous waterbed. Around three o’clock in the morning, I awoke with my world spinning around me. I could barely lift my head from the bed. After spending a long time in the bathroom, trying to throw up my stomach, I finally relegated myself to the floor in hopes that the room would settle down. What a night! It was probably my most miserable night ever; however, I would look upon it later as sent from God.
Wednesday, July 1, 1992
I lay on the floor most of the morning. I remember Jay coming to check on me occasionally and Frank wracking his brain about what to do for/with me. We remembered that Bill Puryear mentioned his ear doctor in the office on Monday, so we called him to get the doctor’s name. I was so happy when Frank discovered that the doctor could see me around three that afternoon. Diagnosis—vertigo. He prescribed something—I forget what—but I don’t remember taking very many doses of it.
Eventually, I began to feel better. After showering, I felt much better. Frank and I had decided to accompany Jimmy (the sound man for Velvet Melon) and a girl (Mimi, I think) from Chattanooga to a neat restaurant that night because Jay and Todd (Velvet Melon’s drummer) were leaving around six to go back to Chattanooga to hear Steve Ebe from Human Radio play drums with the band Head of Phineas Gage at Yesterday’s. As Jay left, I remember looking at him and thinking I understood exactly why the girls loved him so much. He never looked cuter—denim shirt, jeans tight rolled, and multi-colored belt—and those shoes, the ones he said people in the audience always commented on at gigs, the mustard colored ones, the ones that the other guys liked so much they bought their own. Todd and Jay were in such a hurry that I barely told him good-bye. I’ve always been sorry about that. I don’t think I even got a hug. That means he didn’t either.
Thursday, July 2, 1992
Most of you reading this don’t know the people whom I mention in this entry. All you really need to know is that they are all either relatives or very dear friends and that we couldn’t have gotten through our ordeal without them.
Frank and I got up early and started for home. I have a few impressions of the day but nothing really specific until later that evening. Breakfast at The Cracker Barrel on the way out of Nashville, many naps because of the medication I was still on for vertigo, a quick ice cream just before leaving I-65 (the last “meal” we would have for almost twenty-four hours), still more dozing, the “maintenance required” light going on in the van just after we turned on to Wilde Lake Blvd. Could that light have been prophetic?
We arrived at home around 5:20 PM, just about ten minutes after Jay and Todd came in. As I was walking up the stairs with my suitcase, I asked Todd where Jay was. He told me Jay was asleep, but I didn’t think anything strange about that; many times he went straight to bed after getting home from a road gig. How he did love to sleep! Not at the times that I would choose, but he lived on a different clock from mine. I went into our bathroom and did something that I rarely do: I unpacked my suitcase immediately and set it on the ledge just outside my bathtub. I wish I hadn’t been so industrious. My laziness might have saved my boy’s life, but I doubt it. Then I went downstairs to read mail. Frank had gone outside immediately after we got home, and when he came in, I asked him if he’d be satisfied with Pizza Hut pizza for dinner. Of course. I still wasn’t feeling well, and he was concerned about me. Shortly after he came in, Frank heard a thud in our bathroom, went to check (fearing that I had fallen from my dizziness), saw my suitcase on the ledge, and assumed that he had heard me drop it after unpacking. These actions don’t really coincide, but we were both tired and not thinking very clearly. I don’t think I’ve written things exactly as Frank tells them, but that’s not important. Frank then lay down on the couch upstairs to watch the news. We had been out of touch with the world for a few days.
I called Pizza Hut with our order so that it would be ready when I went to pick it up; then I went upstairs to brush my teeth, forgetting that my overnight bag was still downstairs. Oh, well . . . I thought I’d just go to the bathroom while I was there, and that’s when I discovered Jay. We don’t really know how long he had been there. Was it he that Frank heard fall when he thought it was my suitcase? We’ll never really know, but it wouldn’t have made any difference anyway.
When I cried out Jay’s name, Frank ran in and told me to dial 911 and to ask Todd what Jay had had to eat that day. Todd was coming up the stairs at the time. When I asked him, he told us that Jay had had nothing to eat that day but that he had had an awful lot to drink the night before and had been sick all day. He’d been drinking Cokes and water to settle his stomach.
As I was giving directions to the 911 operator, Todd began mouth-to-mouth resuscitation on Jay, to no avail, of course, because he was already dead. Poor Todd. He tried so hard to revive his buddy, all the time crying and begging Jay to respond. An eternity passed, so it seemed, before the paramedics arrived. They hooked up all sorts of mechanical and computerized things to my boy, but he never responded. He was breathing, but only with machinery.
Frank wouldn’t let me go back into the bathroom, but every once in a while, I would walk around just to see for myself what they were doing to my child. I was numb. Actually, the operator stayed on the phone with me for a long time, until the paramedics arrived. It really wasn’t very long . . . probably only five minutes or so from the time that I called until the first crew came. To a mother, it seemed like forever.
I sat in my recliner most of the time, praying. My immediate prayer was, “Oh, Lord, please don’t let him die!” Then I thought about what I had said, and I added, “But please don’t let him be a vegetable.” Death would be far better for Jay Young than life if he could not live it the way he wanted to. He would not have been a gracious paraplegic. Who knows how long his brain had been without oxygen? But then, who knows what the Lord could have done in the way of miracles? I certainly don’t.
I distinctly remember another prayer during the time that the paramedics were working on Jay. Lord, I don’t think I can bear living without Jay. And then a voice said to me, You can if you’ll let Me help you. There was no question in my mind, even at the minute when I didn’t know whether Jay would live or die—I knew that God was with me and that He had spoken those words.
The medics had done all they could do. I could hear the flap-flap of the helicopter blades. What a shame that Jay couldn’t enjoy the ride! I remember thinking that, realizing even then that he was dead. Frank didn’t know I knew, but I did. He knew, but he was trying to protect me. This is so strange, but as I followed the stretcher down the stairs, I saw mud on the carpet and thought, Maybe I should get out the vacuum and get this up before it leaves a terrible stain. What weird things the subconscious does! The stain is there to this day. It will not come up. But do I wish I had stopped? No. It’s just one more reminder of my boy. I don’t worry about it. Frank claims it’s a different stain, but I know better. To me, it’s a reminder.
Another strange thing . . . As they were taking Jay across the front lawn to the preacher’s yard, where the helicopter was parked, two neighbors came up to see if something was wrong with Frank. They discovered that it was Jay, disappeared, and never came back. How strange. I don’t know. Maybe they couldn’t face the death of one so young. I’ve seen one of them in the grocery store several times during the past year, but he has never mentioned Jay.
I remember calling to the last of the paramedics to ask him if Jay was breathing. His reply was, “Not on his own.” I knew what his answer would be. I remember walking over to the mailboxes and watching the helicopter take off with my boy in it. What an empty feeling. And I hadn’t even hugged him as he left the house the night before.
Before we left to go to the hospital, I tried to get in touch with Wendy. No answer. A brief message on the machine telling her and Steve that we had gone to the hospital because of Jay. Got through to Jimmy, though, and he beat us to the hospital. Todd rode with us. Silence. As we parked, Frank turned to me and said, “Don’t get your hopes up.” I wouldn’t. I already knew. But every time that the nurse came into the little waiting room where Frank, Jimmy, Todd, and I sat, my “mother hopes” rose, thinking that I might hear her say something like, “We were mistaken. He’s fine. He sat up, looked around, and said, ‘What’s happenin’?’ You may take him home now.” Instead, each time she entered, she said something to the effect of “The doctors are trying everything . . . They’re doing their best . . . .” Then, “They did everything that they could. I’m so sorry.”
Would we like to see him? Of course. The room was so cold; no wonder he was blue. No, the blue was death on him. Death on my precious little boy. I hope I don’t sound maudlin; I don’t mean to be. I just remember the awful color, his cold, hard skin, no life. No life here, that is. I knew immediately that my boy wasn’t in that cold, blue, hard body. My boy was with Jesus. Jay said, “I don’t mix drugs with rock and roll/I’ve got Jesus in my heart to save my soul” . . . said it right in “I’m Not Crazy”. . . right out where everyone could hear him. He was not ashamed of his God.
The ride home was quiet. Before we left the hospital, I remember clinging to Frank and begging him not to leave me. I really don’t know why I did that. Guess I’ve read one too many stories and articles about families falling apart after the death of a child. On the way home, I recall saying that I didn’t want to put the pictures away. Again, too much reading. Frank probably thought I was crazy. He had already assured me that he wouldn’t leave me, and, as he drove, he promised that we didn’t have to put the pictures away.
When we arrived at home, I called my sister-cousin JoAnn. Naturally, she was devastated. She agreed to call the relatives for me. We had so many calls to make. I think we called Fran and Bob Crumpton next, but they weren’t at home. Maybe we left a message on the answering machine . . . anyway, they returned our call soon, and Frank told them what had happened. Almost immediately our phone started ringing. Frank called Wendy Bennett, who called Sophia, who called Melrose . . . etc., etc., etc. Anyway, our friends were with us immediately. Frank had called Bob, his brother, right after he called the Crumptons, and he and Deb were here for us just as soon as they could get themselves together. Others who came immediately were Tim Key, the youth director at church; Bill and Louise Santo; and Jim Wilson. I had called for Carol, but she was at her mother’s house in Alabama. Jim came just as soon as he could. What a relief!
I remember sitting at the dining room table with Bill Santo, discussing arrangements. We had decided on Harper-Morris Funeral Home, with the funeral itself being held there, as well as the visitation. The Fourth of July weekend would pose a problem for us. Even though Jay died on Thursday, we couldn’t have the funeral until Monday because of the holiday on Saturday and because no funerals are held on Sunday in Pensacola. Bill and I talked briefly about how it would be all right to have the funeral there instead of at the church because numbers would not be a problem. Wrong! My mother had instilled in me the idea that it’s not good to have a funeral at church because you’d always think of it during the services each Sunday. I concur; however, it might have been a good idea to make an exception in this case.
During the evening, I tried to get myself together enough to call someone in the Singles department at our church; however, I never could muster up whatever it was I needed. Around ten or eleven o’clock, I looked around to see several of them walk in. What relief! My best friends in the whole world were here! They have come to our rescue after a death many times. Maybe that’s why God put us together so many years ago. They have seen us through Grandpa, Mother, and now Jay. I always get the feeling that I’ve never done anything for them when they come to our rescue. Truly, the only thing we’ve ever done is to open up our hearts and our home to them. Maybe that was enough for them; it doesn’t seem like much to me.
I vaguely remember calling Mike in Nashville. I didn’t handle it well. The words ‘”Mike, Jay died” just tumbled out . . . no warning . . . just the fact. Just as we feared, they started for home immediately. Terri was pregnant, and the night travel worried me. Sure enough, when they arrived, she didn’t look well; she hadn’t slept at all. Jay was dead. Who could sleep?
One of the Singles vacuumed up the paramedic mess for me. I was thankful. That mud really bothered me. Wendy and Rob Bennett went out for survival equipment — breakfast food, paper goods, and BC Powders. What would we have done without them? I don’t even want to think about it. The Hinkleys arrived with “guardian angel” pins in hand. I wore mine gratefully. The Hinkleys, the Bennetts, and Bob and Deb would be our salvation during the weekend. There was hardly a time when at least one of the families wasn’t here. Angela handled all calls. Superwoman!
The biggest problem after we came home from the hospital was finding Wendy. Frank called Patti Kilgore and told her what had happened. She didn’t know where Wendy was either, but she called Joy Waters (Wendy’s co-worker in pre-school) to see if she had heard Wendy say anything about where she was going after work. She hadn’t. I’ve always been thankful that Patti made that call because Joy and Bill are the ones who let the Singles know about Jay. We were so worried that Wendy would hear about her brother from someone besides us because word was spreading rapidly.
Finally, around nine o’clock, Wendy and Corey came in, just dropping by to visit for a few minutes and then wondering what kind of party we were having because of all the cars around the house. I can’t even remember how we told her. I’m afraid, though, that I just blurted it out the same way I had done to Mike. What can I say about Wendy’s reaction? It was what any normal sister’s reaction would be, a sister who loved her brother unconditionally. She was devastated. Four-year-old Corey just didn’t know what to think. She wanted to know where Jay died, and I told her; however, I said, “Grammy just can’t go back up there right now, though.” She wanted to go alone, and she did. When she came back downstairs, she said, “Look what I found, Grammy.” Opening her hand, she revealed Jay’s cross . . . the one that matched Tara’s. She wanted to keep it, but I told her I needed it. No problem. Todd had already attached himself to Jay’s watch and bracelets. That was fine. The nurse at the hospital had given me Jay’s earring, the one made from Tara’s ring. I wanted her to have that.
Speaking of Tara, Jay’s girlfriend, Frank made the call to her. I could tell it wasn’t going well. Her dad had died just a year ago, and she was still grieving for him. This wasn’t fair to her. Once again, life had been jerked from her grasp. Not fair. I can’t remember if her mother, Cheryl, brought her over on Friday or Saturday.
I posted all of this on Facebook a few years ago, and so many of Jay’s and our friends wrote comments about our boy, comments that lifted our hearts and also dissolved us in to tears . . . good tears.
That same year, Frank, Jackson (our grandson), and I were in Santa Fe on Jay’s death day. As we were eating lunch, Frank said, “It’s so nice that Jackson’s with us today.” I heartily agreed and replied, “Little did we know at this time on July 2, 1992, what was in store for us later that day; and little did we know how much God would bless us thirteen years later by giving all of us Jackson.” He’s named for Frank and Jay, you know, and reminds me so much of my boy from time to time.