From the time he was born, Joseph was a beautiful boy. Gentle. Thoughtful. Respectful. Selfless. Joyful. No mother could be prouder. And Joseph was so connected to me. As a child, he always looked for me, worried about me, so attached and in tune with me. Then, like all mothers, I watched my beautiful boy grow up to be an exceptional young man, eager to seek his own adventures. I brimmed with pride as his business acumen grew and he established himself in the family winery, becoming a natural when it came to sales and product development.
In what I didn't know would be our last weeks together, it was just me and my boy again, quietly and lovingly in tune with each other before he moved on to another place. I will carry that sweet connection with me forever.
His passing has brought unbearable grief to me and my family but also to so many of Joseph's friends. Over these last months, his life-long school mates, peers and colleagues have taken the time to write, call or drop by with the overwhelming need to talk about him – through tears, laughter and holding hands. To tell me how much Joseph meant to them. Kids who I have known throughout the years and some who I have never met who have reached out to say they will never forget his friendship, even though they may have lost touch over the years. It has been comforting to know that in his short life, Joseph made such an impact on so many young people.
They've shared great stories and in such colourful detail of Joseph in middle school, high school, university and post-graduation. I knew that he hung a 2Pac poster in his university dorm room blaring the slogan, "Mama Didn't Raise No Fool" but didn't know that one of his favourite songs was Don't Go Away by Oasis because it reminded him of his dad. I always knew yellow was one of his favourite colours. He gravitated to anything that was yellow and even painted his room yellow. So when his dear friends, Carla and Lisa, dropped by my home with a dozen yellow roses, no words were needed. The colour said it all.
His friends have talked about how much he was a non-conformist. Joseph was never one to cave into peer pressure and valued good, hours-long conversation with friends instead of the excesses of partying. He was a true, gallant gentleman and the embodiment of loyalty when it came to standing by a friend, never flinching to defend the people he cared about. And he had great relationships with his teachers.
I've been reminded about Joseph's love for games of any sort – Monopoly, Jeopardy, card games, billiards, ping-pong, magic tricks, trivia and especially geography. He could rattle off capital cities, tectonic plates and geographical facts without missing a beat.
He was a talented athlete from the time he was a small boy playing competitive hockey and soccer in local leagues and throughout his years at Upper Canada College. He was a tennis and golf enthusiast and loyal follower of Tiger Woods. He was an ardent fan of his beloved Toronto teams – the Leafs, Raptors, Toronto FC – always getting in to see as many games as he could and enjoying them with friends and family. Most of all, Joseph’s pride in his Italian heritage was magnified when it came to his absolute devotion to Italian soccer and unwavering support of A.S. Roma, Juventus FC and soccer hero, Francesco Totti.
Joseph’s love of food and dining out was legendary among his friends. A loyal patron of many trendy Toronto restaurants, Joseph was always generous and gracious in treating friends and family to great food and wine and was known for leaving after a meal on terms of friendship with the servers and owners. While he was a true foodie with great culinary taste, we all knew McDonald’s fries remained his go-to treat when he was out and about. But it was the homemade foods prepared in our family kitchen that warmed his heart. My Italian chicken soup, jumbo meatballs in a pool of homemade tomato sauce, sponge cake, pizzelle (made extra crispy just for him) and cavatelli were always on order. So were the countless bowls of popcorn that he and I shared since he was a boy.
And then there is what seems to be an endless list of unforgettable qualities Joseph’s friends have shared about him that have touched me so much: Clever wit. Keen intellect. A born storyteller. Empathetic. Principled. Fair. An open mind. Great friend, great mentor. Modest. Stylish. Devastatingly funny. A unique soul. Most of all, a huge heart and a strong shoulder, both of which he freely offered to the people in his life.
In the midst of such tragic heartbreak, Joseph's friends have given me the gift of stories – keepsakes that help lift me up. They have added to my memories and I am forever grateful.
Yes, I know my son best. But I also know that so many knew Joseph's very best too and that they will cherish him always.
With love and thanks,