After the birth of our three beautiful daughters, Gianna, Nicolette, and Gabrielle, our thoughts of having a son was never a reality. We were running a growing business and trying to keep up with the schedule of three very active girls. Four years after Gabrielle (our youngest) was born, I decided to go off the “pill” to lose those last 10 pounds. To our surprise, those 10 pounds would later combine with other pounds because we were going to have another baby. We were not only shocked but elated! When it came time to learn the sex of our child, everyone was so overjoyed about a boy being born in our family. Being Italian, having a son to carry on the family name was important to us and at our age this definitely would be our last chance. John and I were not going to believe it until he actually entered this world.
From the moment Johnny entered this world, he was everything a parent could hope or want. Having three older sisters he immediately learned patience and compassion. He seemed to accomplish everything very quickly. We always thought it was because of his birth order and his older sisters. Could it be that he knew more than us? That his time here on this earth was not going to be that long? We will never know. I would like to share some personal stories about Johnny, so you can get to know him and our journey to the foundation.
Since we traveled a lot on airplanes, Johnny began chewing gum when he was 8 months old. At the age of 1, he and I would sit and drink coffee in the mornings. He spoke with clear complete sentences by the time he was 18 months. While attending preschool, he became popular and loved by all the children. In fact, he would tell the other boys and girls to stop crying about missing their mommies. He would continue to say “Do you think they are not going to come back for you, they have to because they can’t keep you here”. Johnny also loved shopping for clothes, and he would often seek my opinion when he wanted to know how his bottom looked in a pair of pants. He loved to swim, dance, and ride his golf cart, hummer and tractor. There was nothing that you showed Johnny that he wouldn’t try to learn and be the best at.
There are moments in life that can never be explained and nor will these moments be forgotten. This certainly holds true to the events that transpired during our last vacation in which Johnny passed away. We started our vacation in Naples Florida, which was fabulous, all of us together having a great time. In Naples, he slept in a crib in our closet. He woke up one morning calling for me and asked “Why the hell do I sleep in a closet in Florida when I have a big room in New Jersey? What’s up with that?” Johnny ruled our roost, so we purchased another larger home in Florida, where Johnny would have his own room. After driving to Orlando, to meet our best friends and their three daughters, we continued our vacation. Johnny was extremely happy because our best friends are also his Godparents. The first two days were “perfect”, going on rides, meeting Disney/Universal characters, and enjoying water slides. Johnny and the girls were all having a great time.
A vacation so perfect ended so tragic. Who could ever have imagined one moment putting your child to bed, and the next moment him waking up and dying between you and your husband. It was like waking up and still having the worst nightmare of our life. We went on vacation with four of our children, and we left with only three! To this day, we still do not know why he passed. There are so many questions that have consumed our thoughts about our son. As a way to help with healing and to help others, we decided to launch the Johnny M. Foundation. Someone once told me that the day their sibling died is the day her parents stopped living. It was at that moment that I decided that God gave us four children and took one home too early, but we still had three beautiful daughters to continue living for. It was our ultimate cross to carry, and by example our daughters would continue to live a complete and meaningful life. Johnny loved life and people. We know he would want us to continue to keep living every day to its fullest and truly help less fortunate children.
Sometimes people ask how you get over something like this. Well you don’t! You learn how to live with it and try to make a difference. Johnny was a very special and unique young boy whom my husband John and I feel very blessed to have had. I try to believe that God gave Johnny to us because he knew that we could show Johnny a wonderful life and have him touch so many people in such a short amount of time. There are so many children in this world in need of so many things. We want all children to have the same opportunities that Johnny had at such a young age. The Johnny M Foundation is about helping others live their best life and remembering that children are a gift that should be cherished and celebrated. We want Johnny’s life and his passing to make a difference. My family and friends take comfort in knowing that Johnny is a special angel who is watching over all of us and waiting for the day for us to be together again someday.