As I told you on my show last week. We had a personal tragedy in my family. My niece and God-daughter, Jamie Nicole Rogers — Nikki — passed away. She was only 31 years old. It was sudden and tragic and shocking and has shaken us all.
Many of you already know I was off of my weekend show, “The Weekend w/Joe Pags,” yesterday so I could tend to family business. I was up at 6am, on the road a little after 7 and got to the service in Louisiana at 2pm. I walked in to see my sister and her two surviving children gathered around the open casket broken and weeping. I stood there for a moment taking in the sounds of sobbing from my mother who lost her first-born grandchild, and my other sisters — and, from people I had not yet met on the other side. I saw Nikki’s father there who had long been out of my life yet was rekindling his relationship with his daughter in recent years.
Nikki’s path was not an easy one. She was diabetic and struggled to control the disease. Beyond that, as much as we all unconditionally loved her, she still battled accepting that love and truly believing in it. She fell in with a bad crowd which showed her attention and took her on a detour from which she would never recover. There were always bright spots through the darkness, though. Just six months ago, she reached out to us all on Facebook. She was so excited. She’d turned to God and found a brighter, smoother direction. She wrote me, “Hey Uncle Joey. I’m feeling much better and just wanted you to know life is good and I love you.” I smiled and responded, “I love you too, Nik! I’m really happy for you and want you to reach out anytime!”
Sadly, the draw and power of negativity can sometimes overwhelm the positive factors afforded us all and the bumpy road was too tempting and inviting and it took our baby girl. We all loved her so deeply that we would have done anything to have her healthy and happy and still with us. Unfortunately, we couldn’t make all of her decisions for her.
As a Christian, I do believe Jesus Christ my Lord and Savior has a plan — one we mere mortals will never fully understand. For some reason, we only had Nikki for this short amount of time. I don’t purport to know God’s plan but, I wouldn’t doubt it includes a lesson and wake-up call for those of us who survive. If you have a loved one who might be having a rough go of it — someone you avoid because you want them to get right on their own — don’t. Step in. Offer help. Tell them how much you love them and see if they’re open to hearing it. If not, don’t get frustrated. Accept it and walk away. But, make sure to circle back and try again.
The circle of life is wonderful and confusing, distressing and enlightening. It is unnatural for parents to bury their children, for uncles and aunts to bury their niece, for a grandmother to bury her granddaughter. Do yourself a favor and don’t turn a blind eye nor a deaf ear to someone you love who’s in distress. Many times, things will not fix themselves. If you do nothing else, have a conversation with your kids like I just did with mine. Look them right in the eyes and tell them how much you love them and remind them that if you ever suspect there’s something awry, you will not hesitate to get involved, ask questions and take action. My sister was always there for Nikki but our girl was stubborn like her uncle and wouldn’t always be accepting of her mother’s guidance.
After many tears, memories and saying goodbye to this beautiful young lady for the last time, I got back in my car and headed back to San Antonio. I arrived after 2am — more than 20 hours after my day started. I was exhausted, sad, introspective and angry about the reason for the gathering. But, it was the very least I could do to show my support to my big sister and to bid farewell to the newest angel looking over my family.
We are all better people for having known you and for having been blessed by you in our lives, Nikki. Rest easy, baby. Uncle Joey loves you so much.