The cloud of dust and smoke settles as the sound of bricks and metal fill the air. A figure rises from the rubble, pulling himself up from a mountain of debris. Emerging, free from the suffocating grip of what once was a hospital, the remains of the building lay beneath him now as Superman stands triumphant. Upon the mountain, the sun kisses his cheeks and the rays of light dance upon the midnight of his hair. His tattered cape blows freely in the cool spring wind as he breathes in the sweet air, the very wind that will soon propel him to the heavens. He looks to the stars as if quietly contemplating something and he closes his eyes with a cool smile across his strong face. He looks happy, as if someone has whispered something sweet to him. He stands in the warmth with his eyes closed, and silently speaks to the sky. An eternity passes and finally his inaudible words cease with his transparent gaze.
He opens his eyes, under him the weight of his battles takes a hold of him and he falls to the ground. He struggles to arise again, but he is defeated. Exhausted and tired he lies in wreckage, his bruised and beaten body can take no more.
For a moment his cape is motionless as the wind has disappeared, the sun hides behind a dark cloud sheltering the world from its warmth, and it seems as if the earth is quieted for this instant in time. Infinity seems too quick as I watch his lifeless body, then movement! I watch to my surprise as his body begins to hover, as if an invisible man is lifting him into his arms. The sun beams brighter onto his lifeless body, almost blinding. For a moment, I see a man holding Superman in his arms. He wipes the sweat from Superman’s brow and smooths his hair with his hand. The light is so bright I blink, and when I do Superman is standing, his once tousled hair is slick and in place, his dirty bruised face is now handsomely tanned and smooth, a million stars shine in his eyes as they twinkle like fireworks, his cut and holey suit is now white and crisp, and his once tattered cape is new and flawless as it once again dances in the winds, no trace of the invisible man.
Superman stands straighter, his chest swelled with pride as this ivory cloaked man stands triumphant once again. He looks stronger, happier, he looks new. How can this be! Moments ago he was…I don’t understand! He surveys the battlefield of the hospital and catches my eyes, hiding behind the remains of a staircase. He smiles as we look at one another and he takes flight, one moment what seems like a million miles away and the next, he is beside me. He outstretches his hand to me and I look up at him. He is so brave and so beautiful, like a snowy angel telling me it’s going to be ok with only his eyes to comfort me and a smile to reaffirm my belief. I take my soot covered hand and I place it in his, he holds on to me tightly as if to tell me he will never let go, ever. In his other hand he seems to be holding something, I look closely and it is indistinguishable. Upon further investigation I see the outline, and it is a hand, and as I follow the faint outline I see the Invisible man standing there again. Hand in hand with Superman, the three of us look to the sky, Superman looks at me one more time as if to say, “Are you ready”? I am unsure of what he means as his grip tightens and we are off. Soaring through the sky my breath is taken away, through the clouds we speed towards the heavens. We begin to go faster as the world beneath us becomes a blur, faster as everything around us seems to fade as we speed towards an unknown destination and for a moment I get the feeling that we are not going towards something but back.
We have stopped and we are home. We are by stairs again, but they are familiar. I look between the steps and see myself at roughly 6 years old and I have spilled a can of paint down the basement steps and I am fearful of my father and the mess I have made. Then I see Superman, he settles me and goes to work cleaning up my mess. I look toward the fireplace in the basement and there we are playing G.I. Joes. I am jealous that he always gets the cool ones and all the awesome vehicles, he will one day give them to me. I see the door to a basement closet and we are together again. He has a secret to show me. We open the door and there is what turned out to be, Santa’s Workshop. Toys and gifts as far as our joyous eyes could see. We keep the secret as we run to the top of the stairs; he shuts the door behind himself quickly, locking me in the basement. I can’t get the door open and he finally lets me up laughing, it wasn’t funny I thought. We are outside now playing with the hose in the back yard, we take turns drowning each other and we laugh as we try to breathe through the stream of water attacking our faces. I am walking home from school one day and I am bullied by our neighbor, he spits on me. I go home crying and I tell him. The bully won’t come out of his house so one day he is sitting in his mother’s car alone and unexpectedly Superman dispenses his justice and ensures I am never bothered again. We are in the backyard again and we have an old Dodge Ram Charger truck, we camp out in this thing many times bringing a radio, snacks, and supplies we will need for the adventures we will have. We are in the large barn-like storage shed in our backyard, this is our headquarters as Superman puts up pennants from baseball teams, chairs, self-defense weapons, and all the fixings of an adolescent’s tree house. We are on the top of the barn with the doors open looking out at the summer day hugging each other; I am blinded by the sun.
I blink the light from my eyes and we are walking through the kitchen, we are older now and his cool friends are spending the night and I so want to be part of his inner circle. I am not allowed in his room so I press my ear to the door to listen. I leave defeated. He and his friends are playing video games and I sit on the couch for my turn, I am passed up. Defeat. At some point I am cool again and I am permitted into his room, with his friends! We talk about cool cars, airplanes, comics, and cartoons. He lets me play with his stuff and I slowly become cool enough to hang out with his friends. He gets a job at Dairy Queen and he is so cool. Money and ice cream what’s cooler than that? He gets a car, this thing looks like K.I.T. from Knight Rider and he is suddenly super-duper mega awesome! He picks me up from school music blaring, I am really cool now. We cruise and he tells me how to pick up chicks, we talk about what if zombies were to attack us right now, we go to the movies and the world is ours.
He moves out and I have a key to his apartment! How awesome is that?! I will eventually hang out with his friends a million times and he will hang out with mine a million more, he is amazing. He takes me to my girlfriend’s house, he lets me wear his cologne (by the way that stuff is like liquid gold), helps me pick out cool clothes (a battle we both lost), we will go to the movies a million times, we will eat Chinese a million more times, we watch the same movie till we can repeat the lines, he would one day give me my first beer, be my roommate in my first apartment, would be one of the reasons I met my wife, and he would be my first real best friend. He would one day become like a father figure to me, as he taught me the error of his ways, he would share his life’s lessons with me, and he would share his wisdom with me, genuinely concerned for my well-being.
The three of us are holding hands again and we are flying through the sky again so fast, the world becomes fuzz and I blink. It is now the future and I see a glimpse of what it will look like for me. I am receiving my diploma as I have graduated college, I see him clapping in the front row. I blink, my family is together at a dinner, we announce we are going to have a baby boy and his name will be Josh. They are excited as I look at an empty chair and I see Josh giving me the thumbs up. I blink, it is my daughter’s birthday and she plays with our son in the backyard, they are playing in the water and spraying each other with hoses, Josh is with them soaked. I blink, my daughter is at prom dancing and Josh is close by, there will be no funny business if he has anything to do with it. I blink, my daughter is driving my son to his girlfriend’s house, they laugh at one of their many inside jokes and Josh makes sure she is paying attention to the road as he laughs knowing their jokes all too well. I blink, I am an older man sitting beside Stacy and we are at my son’s wedding. My daughter’s children are the flower girl and ring bearer, Josh helps the kids keep pace down the aisle. He then takes a seat by my daughter with his arm around her looking at my son intently. I blink, my whole life has passed before my eyes and I am in my home with all my family, we are laughing and Josh is proud of me and the legacy I will leave. I blink, it is my day and I have fought my last battle. Josh holds my hand in his as if we were young again, I know I am safe and he will take care of me.
I would one day find out that my Superman was like any other man. His name was not Clark Kent but Josue Roberto Arroyo. I look back at the eternity of memories Josh and I made together and I can only smile. He taught me so much, we shared so much love together, I held him when he cried, and he would be the rock I needed when I needed him. Through all of life’s trials and tribulations, the man I grew up with would be the man I looked up to the most. He is a symbol of love, respect, admiration, intelligence, and strength. I know the many reasons he wanted to be Superman but what he never realized was that he already was. Josh wanted to be this amazing man and he had already accomplished that. While he wanted to be this extraordinary person, I wanted to be like Josh. We were like two peas in a pod, like ying and yang, Batman and Robin, peanut butter and jelly. He would one day become a Target Protection Specialist and I would become an Asset Protection Officer, same job different companies, both of us looking for the bad guy, trying to save the world.
My heart is filled with joy to know that Josh squeezed so much love and excitement out of life. He surrounded himself with amazing people and accomplished extraordinary feats. He would bring smiles to the lives he entered and would be enriched with the souls that he would meet and call his friends. I am so glad and honored to have been a witness to his life and I look forward to the road he has paved for me. How many good things can a little brother say about his big brother? Not enough. I love you Josh and I look to the day we will take flight together.
We are together again, the three of us are holding hands in the rubble of the hospital, Jesus, Josh, and I. Josh squeezes my hand and I am ready to take flight again but he then lets go. Like the comic reads from All Star Superman he says, “It’s never as bad as it seems. You’re much stronger than you think you are. Trust Me.” I understand I cannot go with him on this trip but I am glad he is not alone. Together the two greatest men hover above me in the sky as I am looking at my Superman marveling in the greatest trip he is about to embark on and I am left out again. The “S” on his chest fades and a “J” appears. Maybe it stands for Josh, maybe it stands for Jesus, the true hero that saved my brother, saved me, and the rest of us. One day I will be able to hang out with him and his cool friend, just like when we were young.
With a flash of light, they were gone to the heavens. Out of sight, but not out of our hearts, leaving us with the knowledge that we too can be clean and made whole again through Jesus Christ.
Daniel wrote this to be read at Josh’s Life Celebration in California. Rox had the honor of reading it there and at the Lexington Celebration as well.