Joey Hizon was one of my very special closest friends. When we were young — in our 20s and 30s — we worked together at Avellana & Associates, an advertising agency, where he was creative director and I was vice president for Creative Services. We were then (or so I thought) one of the best creative teams in town because of the quality of the friendship and the spirit that brought and kept us together.
He was young and single then. I was at first unhappily married then happily separated. I found joy at the office more than at home. We were all friends, the copywriters Marilyn, Colby, Tess, Karina, Ompong, Sonny, Gami, Ludy, Dodo, though not all at the same time. We always had fun together. Sometimes after work we would play poker with matchsticks as stakes.
Joey was massively intelligent, interested in everything from religion to cartoons. He had a great sense of humor, a dry wit, and a wonderful laugh. I now think that during the time we worked together he acted like a protective younger brother to me. Once, someone followed me around. He didn’t meet Joey’s approval and was fired when he insisted on attending a meeting just because I would be handling it.
At the time we worked together Joey loved to resign. If he got annoyed or bored, he would quit. Often I managed to talk him out of it. But I remember when my marriage broke up the night before. I came to the office with a pound cake. I don’t know why. Maybe it was to ease the pain of the breakup.
I told Joey, then my confidant, about what happened. I shed tears. He looked panicked, left our office, a single room where everyone worked. I got saucers and sliced up the cake for those of us who were there.
Joey came back and handed me a letter of resignation. I looked at him, shook my head to say no. Then I tore it up into four big pieces, put the pieces on the saucers and served cake on top of it. We ate the first few bites in silence then burst out laughing when we realized we were eating off his letter of resignation.
Then time and ambition took over. We changed jobs. He got married. We met Rocky, his wife, and eventually he introduced us to his son, whom he called Shaowie, a cute little baby with big eyes, who grew up and now is called Ric. Joey became creative director in Taipei and managing director in Bangkok. He did wonderfully in those jobs. We would get together once in a while. We were out of touch but remained good friends.
Time flew. Last March, I got a call. Joey had cancer and had to have a leg removed. I went to visit him. I felt so terribly sad when I saw him. He still looked well but I could imagine how losing a leg rocked him. “You can get a false one,” I said. “I saw a guy on TV who had lost two legs but ran a marathon with those false ones.” Once again, we laughed. But in the car on the way home I could not stop my tears.
Then the quarantine descended. My husband had a small stroke. I began making rosaries. I spoke to Rocky a few times. They had been in and out of the hospital. I managed to text him to tell him I love him.
Dec. 1, my mother’s birthday. Joey crossed over on this day. On Dec. 9 they had a memorial service for him on Zoom. You know, you don’t know how much a friend means to you until you lose him. His service told me how much he meant to his family and friends, how deeply we all appreciated him, how much we all miss him now that he is gone. This is a poem sent by his best buddy and partner in crime, Gerald Gonzalez, who just might be related to me because of the way he spells his last name, though we don’t know each other:
When I come to the end of the road
And the sun has set for me
I want no rites in a gloom-filled room;
Why cry for a soul set free?
Miss me a little — but not too long,
And not with your head bowed low.
Remember the love we once shared
Miss me — but let me go.
For this is a journey we all must take
And each must go alone.
It’s all a part of the Master’s plan,
A step on the road to home.
When you are lonely and sick of heart,
Go to the friends we know
And bury your sorrows in doing good deeds.
Miss me — but let me go.
Joey, when you see me hovering at the gates, please pull me in. Try to smuggle me into heaven, will you?
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