Josh Hill (1982-2004)

I think I speak for most mothers when I say I cannot imagine how I’d live through the unimaginable pain of losing one of my children. It is a mother’s worst fear and it lives inside of you every moment, even when your child is grown up and on his own.

FOF Linda Hill’s heart broke nine years ago, when her son, Josh, was killed in a car accident, days after graduating from Yale University. “My heart is still broken and always will be,” Linda wrote to me recently. A center on the Yale basketball team, Josh was able to attend the prestigious Ivy League school thanks to “good financial aid,” Linda said, but she delivered 650 newspapers every night to help pay for things the aid didn’t cover.

“Everyone loved my son. He had a knowledge and kindness far beyond his years. He would not allow anyone to be bullied. He had a sense of humor that made everyone flock to him,” Linda wrote.

Barbara, President George Bush’s daughter, was Josh’s classmate and friend at Yale. And her father, a Yale alumnus, became one of Josh’s biggest fans. Josh and the President met for the first time in the workout room in The White House.  “It was just the two of them,” Linda recalls.  I had begged Josh to get a haircut before he went there, but he said to me, ‘It’s just someone’s parent’ and ignored my suggestion.

When the two of them were exercising, President Bush looked at Josh and said, ‘What’s up with the haircut?’ Without missing a beat, Josh answered, ‘What’s up with that Sammy Sosa trade?’ (If you’re a baseball fan, you’ll know what that meant. If you’re not, it doesn’t matter a bit.)

Barbara sent Linda a letter recalling that Laura Bush was worried about which bed to give Josh that weekend, because he was so tall. “He wound up sleeping in the [you guessed it!] Lincoln Bedroom,” Linda told us.

“President Bush loved Josh because he teased him mercilessly,” Linda says. “At Barbara’s graduation party, four days before my son died, he and President Bush kept going after each other. The President had fallen off his bike the day before, so Josh said to him. ‘Thank god for bike helmets because the last thing this country needs is you with more brain damage.’ George Bush laughed his head off. The last thing he said to my son that day was, ‘I’d better see you in Crawford this summer.’ He called me the day after Josh died and told me he and Laura didn’t sleep at all. He was crying on the phone.

“My son was my best friend in the world,” Linda said. “Both his Yale coach and his high school coach said at his funeral that they had never seen a closer mother-son relationship. And all of his friends who spoke said he told everyone I was his best friend. I miss him so much. I feel so sorry for myself sometimes but I try not to and not to feel bitter.”

Linda ran a group for parents who lost children for seven years, “but couldn’t take the pain anymore,” so she quit. She generously offered to help anyone on FabOverFifty who is going through similar circumstances. You can email her at jhlindylou@gmail.com

9 Responses to “Josh Hill (1982-2004)”

  1. Marielaina Perrone DDS says:

    What a touching and funny story. Thank you for sharing.

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  2. Hil says:

    Thank you for your son’s story and my most sincere condolences. As an over 50 first time dad…(yes I am a very late bloomer)…. I couldn’t imagine anything worse. It is something that you can only really truly appreciate once you have children of your own.

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  3. Amy D. Cohen says:

    I lost my brother when I was 16, he was 27. Yes, it was devastating for my family, changed my parents forever.
    I still hear the terrible grief in your story, in your words and your continued struggle. And through all that, you are wonderfully reaching out to help others.
    I am a Practitioner for Emotional Health naturally. I work with grief amongst other things. If you are interested, I would be happy to help you get through your grief (no cost, of course). I don’t know enough about you to understand whether you are living your life – following your path, your story – or if you became stuck at the place of loss for your son.
    One mother reaching out to another – if you feel you need help through your loss, let me help you. amycohen@strongestminds.com

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  4. Bonni Chapman says:

    Thank you for sharing your Son’s story. I lost my 18 yr old daughter 20 years ago, right after she graduated from high school. Today, I’m praying for my friend, Sally, who is enduring the 8th anniversary of her Son’s death. My Love to all grieving parents.

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  5. Fran Marie says:

    Thank you for a poignant story. Thank you for telling the story of two human beings.

    Your son sounded like an outstanding young man. I’m so sorry for your loss.

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  6. Susan McMillin says:

    I’m sorry for your loss.
    My son & 7 year old grandson lost his wife & mommy last year in June of a brain aneurysm at age 27. It’s very devastating.

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  7. Pat Jaseck says:

    We have lost our oldest daughter (at age 24 in 1983), our oldest son (at age 44 in 2004) and youngest son (at age 44 in 2006). There’s no greater pain in life than this. God bless you

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    • Fran Marie says:

      I am so sorry for your tremendous loss. No one should have to deal with one, never mind three. My heart is broken for your family.

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  8. Sharon Kidd says:

    My beautiful 17-year-old daughter died the year your son was born. Tomorrow will mark 31 years since her death. My heart bleeds for you – your son was adorable. Thank God we had them, if only for a little while. Peace Be Unto You, Sharon

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