"Take care of yourselves and each other, and always remember my motto:
Its ok to work hard, as long as you play harder."

-Joe Milligan,
in an email to his parents 7/02

Julie Milligan
November 23, 2002
3:28 PM

Dearest Joe: as I think about you today, these are some of the things I remember
Your smile lit up your whole face, especially your eyes.
Your laughter was so infectious that it captured everyone who heard its rippling mirth.
Your fierce independence and determination to march to your own drums.
Your hugs, so warm, genuine and affectionate.
Your mischievous smirk.
Your fearless, adventuresome spirit.
Your playfulness.
Your supreme self-confidence.
Your keen mind and sharp eye you saw things others often missed, especially the best in other people.
Your love of nature and animals.
How you worshiped and protected your sister.
How often you said, I love you.
Most of all, your loving, trusting and open heart which you unselfishly shared with everyone around you. This was your truest gift and will be your legacy.

Thank you son for filling our hearts with so much joy and so many wonderful memories. You managed to pack so much into your short life, living large and making us proud of all you became. It was definitely an E ticket ride the whole way!

I will see you in every sunset and picture you forever surfing the perfect barrel wave off the shore of some distant paradise. Watch over us until we meet again.

Joe, I love you with all my heart, Mom

To Ashly Gabri, Jon Puckett and all of Joe's friends who shared in the Folly Beach memorial service in Charleston: thank you for your lovely tribute and your beautiful memory book. We cherish the entries made by all of you and reread them often.

To Adam Moore, Robert Sean Robertson and all of Joe's friends and family who made the paddle out ceremony in New Smyrna Beach so beautiful and spiritual, thank you for lifting us up on the wave of your love. The feelings, thoughts and all of the positive energy you all shared with us that day carries us still.

To Brooke Newton and Jordan Pate: you have been our allies, confidants and rocks of strength with your tireless efforts to help us find Joe and your unceasing love and support when our worst fears became reality.

To Scott Braman and Nader Akhnoukh: thank you for your quick, tireless and caring efforts to set up this website for all of us to share.

To Damon Regan: thank you for your loving support, creativity and generous amounts of time to manage and maintain Joe's website.

To Ben Evennett: you are a blessing for whom we will be forever grateful.

To all of Joe's friends who have written on this site, emailed us directly, sent cards or letters, stopped by to visit or just carried us in your prayers: thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Your thoughts and kindness comfort us more than you can imagine. Please stay in contact with us in whatever way you are able. You are our only connection to Joe, especially for how he spent the past three years on his "walkabout". Your memories and stories help us connect the dots between the boy who left home and the man he had become.

To all of our family, friends and neighbors who have so lovingly held us in your arms while we cried, sat with us while we waited for news, brought food, send cards and flowers, kept us in your prayers and thoughts: our grateful thanks to you all. As painful as our grief has been, I cannot imagine how we could have survived without each and every one of you. Each time we feared we might drown in our sorrow, one of you reached out and held us close until it passed. Surely grief is easier to bear when it is shouldered by such a loving community as you all have been.

Finally, I want to share a poem that my mother sent me a few weeks ago because it reminded her of Joe:

Dont grieve for me, Im free.
Im following a path God laid for me.
I took his Hand when I heard Him call
I turned my back and left it all.
I could not stay another day
To laugh, to love, to work or play.
Tasks left undone must stay that way,
Ive found the peace at close of day.
But if my parting has left a void,
Then fill it with remembered joy.
A friendship shared, a laugh, a kiss,
Oh yes, these things I too will miss.
Be not burdened with times of sorrow,
I wish you sunshine for all tomorrow.
My lifes been full; I savored much,
Good friends, good times, a loved ones touch.
Perhaps my time seemed all too brief.
Dont lengthen it now with undue grief.
Lift up your hearts, rejoice with me.
God wanted me nowHe set me free.

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