Drumming with Angels
By By MaryClaire Foster
When I get to heaven, I’ll sing and shout, nobody will be able to put me out, my mother will be waiting and other loved ones too, and we’ll join hands and walk around heaven all day.”
These are lyrics of a gospel song Jacorey Johnson loved. At the age of 19, the musician was too young to be joining many of his loved ones in heaven. Instead he left them behind.
Corey, as his family called him, left behind not only his mother and father, but two brothers and countless others whose lives he touched with his spirit and music.
Tuesday marked the one-year anniversary of the teen’s death. To commemorate his life, a cross has been erected on Smithfield Road, the site of the car accident that took his life. The site is a familiar place to Corey’s father, Charles Johnson. It is known to him firsthand as the last place his child was alive, as he was there the night of the accident and saw his son lying there in death.
Johnson returns to the site often to keep up the appearance, but also because he says it gives him strength.
Corey’s mother, Pat Johnson, said she no longer takes the road that she drove for years to avoid the site.
In the first months following Jacorey’s death, Pat said she spent many days in his room. She and her husband have left his room intact except for straightening it, which was what she last spoke about with her son.
She said her son agreed to take care of it the next day.
The tears don’t come like they do so easily with her husband, but Pat Johnson says she doesn’t spend as many days crying as she used to.
She said she and her husband are comforted by their own memories of Jacorey and from memories shared by others of their son, as well as people sharing what the Johnson’s call Corey “visiting” them. Many relatives and friends have come to them with stories of seeing Jacorey in their dreams.
Pat Johnson said that one friend in particular had an especially hard time with Jacorey’s death. Brian Johnson worked at Pizza Hut with Jacorey and had formed a close bond with him. After Jacorey’s death, it was too hard for him to return to the workplace they previously shared. Charles Johnson said he received a call from the boy’s mother asking if he could come comfort him.
The following Thursday, Charles Johnson said he received a call from the boy.
Brian Johnson remembers Jacorey fondly.
The couple said that stories like this is what keeps them going. That they know Jacorey lives on in memories and spirit.
Mary Sells, a longtime family friend and firefighter who responded to the call the night of Jacorey’s death, said, “It’s hard to run a call that’s one of your own. You can’t find many kids that are so open-hearted as Jacorey.”
Because of her relationship with Corey, and the mentoring work he did at Huxford Elementary, a school many of her grandchildren attend, she donated a plaque to the Johnsons who then gave it to the school.
This is one of the many ways Corey’s legacy has been carried on since his death. The Visionaires, a gospel group Jacorey played the drums for, started a scholarship in his name, and Susan McBride, president of Jefferson Davis Community College, donated money to the school’s scholarship fund in Jacorey’s name.
A favorite family memory of Jacorey is him being up on Sundays ready to go and play gospel music for different churches in the area, according to Pat Johnson.
Now those who knew Jacorey feel confident he is walking around heaven tapping those drumsticks still singing the same song, “And when he says well done, your race has been won, that’s when I’ll walk around heaven all day.”