A few weeks ago, my friend passed away. Ms. Joan, as I’ve always called her, and it feels like a betrayal to call her friend. How can a word so freely used possibly do justice to the love that I feel for her and her husband? I spent 12 wonderful years growing up next door to these wonderful people and I have been struggling every day since her death to put into words the significant role she and her husband have played in my life. Mr. Henry and Ms. Joan were my first love story. Forget Cinderella and Snow White- they are just tales. Mr. Henry and Ms. Joan? They are the love of legends. Though together most of a lifetime, they started out scandalous. One was dating someone else! But when you know, you know. And they knew. Forget pontificating sonnets and all of that junk. They listened to each other. They shared. They loved- and not just each other. They had so much love, they gave it freely and often to so many people. I was so lucky to be the recipient. That love meant always having a place to come home. After my grandfather died and my family moved away, they were my roots. They ARE my roots.
That love they gave to me shaped so much of who I am now. Ms. Joan always took time to listen to me chatter away incessantly. I can remember being warm in her kitchen while she cooked and I talked about everything and anything that worries a young child. I didn’t know it then, but she was teaching me patience, compassion, and showing me that what I feel matters. Mr. Henry played sports with me. He’d coordinate the neighborhood children into impromptu games of baseball, basketball, whatever got us moving. He taught me to make an effort with people and great things come from that cooperation. He taught me to lead. He was an engineer- electrical, if I remember correctly- and his enthusiasm inspired a love of math and science that I still have today. I don’t remember any Halloween of years gone by, but I remember that every October 31st I would be in their foyer having my picture taken in costume. They taught me to document memories, because time passes but pictures help to bring them back to yesterday.
From this amazing couple, I learned to correspond. Don’t just sign a card, but fill it with love. I have every card they ever gave me- birthday, Christmas, wedding, condolence, graduation. Their messages always filled me up, particularly when grieving, which is another lesson they taught by demonstration. In times of victory and sorry, turn to the Bible. You will always find a verse that will speak to you. I feel remiss that it’s been a month and I haven’t reached out to Ms. Joan’s family to express my sadness and regret. It’s no excuse, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t find the words, the sentiment, the way to put into words just what a crushing loss this is, the proper tribute to such a beautiful, passionate, kind and wonderful woman. So, this morning, I finally try to do just that. Galatians 5:22 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness” kept coming to my mind. Ms. Joan most certainly was all of these things, but that isn’t why this excerpt ebbed and flowed in my memory. When my grandmother died years and years ago, they offered this reading to me for comfort along with the words “Good people must die, but death cannot kill their name,” and the reminder that as long as we live, so will our loved ones live on in our hearts. I offer that to you, Uncle Henry. You will never know the love my family has for you and your family. The impact you and Ms. Joan had on our lives every day. Thank you doesn’t seem adequate, but it needs to be said that I am so grateful to have had your family in my life.