One of my very best friends Joanne died this morning. It wasn’t a shock to learn the news, she had been struggling so much these past months. At least once a week we would talk on the phone about how she was feeling, about the coming events that she was hoping she would be able to attend, about the dreams that she had for her son. In those conversations I hope that I was able to be as good a friend to her as she has been to me.
We first met at when we served together on a National Committee. Officially known as the Committee on Theological Education, it was unofficially known as the Committee from Hell. In those years, it served us well to have a sense of humor regarding the work we were asked to do.
Years later, I moved to the east coast to serve a congregation there. About a year after that she also moved to serve a congregation in the same Presbytery. At her induction service she came to say hello and remind me that we had met. Oh yes…. the Committee from Hell.
I invited her to join me and another friend with whom I met weekly for dinners, movies, and working out at the Y. Those were important moments in which we talked about our congregations, our hopes, our dreams. Together the three of us tormented our trainer and were known as the unholy Trinity. Those were good years.
We were of the same age, so it was a surprise when Joanne took in some brothers to foster, just about the time that I was sending my own child off to university and her own life with her husband. Eventually Joanne adopted one of those boys… a deeply troubled, but charming and affectionate fellow. We all fell in love with him.
It was also during this time that I fell on some ice and injured myself severly… dislocating my shoulder and chipping my scapula. The emergency department sent me home in a blizzard with a handful of Tylenol 3’s and advice to stay as still as possible. And I stayed still. Every movement was agony. On Monday morning as soon as her driveway was plowed Joanne came over, dug me out and took me to see my doctor….who prescribed muscle relaxants and narcotics. She filled the prescription, picked up some groceries and stayed with me for a half hour to make sure I didn’t have an adverse reaction to the pills. While waiting she scooped the litter box and ran laundry. Before she left she asked if the pain had lessened. She chuckled at my response and wasn’t above spreading it among the people we knew…. what did I say? “No, but I don’t care.” The euphoria of the combination of those drugs was remarkable.
It turned out my injury was far more severe than was suspected, and for the next year she was there for me. Bringing groceries, taking me to doctor’s appointments, helping me shower and dress, scooping the litter box, bringing me to physio.
When I was better and back working in the congregation, she became a whole other kind of support person for me, because I came back to work at the time the congregation was being closed. Her support and encouragement was phenominal. The importance of those dinners, movies, and workouts at the Y and the fellowship we had at them was an important source of strength and hope for me at that time.
Even after I moved to another province to take up working among my next congregations her friendship was especially meaningful. She came and visited with me. I took care of her son for a week while she was at meetings. We called frequently…talking until long into the night.
When I spoke with our mutual dinner, movie, workout friend this morning we remembered those days, the depth of Joanne’s friendship and the desire to be as good a friend in all of our other relationships.
I treasured her and she knew it. She treasured me and I knew it. That gift is s true blessing. I will miss her, but I pray that what I have learned about friendship from her will continue to grow in me.
Rest in peace Joanne. May your deeds follow you.