When I was in my early to mid 20’s, I had the blessing of becoming involved socially with several younger couples from church. This may not sound like a big deal, but for a single woman who wanted to be married, it was a real blessing to have the fellowship of Christian couples and not feeling like a fifth wheel (most of the time). Actually, more often than not I was the fifth person for intense games of call partner Rook so being single definitely worked to my advantage then!
One of the couples I got to know was Jim and Joanna. They were several years older than me, but we hit it off and I spent many Sunday evenings in their home over the period of a few years. We laughed – a lot. Whenever I was in their home, especially if we were playing Rook with another couple or two, it was a hilarious (and intense) atmosphere.
Joanna was a very simple person. She was kind and had a servant’s heart. She always made sure I had chocolate chips to munch on while we were playing Rook. She had a funny little giggle that I still can hear. She prayed often for me and my future husband, believing that God had someone special for me. We had lunch dates a few times and those are special memories for me.
The weekend before my 27th birthday, Jim and Joanna invited a bunch of folks from church to their house to celebrate my birthday. We had a good time. This was an especially loving thing to do because Joanna had had knee surgery about a week to ten days before and she was still on crutches. But we had fun, laughed a lot (like always), and I appreciated their friendship.
A few days later I was at church on Wednesday evening when I heard that Joanna had collapsed. The last time I saw her was when she was being wheeled out to the ambulance. She was gone within the next hour or so. She died from blood clots due to her knee surgery which had taken place almost two weeks before.
As I said, Joanna was a simple person who loved people. She loved children and was serving them at Awana the night she went home to Jesus. That was one of the hardest funerals I’ve ever been to. The place was packed. Not because Joanna was a prominent person in the worldly sense of the word, but because she was a prominent person who loved and served so many people. I think she would have been amazed to see how many people were there and the level of emotion that was in the room for one of our sisters in Christ who – from the earthly perspective – had been taken much too soon.
I always think of Joanna at this time of year. It is impossible to not think of her since everything happened around my birthday and her funeral was the day of my mom and dad’s anniversary.
The one thing that I always come back to whenever I think of Joanna is the incredible power of one life serving others. It is a yearly reminder and challenge to me to be a servant and love others with the love of Christ, just as Joanna did.
Years later, I had a yellow rose placed in my bridal bouquet – to remember Joanna who had prayed faithfully for that day.