Today is the one year anniversary of the unexpected passing of one of my grandparent figures. She was a wonderful, giving woman in every sense of the word. My family celebrated her life this morning at Mass, putting us in communion with her and the rest of the Communion of Saints.
Thank you, God, for putting her in the lives of my mom, my aunt, her husband, her children, her daughters-in-law, the grandchild she got to hold and the twin grandchildren who will learn about her throughout their lives.
In memory, I'm re-posting the eulogy I gave in her honor a year ago (For those who have never heard the Richmond accent, "Hello there" is pronounced <<Hello, they-yah>> and she was famous for it):
One of the most consistent memories I have of Joan Marie was that she was always very well put together. She always had a fun jacket or sweater, perfectly matched shoes, and a fresh face of make-up. I remember that every time I hugged her, I felt a little foundation rub off onto my cheek.
Now, I think I was in 6th grade when I finally grew taller than her, so it was the little ritual I will always remember: first, she’d say “Hello they-yah Elizabuth,” Second, bend down, but not until the last second, so as not to look like I was about to hug a 10 year old. Third, accept the warm kiss on my cheek and feel the slick spot of foundation on my cheekbone. Just like I could feel that little spot on my cheek, we all feel the direct and indirect “rub offs” that Joan left on each of us.
Joan Marie and the house she decorated WERE CHRISTMAS. She used to tickle my dad into submission. Laura and Chris always mentioned each time they received a gift, which was always perfectly wrapped, on time, and ideal for that person, it would most likely be green. My freshman year of college, she IM'd me. My 65 year old Great Aunt IM'd me! I’m sure Michael Jr will testify that she was the coolest Mimi around and he’ll get to tell his new cousins all about her.
Joan lived the faith and didn’t ask for credit. Obviously Matthew 6 was stamped right on her heart. She probably dropped off meals at peoples’ houses who, to this day, do not know from whom they came.
This philosophy spilled over, in abundance, to her life with Saint Gertrude High School. I never knew how involved in Saint Gertrude she was until I was pleasantly surprised to run into her at a class correspondents’ meeting earlier this fall. Gerties love their committees, I think I sit on 3 of them and I’m sure she sat on 30 or more since she graduated. There she was at her alma mater for what was likely her 1000th meeting to discuss Alumnae relations, chatting up some ladies from her Gertie era. She was the popular kid!
When I offered to talk about Joan, Johnny asked me not to be too soupy. So let me see: ham biscuits, broccoli casserole, corn pudding, Peecahn PAHI.
Let’s just agree, the essence of Joan Marie is: Joy. And it’s our job to keep that joy going.