Thursday, April 17, 2014

In Memory of the Hostess with the Mostess

I like to keep this blog a happy, if not neutral place - but sometimes...I just need to type.

My brother called while we were on vacation. His voice broken, a sound no one ever wants to hear. A sound that sends signals to your heart the moment you hear it, clenching your jaw and furrowing your brow for the inevitable emotional impact.
We lost a dear family friend that we've known for twenty years. A family member, really. It was sudden, and unexpected, and if you could see my facebook, you'd see that my entire hometown is reeling in shock.
We met Joanne because her daughter was in the same kindergarten class as my brother.  She had a son a little younger, who got along well with my brother too.  Years later, she and my mom both had their youngest daughters about the same time.  When my sister was little she would call both my mother and Joanne "mom", since our families were so often together.  Parties, church, school, shopping - and just plain old hanging out were normal.
She always told it like it was, and I think that down-to-earth, genuine spirit really stood out. Even me, an arrogant young teen with a problem with female authority (yes, that in particular, so weird), would feel shame when she'd chastise me for sassing my mother.  
She was so young, just ten years my senior, so she always seemed hip and cool to us kids.  She bought me my first "real" investment bra from victoria secret - which is to this day the only expensive bra I own. TMI, but it's still in great shape!  She'd roll her eyes at my mom and tell her to stop buying me "grandma" clothes - and each year on my birthday she'd force me to go to the mall and pick out a new outfit while I clung to her daughter in an awkwardness that I've yet to grow out of.  (I still wear grandma clothes too, sorry Joanne but I guess that can't be changed!)

She was always the hostess - filling her garage parties with yummy food.  You never left hungry.  And you never left without at least one plate of leftovers.  And she'd always be there with food and a helping hand at other peoples parties too. I can close my eyes and see her at birthdays, graduations, and Christmas mornings where Mom would always find her something cow themed since that was Joanne's favorite.

I'll never be able to eat spinach dip, cookie cakes, or warm banana bread without thinking of her.  They were simply the best. 

I'm thankful that she shared herself, and her big, wonderful family with us.  I'm thankful for the long friendship she had with my mother especially. And I'm so amazed by the strength and reliance on God that my mom has now. 

The Easter season has never had more significance to me than it does right now.  It must have been the Spirit, because I was so heartbroken and upset at some of the things that were going on - and then I re-read Luke 24.  Here's the first part from the NIV:

On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ ”
Overwhelmingly (and on the MUNI bus of all places), my broken heart was filled with something other than grief and anger - it is filled with awe.  Awe of the immense hope the Resurrection has given me.  How glad I am that the tomb was empty! I can have faith that this life is not the end of the story.  That death has already been conquered, and that Joanne is up there sharing her famous spinach dip with those that have gone before and helping prepare the great party we'll all have together someday with Jesus.