Thursday, December 13, 2018

"The Happiest Dying Woman You'll Ever Meet"

Me with Joan and Karen out for Christmas Tea, 2014
In the early hours of December 10 my dear friend Joan Clyde slipped away to Jesus. She had been experiencing back pain for several months and it had not subsided so she had an MRI at the end of August. On the 31st, the Friday of Labor Day weekend, she got the results on the phone from a doctor she had met only once. "You have cancer in several places in your back," she was told. "You have two choices. You can either come in for more tests or you can call Hospice." She chose Hospice.

I first met Joan in 1995, when our family moved back to the Northwest from our three-year stint in Western New York. Joan and I served together on the Women's Ministry team of the Marysville Free Methodist Church for several years and enjoyed a sweet friendship. Joan was a retired school librarian who lived very near the church in a charming brick home that she had decorated with exquisite taste, including the artwork of the old masters, Victorian pieces, and her grandfather's violin. I couldn't get my fill of the colors and style of her living room, the sense of being enveloped in peace as I sat on her white sofa, and the delicious treats that would appear on the table when our committee had tea together.

It was our first year back that Joan and I were assigned to be prayer partners. She took a keen interest in my family and, ever since that time, asked me often about my children and told me, "I pray for your sons every day." I am grateful for those prayers and the love and faith that carried them to the Lord for 23 years.

That wasn't the only gift I received from her that year. At Christmas she gave me a beautiful outfit—a pair of pants and matching sweater that she purchased for me at Nordstrom. She told me that she and her sister in California had everything they needed and they had decided some years before that instead of exchanging gifts they would choose someone else for whom to buy a gift. What a joy it was for me to be the one she chose that year

Joan's fine taste and her flair for art (particularly her penmanship) delighted us all. She could whip up invitations and programs for our events and decorate a beautiful table. You can't imagine a lovelier table than one that Joan had prepared for a women's event. I suspect our committee stayed together for so many years because no one wanted to miss out on the joy of working with Joan.

She loved the Scripture and completed the whole series of Bible Study Fellowship and several Precept Bible Study classes. Her prayers lifted our hearts to the Father's throne. Not only was she a friend of many women, she was also a friend of God.

One evening we had gathered at the church to plan our annual Spring Women's Brunch, but Joan was late. That was so out of character for her that we waited for several minutes for her to arrive. Still no Joan. When we heard sirens in the neighborhood I ran to the street and saw that the aid car had stopped in front of Joan's house. Her husband Pat had had a heart attack which he did not survive. It was an awful blow to Joan, and she never fully recovered. She missed Pat terribly and began that day to turn her mind more and more to Heaven.

Joan's birthday lunch in April at The Living Room

Karen and I got together with Joan to celebrate her birthday the last several years. This past April we took her to The Living Room, a church building in Marysville that has been turned into a multi-room coffee house, where we sat at a table in the former sanctuary and sipped our tea and ate our lunch and caught up. I never knew Joan's age. I thought she might be close to my mom's age so since Mom turned 90 this year I asked Joan if this was a special birthday for her. She laughed, as if she saw right through my attempt to find out her age, and said, "No, it's not a special year for me!" I still don't know how old she was.

I saw Joan just days after she called Hospice. She looked radiant and told me, "I'm the happiest dying woman you will ever meet!" Each time I saw her after that, or whenever we spoke on the phone, she affirmed that sentiment and told me that she felt the presence of the Lord with her and such sweet peace. She had very little pain. Her daughter and son-in-law were with her for the last months of her life, along with many caregivers, even someone who came by to wash her hair. She always looked beautiful and greeted me warmly when I stopped by to see her.

Below is the last card I received from Joan, written September 6, 2018. It says, "Dear Ginger, What a happy surprise, your unexpected visit. Thanks for the lovely card and even lovelier message, the bookmark and the macaroons (no appetite, but I ate them all and they were yummy!) You have always been my example of a true and faithful woman. God put you into my life at just the right time and He has allowed us to be friends for all these years. I am so grateful for you. Love, Joan"

She may have been a happy dying woman, but what rapture she must be feeling now in the tangible presence of Jesus. 

I'm signing off with my name as Joan wrote it on the envelope in which she mailed the above card. May the Lord teach us to know Him in such a way that we, too, will be able to join Joan in saying, "I am the happiest dying person you will ever meet!"

In Christ,