By Jim Haffner
Cincinnati, Ohio, USA
Joanne was my wife’s friend. My wife and I would occasionally do things with Joanne and her husband, but after some years and several children later, we didn’t see much of them, although Joanne and my wife would call each other every now and then.
In the mid 90s, there were several deaths in Joanne’s family. Shortly after, Joanne had more bad news come into her life. She had cancer, and it didn’t look good.
We kept track of her, and each time my wife visited the news was pretty much the same: The cancer was getting worse, Joanne was in more pain, but she was not letting it get her down. She was focusing on taking care of her house, husband, and children. As the inevitable end drew nearer, Joanne spent more and more time at the hospital, receiving therapy to slow the progress of the cancer. My wife and others brought meals and did cleaning to help ease her mind, for her major concern was still for her family.
Even at this late stage, Joanne did not let her condition get her down. My wife always came back from her visits with the same feelings of amazement at how well Joanne was doing spiritually and emotionally, if not physically.
When the final day came, my wife was visiting her in the hospital, but Joanne was unable to respond to those around her. The nurse, no stranger to death, said that the end was near. Joanne’s husband had gone to get their two young boys, and Joanne seemed to be waiting. The family finally arrived, so my wife said her final goodbye and left her with them. A short time later, Joanne left this world, surrounded by the family she cared so much for.
We attended Joanne’s funeral, to honor a woman whose courage and faith in the face of death had amazed us. When the priest who had been ministering to Joanne and her family gave his homily, we found out we had only seen half of the picture. Before her illness, Joanne had been very active in the various ministries in her parish. She had continued this well into her illness, until she was physically unable to go on. Some who had sought to help her and her family had been more distraught over her illness than she was, and she had consoled them. Her faith was an inspiration to many, including the parish priests. It seems that she had opened her heart to an even bigger family — her community and parish — and she cared for this family as much as she cared for her own.
That day both families surrounded her. I’m sure Joanne is still caring for her family as her boys approach high school. And I know for a fact that she is still ministering to her larger family, since I’m a part of it now: I am still inspired by her life every time I remember her.