Yesterday we lost our dear friend Joanne. It doesn't make any sense to me why the Lord chose this timing, but I trust Him. He's proved Himself over and over, and His ways are higher, so I trust He's up to something good here, but aside from that it still feels like a great loss.
This photo was taken just 2 years ago at her home ~ the home where she was the continual caretaker for her husband, Bob. Joanne made chili for us that day, careful to make sure she was doing everything gluten free. Bob is also a dear friend and had finally been able to live at home more independently after suffering a severe stroke that began at church one Sunday as he got up to pray the offertory prayer. That he survived the massive brain bleed was a miracle. That he walks and talks and jokes and still loves a UT football or basketball game today is a generous blessing.
Bob's major stroke and ongoing need for continual care are why it just doesn't make sense that Joanne, his loving and faithful wife, would be diagnosed with tongue cancer a year or so ago ~ before Bob's complete recovery and independence. She had been sacrificially supporting Bob and tending to his every need when all of the sudden, she needed continual care herself. But it was "completely curable" they said. She even took out her mouthpiece and showed me her "healing" tongue in January of this year when we visited Texas and our old church where we first met Bob and Joanne. They had made a heroic effort to come and hear Robert preach. They never wanted to miss his preaching. Their hired caretaker had to bring them.
A couple of months ago we heard that the cancer would not be cured and that she had 3 weeks to 3 months to live with a rapid deterioration in her quality of life. When Kory heard this news, he immediately sought pen and paper to write Bob and Joanne a letter telling them what an example they had been to him personally, and what a blessing they had been to our whole family and our church. (I wish I had made a copy!) We prayed for a miracle and sent notes of encouragement. Robert talked to Joanne on the phone one day and she said, "Pray however you feel called to pray, but I am ready for heaven and at total peace with this." Then she added, "But would you please give Bob a call a little later. He's having a hard time with this." When Robert talked to Bob he said, "I'm mad at the doctors for telling us it was curable, but I'm jealous that Joanne will get to be with Jesus soon."
That is such an accurate depiction of their faith and joy. Joanne was always joyful and always looking for the Lord's hand in every situation. She loved her three grown sons so dearly ~ so proud of all of their many accomplishments. Joanne spent her life ministering to Bob, her boys, her women's Bible study, and her church. She played the piano beautifully, too, and every Sunday for countless years she gave up Sunday School, services, and fellowship at her home church to play for a local mission church. And she and Bob loved our church here in Massachusetts. Without their financial support, Mercyhouse would not have been able to purchase its building. Their prayers, their visits, and their constant inquiries and encouragement have been the fuel for us to continue in the ministry here.
On Wednesday, the day before she died, she said, "I'm tired and I'm ready to go home." She was granted that desire yesterday morning. Please pray for Bob and the boys as they grieve their beloved wife and mother. Please pray for Bob's continued healing and independence. Joanne would also want us to pray for her Lord to be glorified in her death, so please pray for that as well ~ especially that He would be exalted in the eyes of her three boys as they face the seeming unfairness of it all.
The Lord sat as King at the flood; yes, the Lord sits as King forever.
The Lord will give strength to His people; the Lord will bless His people with peace.
Psalm 29: 10-11
Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His godly ones.