Saturday, January 21, 2012

My Sweet Aunt Jo

My heart is heavy today.
I lost an aunt this week--a vibrant, encouraging,"ever-on-top-of-the-situation" kind of lady, a pastor's wife and woman of faith, a good representative on earth of the God she had served since childhood.

Uncle Henry and Aunt Jo lived close to my family while we both served as missionaries. Three of my sisters and I were young, and we played soccer with our cousins in the tiled driveways, or croquet in the tiny, fenced-in yard. Aunt Jo had a lovely cactus garden, set in white chips of onyx stone beside their driveway in Puebla, Mexico. We used to tease about nobody being tempted to steal the spiny plants, not painlessly anyway. It was a great idea, though, to feature the flowers that grew in the midst of thorns and spikes.

Later, we all returned to the United States where my family settled in Missouri and they eventually moved to Arkansas, accepting the pastorate of the very church where my husband was growing up. We visited them there one Thanksgiving break. What crisp South Arkansas weather I remember: A hint of fireplace smoke in the air, mingled with lob lolly pine scent; brown, gold, red, crunchy leaves underfoot; football out in the empty lot beside the tidy, little parsonage; the kitchen full of food; laughter around the table!

Years later, when Turtle and I entered the ministry ourselves, we moved close to Henry and Jo where they pastored a church in Kansas. They took us in and helped us as we struggled for a niche. I remember "mentoring moments" in the guise of stories, times we ate at their table and played games on a Sunday afternoon, and always laughter, always a big smile.

Throughout the years, even during difficult crises in her own health and family, Aunt Jo didn't lose the ability to smile and keep her head up like the cacti in her rock garden. She became the e-mail friend, the one requesting prayer for countless other friends, concerned, and companionable.

In this picture, taken at our last family reunion, my dad and mom shared some memories as they worked with Aunt Jo to identify people in old photographs.

Last summer we visited Turtle's family in Arkansas, then traveled with Henry and Jo to see my cousin Mark and his wife and children. Henry rode with Turtle and Jo rode along beside me, directing my way to a wonderful little lakefront restaurant. On that ride I caught up on years of family history and did a lot of chuckling as Aunt Jo filled me in with amusing details.

Her voice was unique; I think I'll be able to remember it always.
And her face, well, that I'll see in the faces of her beautiful granddaughters...until I see her smile again, in another grand reunion,
my sweet Aunt Jo.


aftergrace said...

I'm so sorry about your Aunt Jo, you all will be in my prayers.

Carina said...

I've always had a special place in my heart for Aunt Jo. I can't wait to see her again someday when we can sit down and chat for as long as we want.