This week has been an emotional week. I had to say goodbye to a lady who took me and my 3 month old daughter into her home and treated me as one of her own, back in 1979. It was bittersweet back then. I was just 17, a junior in high school, and really messed up. Not messed up in the way of drugs or alcohol, but emotionally. I could not believe that I was basically kicked out of the house for telling my mom that her husband was a pervert. She pushed me and pushed me. He stayed and I had to leave. More on that another day…
I stayed with Joanie and her family for about two years. It was a huge lifestyle change as they lived on a dairy farm and I was from the city. She was a born again Christian and was very vocal about Jesus. I was an Italian catholic girl from a city with a population of over 100,000 now living in a community with a population of about 1000, and now living on a farm!
She really did accept me as her own and I will forever be grateful. I will always respect her for being her. She was a lady who feared nothing and I feared everything. She was a big influence on both my life and my daughters. I would lean on her and her faith when I faced personal struggles, for example when Geno, my current husband had lung cancer. I called her just frantic and scared shitless! Geno and I weren’t married yet and I was going to loose the best thing that ever happened to me and my girls. She said “Mary, look up and pray to Jesus”. My reply to her was “You pray! I am pissed at God right now and I just can’t pray” as I was crying my eyes out. She came right out to our house, sat me down at the kitchen table and we prayed. We both prayed through tears.
She loved me unconditionally. Last April when I heard she had cancer my heart sank. I knew she knew Jesus as her savior, and this was a comfort. I always looked at her as one of the strongest people in my life, fearing nothing. During her last few weeks on earth I visited as much as I could. Geno was having issues due to an accident in 2013 that left him tube fed for life and much more. Again more on that hurdle later. When I would visit, she would hold me and we would both cry. She would ask about my girls and ask how Geno was doing. One night she said “Life just sucks!” and that took me by great surprise. I looked at her tear filled eyes and I said “Just look UP”. She looked at me kind of confused and I said, “You always told me to look up”. Her reply was “You are something!” And we both laughed. She told me she loved me more. And that melted my heart like you will never know.
She was something! She was a person you could always visit and leave feeling happy. You could call her for prayer, for advice or for one of her recipes. She would always ask about Geno and the girls. She led me through some of my most difficult years. She taught me to pray when things got tough and to pray for thanks when things were good. I will be honest, I didn’t always agree with everything and she didn’t always agree with my choices. But there was a mutual respect and I always felt the love…unconditional love. And I always felt like her kid. I love you more Joanie and as you walk through God’s gardens I know your light will continue to guide all you knew and loved.