On Sunday, a large group of people said good-bye to a dear friend. Some where closer to her than others, but no one in that room would ever be the same again. Our Joi is dead.
True, Joi Joi is in Heaven now. She feels no pain and feels with certainty the whole-making joy and acceptance that she gave to everyone she came into contact with.
When I first heard the news, I was shocked. Joi Joi? Dead? How can it be?? ‘I’ve been thinking about you, Joi. I miss spending time with you like we used to. I want to hang out with you. Soon! Maybe we can take a picnic to the Stone Arch Bridge again. When do you have time?’ But that call was never made. I felt guilt that I hadn’t called Joi. If I had called more often, would she still be alive? Told her more often how much she meant to me, how special and amazing and loving and beautiful and irreplaceable she was?
Then a song started ringing in my head. I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart… Only, I pictured it going I’ve got my Joi Joi, joy, joy, down in my heart…down in my heart to stay. And all the verses would stream through my head. For three straight days that song took over my brain. Now I’ll probably cry whenever it’s sung.
But really, it’s true! The memories and love we have for Joi will always be in our hearts. The encouraging texts, the letters, the stories. Her beautiful light-up-the-world smile. That laugh that invited everyone in to be included in something funny. There are very few people I feel comfortable being myself around. Joi Joi was one of them.
And so. I spent the week leading up to Joi Joi’s funeral alternating between avoiding what and how I was feeling and then facing the pain head-on. Instead of doing the things that needed doing (like cleaning, laundry, cooking for work, etc), I did things that were better to do. Spending time with friends, playing with toddlers, chasing little ones around the park taking pictures for their mom, holding babies, cooking meals for friends, watching garden be created, praying. Lotsa praying. And some crying…ok, a lot of that, too.
The funeral was good. There were flowers for everyone to wear. People I hadn’t seen in far too long. Beautiful memories shared, wonderful songs played. The message was one of hope, not loss. Joi is in Heaven! Yes, she struggled. Do you feel guilty, like there was something you maybe could have done? Own those feelings – and release them to God. Don’t let them control you. It was what I was hoping for, but not what I was expecting.
At the end of the service I made the long trek back home and decided to go find some flowers for Joi Joi. I picked up my camera and headed to Long Lake Park for to see those walking trails laden with purples, oranges, whites and yellows. And bugs. There I said goodbye to Joi Joi again.
We always pray and give thanks to God for you. He is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. We give thanks to God for you because we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus. We thank God for your love for all those who belong to Christ. We thank God for the hope that is being kept for you in heaven.
Colossians 1:3-5, NLV