Monday, November 8, 2010

My Stepmother, JoAnn

I lost my stepmother yesterday.  There will be many words spoken during these coming days about Joann, about what a wonderful wife, mother, stepmother, grandmother, great-grandmother, and friend she was.  I want to write about JoAnn here, since that's my preferred way of expressing myself.   Some might say that's my gift, although I'm not certain about that.

One thing that I am certain about is that JoAnn was gifted and did express herself through her gifts.   She would probably laugh at me saying she was gifted, but that was because she was also modest.  Her gifts came to us simply by knowing her and being around her, and they will last much longer than she could have ever imagined.

She had and expressed the gift of love.  I don't believe that there was one of us in our large family that didn't benefit from her love in some way.  She had a way of letting you know that you mattered to her, and that you were an important part of the family and her life.

She had the gift of listening.  In a one-to-one conversation, she listened more than she talked.  She focused on you and you could feel her interest and her empathy.  Expressing her own opinion was not as important to her as hearing yours. 

She had the gift of enjoying and appreciating life.  She enjoyed many friendships, two of whom were planning an overnight visit with her this week.  She was looking forward to spending time with them.  Her youngest great-grandchild, Georgia Beth, was a visitor to her bedside in the hospital.  Her words to Georgia Beth, as she caressed her little face, were, "I would like to see you grow up."

She had the gift of strength.  JoAnn might have appeared frail, but she impressed and amazed me at her determination to continue to do as much as possible for herself and my dad.  Her strength of character drove her forward as her body's strength diminished.

She had the gift of graciousness and hospitality.  I think that she learned good manners at her mother's knee, and she demonstrated it to the very end of her life.  We marveled at her sweet smiles and hello to each of us during the hours that she was occupied with the very hard and painful work of dying.  She wanted us each to know that she treasured the time she had spent with us.

She had a gift for teaching.  Again, she would probably deny that she was a teacher, but I believe that the best instruction comes by example.  Her example will stay with me for the rest of my life and if anybody were to say that I was loving, a good listener, enjoyed life, gracious, hospitable, strong, or a good example, I'd say "I learned that from my stepmother, JoAnn."

My mother, Jeffie Jean, died at 55 and we loved her and missed her greatly.  After a time,  I joined the rest of the family in welcoming JoAnn to our family.  She had known my dad since they attended a little country school together, although he was several years older than she.  To me, she was the nice lady who worked in the office of James Kahn's Department Store, and later a good friend and neighbor to both of my parents.  We all celebrated Dad's and JoAnn's marriage because we wanted our dad to be happy.  We didn't know it at the time, but our family needed JoAnn.  She proved that to us over the years that we had her and I am grateful that she was willing to move to from Missouri to Oklahoma and thankful to her son and grandchildren for sharing her with us.

I will truly miss my stepmother, JoAnn.



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