Have I ever introduced you to Joyce?
We call her Auntie Joyce, and she is family.
There is no bloodline.
There are no adoption papers.
But she has been with our family since nearly the beginning, and certainly B.C. (before critters). When Guy and I had been married less than a year, Joyce and I began speaking by phone about a job opportunity before we ever met in person. Guy and I both eventually worked for Joyce as substitutes in Special Education in Sonoma County (really for the schools, but Joyce was our tiny Big Boss). Each morning, sometime after 5am, the phone would ring and a cheery voice would sweetly say, "Good morning, this is Joyce!" as she gave us our assignments for that day.
Best. Wake-up calls. Ever.
Joyce was a part of our special day when I went into labor with Ethan. In fact, she placed the call to let Guy know it was time! Though I stopped working to stay home with our growing brood, I would often take the kiddos to visit Joyce at her office. Christmas became a special time for us, and has endured as a lovely tradition that my children look forward to as we now travel from Sacramento to Joyce's house in Santa Rosa for "Second Christmas", even if it has to wait until February!
I have to explain something about Joyce. She is THE single strongest woman I have ever met. Her life has presented her with challenges that few are called on to endure, but she is a rock, a powerhouse, a pillar of strength. She never quits, never wimps out and never complains or makes excuses, no matter how hard things get. Yet her heart is one of the most tender I've ever known.
At the beginning of June we made a trip to see Joyce and Francine. After our beach-going with Francine, we headed over to see Joyce. It was meant to be a cheerful "re-do" of our last trip, when unfortunately we all got the flu within hours of our arriving to her house. But this time, only a few hours into our visit, I received a frightening phone call that Ethan's three best friends had been in a terrible car accident. Out of respect to those dear families' privacy, I will only mention that we eventually learned that two of the three young men lost their lives.
When the call first came, my heart stopped. Ethan had planned to be with them that night, but what I didn't know yet was that he had ended up working late and hadn't gone.
We gathered together in Joyce's living room to pray for the families of those boys, and for Ethan, who was back at home doing what he could to be supportive to them.
Joyce cried right along with us that night.
She loves Ethan, and was heartbroken for him, and for those families. She opened her home for us to stay a day longer than we had planned, and cheerfully occupied the kids with snacks, movies and ice cream sundaes while I spent many hours on the phone trying to reach the boys families to let them know what had happened, and many more hours in a daze.
In the first month after the accident, I don't think an hour went by that my heart had not walked with those mothers and fathers from afar in the shadow of their grief. I have no place in it, really, but as a mother I have wet my pillow, and often my sleeve, as I pray for them. It is not my desire at all to make this about us. I honor those young men and their families.
I talked to Joyce on the phone today, more than 2 months since the accident. We cried again. She feels everything so deeply and loves us all so beautifully. She feels the hearts of all mothers, and has mothered me through so many trials.
I wish every one could have Aunty Joyce.
But since not everyone can,
I will love her for all of you.
Every time we drive away,
Joyce stands on her porch to wave goodbye to us.
I wish we could scoop her up and take her home with us.
But if we can't, at least I get to have this sweet face in my mind's eye
to carry home with me instead.
In loving memory of those two great young men.
They are deeply missed and greatly loved.