I should know by now that Dad's death will come rushing back to me when similar things happen to my friends. Considering the number of people who have cried on my shoulder over the past couple of months as Dad's experience caused them to re-grieve the loss of their own loved ones, you'd think I'd be prepared for it to happen to me.
But as I have discussed ad nauseam in this blog, grief rarely behaves the way we expect it to.
Enter my friend JoAnn. JoAnn's husband Darrel was associate pastor of the church we joined when I was 14 (the same church Dad was so active in and where we had his memorial service). If you've ever been 14 before (and if you found a way to skip that age, please tell me how you did it), you know that very little is easy at that age--and changing from the church I grew up in to a whole new one fell into that category for me.
But there was JoAnn, this vivacious, hilarious contradiction to everything I thought a pastor's wife should be. Yes, she sang in the choir, and I loved to harmonize with her; but she also loved a good practical joke (she just about lived for April Fools' Day). Our first Christmas with the church, she left a little Secret Santa gift outside our door every morning for a week. She wore really cool clothes (I remember a pair of particularly fuzzy boots that I coveted). She went back to school to become a massage therapist and was a REALLY good one. She and Darrel "kidnapped" me to take me to the surprise 17th birthday party my parents threw. She sent me fantastic care packages when I started college, making me feel a lot less alone 1200 miles from home. Her default setting was "smile," but heaven help you if you crossed a member of her family.
In fact, she taught me a thing or two about motherhood. Once when I was at their house to babysit, JoAnn was feeding their twin girls (then in high chairs) before they left. The girls wouldn't eat, so JoAnn started singing patriotic hymns in a chicken voice. It honestly sounded like a chicken singing; that's how good she was at silly voices. It made the girls laugh, which of course provided the perfect opportunity for her to shovel food into their open mouths. I used the technique once or twice on Teagan, but my chicken voice isn't as good.
Anyway. I don't pretend to know the reason why, but 2016 seems to have taken more than its fair share of wonderful people from this earth. JoAnn and my dad number among them, and as I cried for JoAnn today, I realized that my tears also bore my father's name. Sometimes the loss compounds with interest.
JoAnn and Darrel moved to North Dakota not long after Darrel co-officiated my wedding (Darrel was no longer pastor at our church, but I insisted); I hadn't seen her for years and I know Dad hadn't either. But it brings me comfort to imagine him meeting her up there, maybe showing her where to get fitted for her wings before they go sing together in the choir once again after all these years.
It's gonna be beautiful.