Disclaimer: I only knew Jo for three years, sadly. I wish I had more to report on her but anyone who knows her knows she is just truly amazing and snarky and kind. I will talk about her more someday in my “Other Mothers” series because there is a lot to say. And when someone like her passes away, no matter that she was 84, we still mourn her, long life and all.
I met Jo the first week we came to church in our new town. I saw her sitting on the back row in a meeting and I knew we were meant to be friends. I love when that happens. It didn’t matter that she was 81 and I was 32. We met and I couldn’t wait to hear all of her words of wisdom. Turns out her husband had passed away and she had had a very hard time with it (naturally). My heart went out to her.
I was lucky that I became her responsibility in church. She was to visit me once a month with another woman, Julianne. And come she did. Every month. With recipes and advice (some solicited and some not) and tips and gardening help. She read stories to my little kids and hugged them when they/we were grumpy. She told me that to combat the snowy messes in the house during the winter, just wipe it up with a towel and don’t mop every day. (More time for reading, she insisted.) When I told her daughter Amy this, she was outrage (in a good way) because Jo had taught them to scrub the floor on their hands and knees!
We started going out to help her garden at her house and she always had a candy for the kids (or five) or a gas station ice cream. She insisted that we shouldn’t help her but we had to because we love her. One visit, she gave me the roll recipe (pictured below) and I said, “Oh, I Love new roll recipes.” and she says, “Well, I’ll just take it back if you already have so many.” I wasn’t going to let that happen! It is the best roll recipe we have and we use it all the time. They are fluffy and feathery and buttery. This is the first time I made “feathery” rolls. And they are warm and comforting, just like Jo.And I love her beautiful handwriting on the recipe card. You don’t see that too often anymore. She was the master tomato soup maker and I hear her chocolate sauce is legendary. (Amy, I still need that recipe!) I asked her how she stayed connected to her teenagers and she said, “With cookies after school. That’s how I got so fat.” Talk about candid.
Mostly, I love how she loved people. I heard stories of her going to Myra’s house when she was drowning in little kids and sending her to bed. She tended her kids and took all the tomatoes from her garden and canned them all into spaghetti sauce. And didn’t mind a bit. She was famous for these kinds of things but not because she told anyone about them, but because everyone else did. She is (I don’t like “was” when someone passes because I believe their spirits live on) a hilarious, intelligent, hard working, avid reader, baker, wife and mother. She always told us that time goes by so fast. She told us don’t worry about your kids tantrums and fits because they really are just kids. She taught me to just sit in the sun after a hard day’s work and soak it up.
And she taught me to have faith in Jesus Christ. She taught me to not give up when I was tired or frustrated. Her memory was failing so she went to live in Utah. (Against her independent will, of course.) We didn’t talk as much and she couldn’t remember who I was sometimes. Blake’s brother passed away right after she moved. I wanted to talk to her so bad about everything. Then I ran the half marathon and I wanted to tell her about it. I ran five miles the morning of her funeral and knew she was proud of me. I especially wanted her and all of her nursing knowledge after the miscarriages, but she wasn’t there. But Jo always believed in angels and I think she has been there for me in those hard times. I wish I had known her 30 years ago and had seen her in action in her prime but I am so glad for the three years I had to get to know her and to learn from her. She would often wonder why she was still living and what she had to offer. And I would selfishly tell her, “Because we need you.” And that is the truth.
I’m sorry I had to steal this picture, Amy. We have some of her but I have also taken way too many pictures and can’t find them. But I thought this was the perfect picture of her. Smiling on her porch, door open, with her plants. All that’s missing is a Coke.
Left: The roll recipe! If you can’t read it, let me know and I’ll send it over. I know it’s a bit gross looking but we have used it that many times and I can’t bear to get rid of it. Right: The kids in her creek in her backyard. If only those waters could talk!