“I’ve met him!” she exclaimed.
My cousin Joan had just returned from a two week vacation in Florida. She had been visiting a church friend whose family had relocated to a small town in the sunshine state.
“Him who?” I asked as I watched her unpack her suitcase.
“The one!” she replied as she continued sorting clothes into two piles. There was a small stack of clothes that had not been worn during her vacation and a huge pile of clothes destined for the laundry room.
“What one?” I asked, feeling much younger than the seven year difference in our ages. Joan had always known more than I did which is the reason I looked up to her. I could find out things from her that no one else would tell me, but this Joan didn’t seem much like the one I knew.
“Jodi, I’ve met the man I’m going to marry. It happened my first night at Mary’s house. She had arranged for me to have a blind date with a friend of hers, but we had so much fun that I cancelled the other two blind dates she had arranged for me. We saw each other every day and he introduced me to his family. His mother is a walking Bible!” Joan informed me.
As I tried to imagine what a walking Bible might look like, Joan kept talking about her fabulous vacation and the wonderful man she was going to marry.
“You’ll get to meet him when he comes here in three weeks to meet my family. His name is Chance, but everybody calls him ‘Coach’ because he’s the coach of all the sports at the High School. I don’t want you to be surprised when he gets here so I’ll tell you now that he is not all that good looking, but he has the best personality of anyone I have ever met.”
This was my only older cousin, the one who taught me to mix baby oil and iodine so we could get a good tan in the summer. She taught me how to apply lipstick and nail polish and in which colors. She had even taught me how to dance to fast music. This was in case a boy ever asked me to dance--then I’d know how.
We were both only children, daughters of two sisters who were very close. Our parents had built homes next door to each other on inherited land and to me, Joan was my wise older sister.
“And Jodi, when he was in the Air Force, he learned that he had diabetes. His life could be shortened by this disease, but I don’t care. I would rather have a few years with him than a lifetime with anyone else.”
The next few months were a bit hectic with families meeting each another and everyone busy with wedding plans. To avoid hurt feelings among Joan’s closest friends, I was chosen to be her bridesmaid.
Joan married Coach and moved south to Florida. I eventually married and moved north to upstate New York. Whenever possible, we planned coinciding summer vacations at our parents in order to spend that time together. However, as the years passed, each of us became increasingly involved with our own growing children and their interests so we had little contact.
One day I received the distressing news that Joan’s husband, Coach, was in intensive care and not expected to recover. He was in the prime of life with all three of their children still in school.
Coach’s funeral was held in the small southern town where he had coached all the high school athletes, regardless of color. In those days, funeral homes and churches were still segregated.
One of Coach’s former students approached Joan with a request from the black community. Could the funeral procession go through their section of town as it made its way to the graveside service? Joan said it could.
As the procession of cars approached the main street through that area, everyone could see both sides of the street lined with the black community. Each person respectfully stood at attention as the cars slowly passed by. The entire community honored a beloved coach and friend.
Alone, Joan finished raising her children. Two are teachers: the youngest is a physician. “Give her the reward she has earned, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.”*
*Proverbs 31:31 (NIV)
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