Please Refresh/Reload your browser immediately upon page load to receive the best current view
How often I had gone by the house at 349 South 1st Street in our former community, the town we raised our children in. The one we left a few years ago, to move down by the river into a small neighboring community with our son. I had visited there often. For in fact, this is where my older brother and his sweet wife lived for fifty years. She, as a small child born and raised to live there, my brother, as one who would fall in love with a young teenage girl, eventually marry, build a successful loving life with two children there for those fifty plus years now.
Folks around town all knew and loved them. After all, she was a homegrown girl, a town sweetheart & daughter and he, their adopted son who had married into the community family, to then build and spend a lifetime together. And theirs has been a whirl of a love story! No one could quite fully grasp the love that had been shared between the two over those many years together.
Joyce spent her time completely devoted to "her" Jerry and their two kids. She did everything for them and because of them, and he loved her for it. Indeed, you would hardly ever in those fifty years, see one without the other. Many many loving memories were built by their four hands. Eventually, their two children grew to three with the addition of a loving son-in-law. Yes, they have lived upon their little corner of the world dedicated to one another and their little community for many years.
This year, Jerry lives on there alone. Our beloved girl, Joyce...succumbed to a dreadful infection acquired after her second open heart surgery in October. She'd suffered a rather severe heart attack at the beginning of Labor Day week end, and was rushed to one of the larger capitol hospitals. She came through that first surgery all right and had made it home to then begin her recovery. She had called me about a week and a half later, well...closer to two, and in her very frail but hopeful and upbeat small voice, thanked me for being there and my concern, and her final words to me were, "I've got a ways to go, but I haven't given up yet". I hung up the phone and cried. She sounded so small and like she'd been battling very hard on this new road to being well.
I had put off going to see her because she just didn't need all the company, and hubbub of activity right then I didn't think. My intention was to wait until she was feeling stronger and more like talking so as not to wear her out. I can't remember exactly what day it was that they rushed Joyce back to the same hospital because a raging infection had been detected at our local ER.
But when I heard my brother say she was going right in for surgery, I was very scared for her. I asked him if he wanted us to come and he said it wasn't necessary, the kids were there.
After her surgery, it was touch and go for many many days.
The second day after surgery, we went to see her. She'd had to have dialysis again, like after the first time, and she was on the respirator and couldn't speak. She barely opened her eyes, but once in awhile. We stayed the night and slept (along with my brother and niece) in chairs in a waiting area. The several subsequent times we visited, she would still always be the way we left her the time before. We would hear about her saying a couple of words in between times when the respirator was out, but it would always have to go back in and I never did get to ever hear her sweet little voice again.
The times we were there, I would always tell her we were there in the room with her and ask her if she knew we loved her very much? She could nod an affirmative answer and sometimes squeeze my hand. But at 11:30 p.m. on October 30th she lost her hard-fought battle. We had just been down for the day and not home all that long when Jerry
called to tell us. My heart felt ripped from my chest at that news and the realization that I would never again, this side of life, ever hear her lovely voice or hear her joyful laughter again. I hurt so much for my brother, my niece and her husband and my nephew...and for us. What an enormous loss. One that still has us struggling even now.
Joyce's specialty in life seemed to be bringing about joy! Joy to her immediate family, her extended family, her friends, her neighbors, and every person that had ever had the privilege to know her. To say that she is missed, is not fit wording enough to even try to explain just how much.
One way she brought about her special brand of joy each year was to illuminate the corner of 349 South 1st Street each Christmas season with candles meticulously placed in each window of their simple but stately old two story home. Along with a beautifully decorated tree filled with white lights and silver and gold ornaments. Her stairway bannister was always draped with greenery and white lights that you could see from outside along with the tree as well. The front porch was festooned with green pine and white lights with big red bows, and the side yard sported two mechanical deer in front of the two evergreens toward the back of the yard.
The moment you pulled off of the main highway into this sleepy wintery little community and drove past the filling station just off to the side, you'd see it! All the loving work put into bringing joy to the world for all to see, by her own hands (and of course, Jerry's as well).
It was a time honored tradition through the years, and everyone I know who lived there or happened to be passing by on their way to their own loving family holiday gatherings, would always always look for this beacon of joy and light as their indicator that indeed Christmas had officially come. That it was time now, to try to set aside the hustle and bustle, the anxiety and cares, the struggles and worry, and just take in the peace that seemed so illusive during the busyness of the season for so many. It was indeed, a season of light. That the warm welcoming glow from these candles placed lovingly with so much care, were a reminder that love glows from within.
That it is not just found in gifts under the tree, or the painstaking effort that goes with making Christmas "special" in so many small and big ways for our families. It is found sometimes, by the caring act of just one...offered to the world.
It was so like Joyce to do this not just for her family but for all who would see. She knew the pleasure that others gleaned from something as simple as lighting the way for those harried travelers passing by. The instant calm and peace that had a way of just flooding into the heart at that moment in passing.
This Christmas eve, my brother and his little family will be taking a single candle out to the cemetery and placing it on Joyce's wreath as their Christmas gesture of love and gratitude to this beautiful woman who graced all our lives and touched so many hearts in so many wonderful ways. And as the town grieved collectively our great loss with us, I know they waited and wondered. Will they ever see those beautiful Christmas lights ever again?
Jerry and the kid's indication that they are going to make it, that they are going to be all right, came by way of their honoring the loving tradition started so many years ago by Joyce. We're all going to be ok, Jo. Peek out from behind that cloud and look! You can't miss it! There on the corner, shining out for all to see...you'll find that your love light lives on. And that peace of which I spoke, so illusive, can be found once more by the candles sparkling as brightly as ever. Lovingly placed there by those you've left here to carry on the task for you.
And if you look just a bit to the north, you'll see an extra one or two. For the very first time ever...shining brightly right here as well. They are my own loving tribute to what you've begun. And they will be my tribute from now on.
My own welcoming light for whatever weary traveler may happen by.
I thank God for you. For the strong family you loved so much and taught your particular joy to through the years. For your way of reaching farther than yourself to touch more hearts than you could ever have possibly realized.
I hope that Jesus has somehow let you in on just how many by now. And that He's shown you that the legacy you left behind lives on and will, for years to come.
And that legacy of love can carry on for anyone anywhere, to warm just one single aching heart, if they are willing to light just one spark of hope by placing their own ...candle in the window.
God Bless your Christmas.
If you ever doubt that something so simple can touch a multitude of hearts so deeply, then you haven't met the people of Ogden, Iowa and it's surrounding communities. Joyce was loved beyond measure (as is Jerry and her entire family), by a community who truly was touched by her loveliness and the person she'd always been and for her joyful attitude and loving spirit. Jerry and the kids, and we who loved her deeply, thank them all for the loving gestures made and continue being made on their behalf.
And if you ever get there at Christmas time, and happen to drive by the house on the corner of 300th block and South 1st, you will see what we've all come to anticipate year after year, as the "official starting point of the Christmas Season" right there in the shimmering candle light.
May you be filled with the peace of heart that only the true meaning of Christmas brings, and the joy that comes from knowing that love shines on, over-shining even some of the world's greatest heartaches.
Linda Marie Pharaoh-Carlsonęcopyright, all rights reserved
(place your cursor over the rolling text to temporarily halt the scrolling movement for easier reading)
The graphics on this page were made by Linda M.P.Carlson expressly for this web site. Do not use these graphics without contacting her via email for permission at the "Expressions" email click link provided on page 2 and various other pages of this web site and Writer's Block Writing Community.