You won't read about it online, hear it on the radio, nor see a segment on TV, but our world lost a true saint this week. My grandmother-in-law, Joan Jones, passed from life much sooner than expected, leaving behind one of the truest examples of sacrificial love I've ever had the honor of witnessing.
I joined the rest of my wife's family in Texas this weekend to celebrate Joan's life, and have been continually touched by the stories told of her hospitality and grace, and also by the expressions of love I've experienced and felt as I see her legacy continue among us.
Joan was the rare type of person that radiated grace, beauty, elegance, and love, sharing these qualities freely with all she encountered. When she looked at you, it felt as if you were all that mattered to her in the world in that moment. Her sweet and always soft words just melted you, after which you left her presence feeling cherished, encouraged, and happy. I can still hear her warm welcoming of "Hiii, Will." When we told our family we'd be traveling for a year, she was one of our first and most avid supporters. As a fellow world traveler herself, she constantly encouraged us that it was one of the best things we could do at our age. We knew early on that she was certainly one of our biggest fans, regardless of where we went or what we did.
She was a queen of the most humble variety, often performing acts of service to countless people in need completely unannounced, uncelebrated, and often unnoticed. Many of these touching acts were not revealed until her funeral (like how many people received beautifully handwritten letters from her every single day for months after the passing of their loved ones), and many more which will likely never be made public, however, the legacy of such deep love for others continues on in her children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, and all of the rest of us fortunate to be touched by her life.
Losing a loved one is always painful, yet losing one so noble and pure-hearted as Joan leaves a giant hole, all the way to the core. It is a deep and painful kind of hurt that you realize is only that way because of how deeply she touched each of us. Her influence and generous spirit are so embedded in our hearts, that naturally we feel the emptiness unbearably. However, there is hope and joy knowing that it because of how richly we have been loved and cherished, we have the same depth and capacity exampled for us to love and cherish others. These holes in our hearts will be continually healed and filled by the memories and lessons she gave to us, and comforted by her spirit among us and, indeed, through us.
While her absence in our physical lives will be sorely missed, her commitment to humble servanthood, the storybook love shared with her husband, her devout life of faith, and her deep wells of love and hospitality will continue to inspire us and be passed through from generation to generation. Despite the pain, we celebrate a life incredibly well-lived, hoping and praying we may emulate these qualities she exampled for us so beautifully. One of the highest honors would be to live a life that is remembered so beautifully, elegantly, and fully unto others as Joan Jones. We love you, Grandmother.