Joanna Cole Wade
May 15, 2012
Welcome dear friends and family, here and online, to Joanna Cole Wade’s memorial service. Joanna told her daughter laughingly “You’ll be shocked to see how many people you will see at my funeral.” So on behalf of her family, thank you for joining us in memorializing a life a lived well.
Joanna was born July 4th, 1941 to David and Serena Cole. The rest of her life she enjoyed the simple fact that her birthday was celebrated annually with fireworks. Raised in Glenview Illinois with her two siblings Michael and Andrea, she went on to attend the Academy of the New Church and then spent two years at the Bryn Athyn College.
Following college, she married Marvin Wade. And three very significant loves joined her life – Forrest Cole Wade, Jennifer Ann Wade, and Matthew McFarlan Wade. Making a home in Alabama, she worked hard as a mother and as Advertising editor for Southern Living and Progressive Farmer.
Over those years she lived a life marked by Independence and Connection.
First, how did independence show up in her life?
No doubt one of her life’s hardest moments was the collapse of her marriage. In ways, not asked for, it was both heartbreaking and formative. And one can see that streak of independence – maybe growing from a life that had not unfolded to plan, in many areas of her life.
There were hobbies she lovingly pursed over the years – from wood burning, to painting, to drawing, to poetry (Valentine’s Day Cards), to Antiques.
There were even private hobbies her children were unaware of. She showed love of language that went unnoted. Her house held reference books on languages such as Portuguese.
And one story seems to get to that core of independence. She was aghast when presented with a bid for yard work to clear out brush when the bid came in at $800.00. Informing her son that for a with 140 years of combined experience, two women could do this. So she called her friend Cindy and they had at it, 2 seventy years olds clearing brush, and incidentally saving $800.00.
And that independence was not all sweetness and light. The children all noted how their mother’s Achilles heel was driving. She was a backseat, side seat, every seat driver, offering a running commentary on their driving acumen as well as that of others on the road, including language from the adjective “Niny” on up to words that do not belong in a sermon!
While independence was important maybe connection was even more so. That connection started with her deep ties to her children. Continually reinforcing these ties through phone calls and phone messages, she always wanted them to know how much she loved them.
She likewise saw value in placing them within connection. In recent years, she often pulled out pieces of Forrest’s, Jennifer’s, or Matthew’s youth to give to them – a little league cap, Hot wheels, Y-Indian Guide headband, drawings. And in that same light, she was forever reminding them of so-and-so relation to so-and-so who was “your first cousins third child.“ As Jennifer noted, speaking of family lineage with her ran closely parallel to the “begats” of Genesis.
And those connections grew. She loved sharing funny movies with them including such notables as “The Pink Panther” and “Waiting for Guffman.’ And there were the Swedish Meatballs and Chocolate Chip Cookies.
Given that love of connection, it is little wonder that she loved this church and its choir.
Did you notice the beauty of that line from AC? It read: But they allowed themselves to be led mutually by each other, thus each one individually and collectively by the Lord. Church like choir is about independence and connection. About each independent one being led in turn by everyone – by connection – and thus led by the Lord. That is God given grace indeed!
It appears one of those “God winks” – one of those moments of intentional grace – that while she faced death alone, her last gathering in this life was with the choir. I would imagine the last act of singing in a choir will be her first act as she wakes to life anew in God’s creation.
None of that of course immediately mitigates the pain and at what is an untimely passing.
One can think of that grief in light of the New Testament story of the Road to Emmaus. One can so easily paint the picture of what the two individuals in the story are facing. They have just lost a person they loved, a person they followed, a person they had given their very lives too. That person was Christ. Picture how they would have been walking that path – a path filled with pain.
And yet even though that pain blinds them to God’s presence, God’s presence is still there, literally walking with them as they navigate their way home. His presence is finally revealed in a most startling way – Christ breaks bread and give thanks.
Breaks bread and give thanks. Breaking bread – such a powerful metaphor for life – a life in which we break ourselves open, as we love others just as Jo did. A life in which we give and share just as Jo did. A life in which we laugh just as Jo did. And a physical life that ultimately breaks just as Jo’s did. But there is thanks. There is thanks! There is gratitude that even in that all breaking, God is there to. Gentle eyes, gentle hands, breaking bread, giving thanks, welcoming us home.
That is why the speaker talks of “heart burning” within them. That is the call. To allows our hearts to burn with the presence of God. For many like Jo that was a quiet, steadfast, deeply committed burning. That is beautiful legacy.
So let us close with a celebration of that legacy in the midst even of this painful loss of a beloved friend, sister, and mother. Her physical life is now silent. And maybe Rumi’s words are then are most appropriate to close with, “When I am silent I to go to a place where all is music.”