On February 2, 1990, my father married Joyce. I was 9 years old and my parents had been divorced for a little over a year. Dad met Joyce on the bus to work and they fell in love. Joyce had 7 children – 1 son and 6 daughters, all grown and out of the house. Dad had 8 children, I was the only one still at home.
Like most children whose parents remarry after divorce, I was hostile and uncooperative. The first time I realized that Joyce came before me was when we were at the Seattle Science Center and Dad had given me permission to get a treat and Joyce told him she didn’t want me getting sticky. He rescinded permission and called me back. I was bitter.
But Joyce was kind. She was classy and smart. I was learning a lot from her. And I soon grew to love her as a mother figure. Over the years she was an amazing example of what a wife, mother, and woman should and could be. We were from vastly different generations (She was born in 1928, I was born in 1981) but she was one of the greatest women I’ve ever known and she helped shape me.
On Monday, June 18th, 2018, Joyce died after a very short fight with lung cancer. She was ready to go home and meet her Heavenly Father and the spirit was so very strong in the home as she prepared to die. She testified of her faith in God’s plan for us and she was classy, strong, and beautiful until the end. Her children were able to gather around her before she died and my father held the phone up to her ear so she could say goodbye to me. I will forever cherish the loving advice she gave to me before she died. Hearing that she was proud of me was one of the most important things that she could give me. I greatly respected her opinion.
But I thought I’d share 5 things with you that Joyce taught me. If I spread her wisdom, she’ll never really be gone from this earth.
Tenacity, Even in the Small Things
As a teenager, I was talking with Joyce one day in the bathroom as she was getting ready for church. She was putting on her lipstick. She placed the lid back on and stopped our conversation to teach me a small lesson that would have a lasting impact.
“Rachel, I’m 70-years-old. I still have the impulse to just put things down and clean them up later. But I force myself to overcome my bad habits and remind myself each time to do it right away.”
Such a simple lesson. I was sixteen-years-old. Hearing that at 70 it was still a daily battle to overcome bad habits but that she could do it gave me hope. I still struggle to remember to do it right away, but in small wins, I make headway each day. I’m able to be more gentle with myself and my failures when I can remember that I will still be improving at 70. And beyond.
The Power of Prayer
Joyce found her faith late in life. In 1989, while dating my father, she joined the LDS Church. She loved the Gospel and dedicated her life to it. But Joyce loved coffee. The Word of Wisdom called on her to give up coffee. So she did.
But one day when I was very young, she and I were walking through the grocery store and we were in the aisle next to where the coffee was. Her hands tightened on the handle of the shopping cart and I heard her muttering to herself. I asked her what she was doing and she said, “praying for strength to remain faithful.”
Her spiritual faith was more important than something she secularly enjoyed but when she was struggling, she relied on prayer to get her through. Even in the small things, she prayed. And when the United States went to war with Iraq (Operation Desert Storm) and her son was working in Saudi Arabia, I saw her pray for her son. When my grandmother was sick, I saw her pray for my grandmother. Prayer was a part of her life and she relied on it. She was my first real example of daily prayer.
Joyce would pray fervently than get up and work like no one else.
Don’t Put Anything in Writing You Don’t Want Everyone to See
This is something that I think people today could really use. Cuz man… we share too much and it comes back and bites us in the butt. When I was a teenager, I would write notes to people and share too much. I had issues with “boundaries” and didn’t understand how I made people feel and often my notes of genuine emotion would come back to get me. People would take advantage of my vulnerability or make fun of my emotions. I brought a lot of issues into my own life. (That doesn’t excuse the bullying, by the way, those people were buttheads.)
One day after a particularly rough lesson, Joyce taught me that there is nothing I should put in writing that I don’t want everyone to see. If it will embarrass me for anyone to see, it is better left unwritten. I live by this.
Service Brings Happiness in the Face of Great Sadness
When my life had been especially hard, Joyce always encouraged me to get out and serve others. When my father had prostate cancer and was being treated in Loma Linda, California, I would go out and help the elderly in my hometown with Joyce. She kept me busy and I’d forget the sadness of Dad being gone.
As I got older and my first marriage ended, it was her example of service during the hard times that kept me going. As I struggled with the aftermath of a physical assault, it was service that got me out of my own head and away from the pain of violation. This lesson has been passed on to my wonderful children and has brought so much joy to our lives. And I’m grateful every day for her example.
Would You Rather Be Right, or Happy?
I never saw my dad and Joyce fight. Why? Because it wasn’t worth it. My father is not the easiest person to live with. He is opinionated and stubborn. And Joyce would let him be. Why? Because she’d rather be happy than be right. Bickering only happens when one person feels the need to be right. This took me a long time to learn. But it has made all the difference in my relationships with others.