This is Jonell in her last bedroom - she was always happiest when she was doing her "work".
The following is something I wrote a month or so after Jonell's death and it includes her obituary - what a weird and final word but hers is lovely - just like she was. I conclude this note with the #3 of 25 random things about me - I came across it when I was doing a 'search' for Jonell on my laptop. I am so glad I got to be her sister.
I have a new favorite quote, at least it is today's favorite. Maybe it is because I needed it today.
I am overdue in correspondence – I realized yesterday some of my nearest and dearest didn't even know of our Jonell's passing into the 'better land'. Then today another beloved friend let me know she hadn't been told. It might be 'denial' or just plain putting off the inevitable but I guess I felt when I started writing about her death, expressing my thoughts in words and all, well, it would all come back as too real.
Am I sorry Jonell is gone? No, not for her sake. She loved life and we treasured every single breath she took but that was just it – her breaths were harder and harder to take and finally she breathed her last. Faye and I were beside her – we took turns holding her hands and ministering to her. Faye and I were both so overwhelmed by the thought that she had finally gone home to heaven and Dad and Mom that we started laughing! Faye said she could just see Daddy singing “then sings my soul” with his chin tilted up in the air – well, we just laughed for the pure joy of the knowing that Jonell had made it home.
Faye and I put together several writings that were shared at her Memorial Service. The kids wrote sweet notes that were read out loud as well and Lowell spoke some precious thoughts from his heart. We sang verses of her favorite songs – Just As I Am, Trust and Obey and How Great Thou Art. We laughed and cried at the Power Point Presentation of her life story – she was an amazing woman-child, full of wonderment, excitement, and determination. I am so blessed to have been her little/big sister.
In honoring Jonell we actually honored Dad and Mom as well because the life they provided for Jonell was an amazing testament on how to love a special needs person. They could have wallowed in self-pity and railed in anger at God in being given Jonell but instead they respected Him by treasuring Jonell as a gift and working hard to provide for her every advantage in an oftentimes, ignorant world. Mom often told us that their family doctor told them to “take her home and love her” and that's just what they did. Little did they realize the ramifications of that statement – not only was their own family influenced by their display of what that meant, but churches and communities all from coast to coast benefited by their unselfish lives.
The following is a copy of her Obituary:
Which brings me to the quote of today – it just rings true to my heart.
We grow great by dreams. All big men are dreamers. They see things in the soft haze of a spring day or in the red fire of a long winter's evening. Some of us let these great dreams die, but others nourish and protect them; nurse them through bad days till they bring them to the sunshine and light, which comes always to those who sincerely hope that their dreams will come true.
Woodrow T. Wilson
Dreams and goals have been put on hold for a good while in our personal life. Lowell has been amazing as he held down the fort here at home while I made my weekly pilgrimages to the Rawley household to help first with Dad, then Mom and finally Jonell. Faye looked at me that night and said, “well, it's just us now”. That is a sobering thought – you know we all have that core family of some sorts – a Dad, Mom and siblings – experiences that are totally unique to who we are. It is a unusual feeling to realize that there is just 2 of you now to remember it all – what it was like, the shared feelings of dramas, excitement, lives of those gone on before. But the point is: we made it until now – and our lives are still going on and it is up to us to not let dreams die. It is up to me to get on with living in another way, that isn't centered around our Jonell. Will it be hard? Yes, sometimes it will be. There have been moments when the grief seems to choke me – it takes my breath away when I realize I won't feed her another meal, won't hold her hand and say a nighttime prayer, won't help her dress or do any of the many tasks that have consumed Faye and I for months on end. You see though, through it all I held fast to dreams – I nourished and protected these dreams and even nursed them as well through the bad days. God even gave us gifts of new dreams to add to the old ones.
And so life goes on. My dreams as an individual will surely come to light. Our dreams as husband and wife, as family are rising up in our hearts again as surely as the sun rises at the dawn.
Another favorite thought has been in my heart since I found it as a highschool student -
Hold fast to dreams, for when dreams die, Life is like a broken winged bird that cannot fly.
God bless each of you and thank you so much for thoughts and prayers for us. You are loved and appreciated.
3 – The most amazing day of my life was when I was baptized – my sister, Jonell was baptized at the same time, we helped each other dress and get ready. She was soooo excited – I stood at the stairs and watched and I will never forget her utter and absolute joy when the deed was done and she came up out of the water. When it was my turn, and I came up out of the water and saw her unbridled happiness for me - it was a determining factor of my life. We hugged and rocked back and forth in the little foyer adjoining the dressing rooms. There is no time in my life that marks who I am like those moments when I became a daughter of the KING – it was one journey I got to share with our sweet Jonell. I know if angels dance a jig they danced at Joni's sweet, important day.