This may seem like an odd question, but I promise that it is an appropriate one. In fact, it is a question that my siblings and I have found ourselves asking often over the past 3 days as we prepare to celebrate the life of our beloved mother.
At a time when stress levels are high, sleep levels are low and emotions are on overdrive, my family has found that all we have to do is ask WWJD, What would Joanie do? Many folks know the popular WWJD as What would Jesus do? In our minds though, our mother Joanie embodies many of the same heroic virtues as our Lord thus WWJD is a fitting title for her in this instance.
Bishop Robert Barron shares “the path of love is traveled by taking up one’s cross every day.” Mom was a woman who took up her cross daily in big and little ways. Growing up, she would put herself last so that others could be first – she took the smallest plate of dinner and dessert giving the largest to my dad and brother, she had a kind word for everyone – even when she didn’t feel like it, she worked long hours as a nurse in order to help support our family and send her 3 children to Catholic schools and universities. More recently, she never complained about being in pain for fear of burdening someone with her illness. She even continued her volunteer work at the shelter and church right up to the month before God called her home.
Mom’s whole life was a path of love that Bishop Barron is talking about. She loved with all her being, willing the good of my dad, my sister, my brother and me. She picked up her cross every day whether it was a long shift at the hospital caring for her patients or enduring another chemo treatment at Dana Farber – there was no difference because both of these efforts were rooted in God’s love and offered up to Him for the good of her family. She surrendered herself to God daily thus he was free to work through her – His love flowed through her beautiful soul to others and that is why she shined so bright.
What would Joanie do? It is a question we have asked ourselves lately and this is what we have heard in prayer: Mom would love her family and friends unconditionally; she would turn her face to the warm autumn sun; she would plant fall mums and stand back and admire the beauty of their colors in her yard; she would cook for the Noah shelter and greet each guest with a warm smile and a hug; she would attend her grandchildren’s games and dance competitions and clap louder than any other grandparent there; she would take a meandering drive with Papa down 6A, walk with him on the beautiful Cape Cod beach and then cook him a favorite Irish meal.
Life would be simple and uncomplicated but she would be happy and content – she would not get sidetracked with worrying about silly stuff. She would pray and love God with all her heart, soul and mind. We will try to be more like you mom – you knew the path to lasting happiness. This is what Joanie would do.