Thursday, November 13, 2008


Normally I give you short and to the point posts, but I'm going to go on a little tonight because today I went to the funeral of a man named Joe.

Joe was a 51-year-old third grade teacher who died of ALS. In the church we heard from his childhood friends who called Joe a hero. We heard from a teacher who told how tough it was to be the fourth grade teacher because all Mr. B's kids thought he had already taught them everything they needed to know. We heard from a principal who is bereft at losing him from her staff. A friend stood up and talked about how, once Joe was paralyzed, he still insisted on wearing starched shirts and ties, even though he could no longer dress himself. We heard from his cousin who tried to take cupcakes to the students on Joe's birthday and Joe said they couldn't do it because they didn't have time. Elementary students, high school students and college students told of how strict Mr. B was but that he made a difference in their lives.

Leigh Standley wrote, "There are some who bring a light so great to the world that even after they have gone, the light remains." I'm sure she knew someone like Joe.

After the church service, over one hundred cars made their way down the busiest street in Greensboro. We went through red lights and every car we passed was pulled over to the side of the road, just like people used to do. Out of respect. It had been so long since I'd seen that kind of honor given to a funeral procession, and I like to think that they had all heard that Joe had died. That they all sat on the side of the road thinking that we can't afford to lose people like him. That they wanted to stop in the middle of their day and pay respects to him.

Joe's death was not pretty. On the fourth of July, I sat with him an hour or so. He could not use his hands or walk, and his speech was very hard to understand, but we had a good conversation. And the thing that he said that stays with me now was this: "I'm still Joe." Simple words that carried a huge amount of meaning.

His friends were phenomenal. As long as he continued teaching they came every morning and dressed him and took him to work. They spent hours and hours and hours with him--not for him, but for them. His sister and two friends took him to Paris early this year and that was not easy, but Joe wanted to go and they were determined to get him there.

The minister was a friend from childhood too, I think. He said that funerals are usually about saying goodbye, but that he didn't want to say goodbye. He wanted to say, "See you later, Joe."

The last words of the service were sung by Chris Rice (a recording). I don't know how to put a song on my blog, but here are the words and I urge you listen to it on Itunes:

Weak and wounded sinner
Lost and left to die
O, raise your head, for love is passing by
Come to Jesus
Come to Jesus
Come to Jesus and live!

Now your burden's lifted
And carried far away
And precious blood has washed away the stain, so
Sing to Jesus
Sing to Jesus
Sing to Jesus and live!

And like a newborn baby
Don't be afraid to crawl
And remember when you walk
Sometimes we
Fall on Jesus
Fall on Jesus
Fall on Jesus and live!

Sometimes the way is lonely
And steep and filled with pain
So if your sky is dark and pours the rain, then
Cry to Jesus
Cry to Jesus
Cry to Jesus and live!

O, and when the love spills over
And music fills the night
And when you can't contain your joy inside, then
Dance for Jesus
Dance for Jesus
Dance for Jesus and live!

And with your final heartbeat
Kiss the world goodbye
Then go in peace, and laugh on Glory's side, and
Fly to Jesus
Fly to Jesus
Fly to Jesus and live!

I hope I see you later, Joe, but I know I'm going to have to stand in line.


G Liz said...

Mamie, what a moving, sad and yet inspirational tribute to your friend. Joe sounds like an amazing man, and I am most sure his spirit will live despite his bodily death.

I didnt' know anything about ALS until a few years ago, when a 'passer-by' in my life told me that he lost a good friend to this disease. It's not something that is commonly discussed.

A few months before I left the club, a member told me that his wife had died of it as well. He cried as he told details of her death...and as he also spoke of experiences they had with the medical profession.

Thank you for sharing Joe with all of us. I will say a special prayer for him and all of those whose lives he touched.

mamie said...

Thank you, Gina. I'll pass your kind words on to his family.

Allie said...

Hi Mamie,

I'm so sorry for your loss. Joe sounds like good people to me. I know this is not an easy thing to go through. Keep the memory of Joe alive, and always remember the kind of person that he was, and all of the lives he made a difference in. The memory will keep him with you always.


mamie said...

Allie, Joe was actually the brother of one of my dear friends, not a close friend of mine. But something about people's words about him touched me, and I had to write about it.

trisha said...

Joe's story has me in tears. Wish I'd known him. Thank you for sharing something of his beauty.

MitMoi said...

I think you "went on" just the right amount.

Thank you for making me reflect on my friends and my able-ness and to not take either for granted.

word verification: sysissly =
sympathetic sincerely and sisterly all smushed together!

mamie said...

Trish, I only knew him a little during his life, but I learned a hell of a lot about him from his death.

Mit, thanks for the sysissly response to my post.

The Purple Panda said...

Beautiful post and loving tribute. Joe lives!

word verification: mentess = a female mentor