On July 12, 2011, my mother called with tragic news: my dad’s younger sister, Joy, passed away suddenly and unexpectedly on a flight to the Philippines, the beloved other homeland where orphans awaited her happy return. For days, a single thought went through my mind like a shockwave: Anyone but Aunt Joy. In the online obituary I wrote: “Never was there anyone more Christlike in character, in conduct, and in spirit.” All who knew her would agree.
When Aunt Joy informed my husband-to-be, years ago, that her young niece had moved from Florida to New York and was attending a local Bible School, she said, “You should go meet her, Dave. She’s a real treasure.” No, Aunt Joy, you are the treasure. Anything good in me was likely learned by watching your example. (Though I do thank you for the connection!)
Here’s what I mean. I’ll never forget the day that Aunt Joy spoke in a meeting. I don’t remember the occasion or the topic, but it was evident she’d inherited a family speaking gene. At the end, when everyone left, I took her aside. “Aunt Joy, Your speech was amazing. However, I have a complaint.”
She scooted to the edge of her seat and leaned in, eager to hear my words of correction. “Okay!” she gleamed as if I'd offered her a Caribbean cruise.
Who takes to instruction like that? Never had I witnessed such humility, such teachability in a fellow human being.
“My only complaint,” I said, “is that you stopped. I wanted to listen to you all day!”
If you knew her, you can imagine her reaction: the way she closes her eyes and throws back that glorious, Covergirl auburn hair, cups her mouth and laughs, “Oh Faithy! Dear, dear, dear Faithy!” She shakes her head wildly and looks at me intently with tear-filled, hazel eyes the same as mine. “It’s all Jesus. Anything good that I am is because of Jesus.”
Eventually, I’ll get my wish and hear her speak all day. Until then, the memories of a life well-lived echo across oceans and through tireless years of devotion, reminding me to lean in and listen.
In Loving Memory
Dorothea Joy Stutzman
September 10, 1947 - July 12, 2011