-GAINS & GLEANINGS-
By J. Hogan
Joyce Mays and I shared lots of friends and acquaintances. Our bond, however, was closer than that.
Much like soldiers who’ve dodged incoming fire together, we had an inordinate amount of tandem emotional sympatico, because we didn’t just chat in her office about the town, or at the family reunion at Fairhaven Park about the wide reach of the Mays/Palm family. In fact, we didn’t do that nearly as much as she did so with others.
Joyce, 83, was a fount of social engagement. From her notary office in Stowe, she was constantly entertaining folks who would just stop to sit and chat for a bit. She was what we once called a social butterfly. Talking about stuff, shooting the breeze with just about everyone, was her joy.
I remember her so proudly talking about her son Billy and his amazing career in marketing, beaming with wonder at his hard work and good fortune. She talked about the grandbabies, and her latest chats with her son Gary in Florida.
Her joy at Randy’s recovery and ministry to those who stumbled onto the bad road he’d found the grace to step away from was also a big topic.
Over the years the things that bonded us were when we talked, as life seemed to be accosting us with surprise blows. When the emotions, frankly, stung and stunk.
She battled the ravages of age, with a broken shoulder and other ailments. Her wonderful husband Don’s long stay at Allegheny General Hospital after a botched procedure was harrowing. We nearly lost him then, but Don’s a fighter and got through.
Worse in many ways was the pain of loss. Some families seem to end up in fate’s crosshairs, and that too often seemed the case with Joyce’s family over the last 15 years.
We cried over the loss of her grandson Gary, then, later, over the loss of Gary’s mom, Yvonne. There was the surprising and very public loss of Billy, then the pain of a smeared cause of death and the expense and tiresome battle to set the record straight - and the realization that a juicy lie runs laps around the truth anyway.
Then Randy, my friend and fellow laborer, my closest connection to Joyce, passed. More tears, for sure. More time on the phone and sitting, ruminating in memories and grief.
There was more. The important part today was what it did in our friendship. Joyce and I were forced to go deeper as friends, and I’m glad to have known her. It’s hard to watch a friend grieve over and over, and I’m sure Joyce was ready to go when her time came. Ironically I had a funeral in Detroit on the day Joyce was laid to rest and couldn’t be in attendance. After all that shared mourning, I missed the gathering celebrating Joyce’s time.
I do hope that when she got to Heaven and met Jesus face to face, Billy and Randy were excitedly waiting for their turn to throw their arm around Joyce as well. Until we see each other again in glory, I’ll miss you, my friend.
Rev. James Hogan is a native of Stowe Township and serves as pastor of Faithbridge Community Church in McKees Rocks.