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This is not you. This frail, bent form, struggling for each breath, waiting to die. The cancer, emperor of all maladies, has been coming, maybe for years, but mercifully it spared you its worst evils until very recently. Diagnosed in late July, you kept working until mid-August, and only in the last three weeks have you suddenly fallen off a cliff and lost your spark, your energy, your ability.  

But this is not how I will remember you. I will always remember your strength, and your unending faith. Faith in God, yes, but also an unstoppable faith and belief that things could and should be fixed, improved, and set right here on earth. That my brother and I were capable of, and called to, world-improving action. That it wasn’t enough to simply attend a spelling bee, or even win it, but that we should help others prepare and succeed also. That music was a good hobby, but we should also play soccer and go snowboarding. That good grades were mandatory, but so was acting in the school play, bringing forward multiple entries at the talent show, and mucking out neighbors’ houses after the river flooded. That forms should be filled out, applications completed, and all the paperwork and minutia required in life should be handled in an orderly and timely way. That inclement weather (black ice near Hood River) should not discourage us from meeting prior commitments (recital near Spokane).

That games should be played loudly, and puzzles built in one sitting. That family vacation is mandatory, and must take place somewhere spectacularly coastal or mountainous. That only the best, ripest, freshest food should be eaten (and that eastern washington orchards and gardens claim the top spot in that regard). That stories should be told, and re-told, with gusto. That events, people, and places should be Remembered with a capital R.

So, Mom, I can tell you, even though you can’t hear me, that it worked. Your faith worked. You helped me to thrive through the twists and turns of my 36 years, and I know you will always remind me to be the best person I can be, God-willing, for many decades to come.

Even today, the day of your death, you gave me an amazing reminder of your strength, courage, determination, and great spirit. This morning, I reminded you that you just got home yesterday from your two-week last-resort treatment adventure in Mexico, and I mentioned that I was glad you made it home safely.  

Your response, simply, was “Wow.”

31 comments to Wow

  • Sara

    Beautifully written, Joel. Your thoughtful, intuitive way of seeing your mom reflects what she taught you. We’re mourning with you, and sending much love.

  • Carroll Dunston

    Joel, I remember you best singing with Tim in “The Messengers” quartet. It doesn’t seem that you ought to be memorializing your mom so soon. I’m sorry for your loss and admire the strength you showed in capturing the essence of your life as a son and brother. God bless!

  • Debbie Grable

    What a loving tribute, Joel. So beautifully written. Your mom was fortunate to have such a caring son! We are sorry for your family’s loss. You are close in our hearts and prayers.

  • John Vixie

    Well said Joel.
    I am so sorry for your loss.
    Your mom trained you young men well. Now it’s your turn to carry on. There is no getting around it, but it will be tough for some time. My mom passed away in March, and just last night I had a dream about her. So cherish your memories of all the good times, because there were so many.
    I had the privilege of witnessing a few and seeing the joy on your mom’s face. I’ll always remember that. Your mom was a very caring person, always thinking of others and bringing happiness to many people through her music and the things she did for them. I think she may have been related to the energizer bunny, because she always had so much energy, especially when it came to musical performances.
    Courage, strength, comfort, and peace my friend.
    John Vixie

  • Cindy

    Beautiful tribute. Your mom was a very special friend what will be missed by many. Hugs to you boys & your dad

  • Michelle Rai


    My eyes are watering reading your heartfelt tribute. Your mother sounded like an amazing woman and I admire the way she instilled so many powerful lessons in your childhood (doing your best, helping others, living a balanced life, etc.). Our deepest condolences go out to you, Hilary and your family.

    Michelle and David Rai

  • Rachelle Davis

    Joel, thank you for sharing a little bit of your mom with us. I am grateful her generosity and love of a life lived fully and vibrantly lives on in her sons and grandsons. Hugs to you all.

  • Ryan Price

    Beautiful tribute to your mother. Today is a sad day with the loss of your mother, but your words of love toward your mom makes humanity proud. Thanks sincerely for sharing.

  • Robin

    What a beautiful tribute. It’s not real for me yet. Iwe had many fun shopping trips, tryed new restaurants, saw who would buy more shoes and hold the “Imelda” title. I’ll miss her so much! Hugs to you and the family.

  • Robin

    What a beautiful tribute. It’s not real for me yet. We had many fun shopping trips, tryed new restaurants, saw who would buy more shoes and hold the “Imelda” title. I’ll miss her so much! Hugs to you and the family.

  • Vicki Payne

    What a beautiful tribute, Joel. I can tell your Mom was an amazing woman who will be deeply missed. She must have been so proud of you and your brother. My deepest sympathy for your and your family’s loss.

  • Sue Schock

    Beautifully stated Joel, I shared many wonderful years of memories with your mom & dad from the very beginning of their relationship, our Impact travels were greatly ” energized” due to Gail’s strength, determination , and unending energy, not to mention her keyboard talent that I so admired. We shared a love for shoes, music and family our grief at her passing can only be made less with the blessed hope of being together once again when Jesus returns to take us all home.
    My liven prayers and hugs to David, and family.
    Sue Schock

  • Marsha Bodrug

    I’m so sorry for your loss. A very beautiful tribute on a very difficult day. Love and prayers to all of you! She was so proud of you boys, your wives and those beautiful grandsons!

  • Kelly Conrad

    Joel, I had no idea you were going through this with your mother. I am so sorry to hear of her passing. Steve and I will keep you guys in our prayers. What a beautiful tribute to her.

  • Ben Sandford

    Thank you for sharing these deep and treasured feelings with us, Joel. You don’t know me probably but Gail was a wonderful treasure to me in music and in life. God bless your whole family.

  • Mike and Jan Urie

    What an excellent representative of your dear mother and her character and energy … You two sons were her absolute joy, as were the grandchildren. Her friends that surround you all will miss her beyond words … We are lost and broken in our own hearts because of her loss … Our words of comfort fail us. We had plans to spend time with her … to sit with her and remember the good times from the past and to even anticipate more good times in the future. We planned to share tears and laughter … we are so disappointed that this time has been taken from us. While our love for your family overflows we remain overwhelmed by the empty place she has left. Praise the Lord that we have the Blessed Hope when we’ll see her again. I pray the Lord Jesus will comfort you all, bring you peace and acceptance of this terrible loss and lead you forward to new joy. Lovingly, Mike and Jan

  • Rebecca Daniel

    Joel, I am so very sorry for your families loss. I so enjoyed getting to know your mom so much better when we worked together. She sure loved her shoes and painting her nails!!!! Prayers and HUGS to you and your family, Jeffery and his family and to your dad. God Bless you all!!

  • Sandra Van Lanen

    So sorry to hear of your loss. Your mother will be missed. She was such a wonderful person. I loved spending time with her. Your tribute was beautiful.

  • Mitzi Lundberg

    Joel, you were like a little brother to me growing up! I remember you asking me to explain Accounting to you, when you were about 4 on an Impact trip. You were the most well-behaved kid I’ve EVER MET, thanks, in large part, to the way your amazing Mom & Dad raised you. Your Mom was such an amazing woman—loved by so many. She had so many talents and was a good friend! I will miss her terribly. I’m so very sorry for your loss, I know the pain of losing your Mom goes much deeper than words can heal. Much love and hugs to you! ~Mitzi

  • Joyce Hollenbeck

    Joel,there are no words to convey my feelings and to make you feel better. I am so sorry that you have lost your Mother. We will miss her terribly! I am so looking forward to heaven. Love and prayers. Joyce Hollenbeck

  • Erica

    You painted a beautiful picture of your mother and how much she loved you. Thank you for sharing and giving us an inside glimpse of the woman who raised such wonderful sons. She has truly made the world a better place with the legacy she leaves behind. Love and prayers to your family during this difficult time.

  • Fred And Roxy Lenz

    Wonderful tribute to a wonderful lady. Gail inspired all of us.

  • Ardelle & John

    Joel, You have given a beautiful tribute to your mother and she would be appreciative and say to you, Really? I don’t remember doing all that. You also gave her the long dreamed of gift of grandchildren. She was so happy to have the two little boys to hug and play with. Thankful for the times together. Our hearts and prayers are for and with you and your brother and your dad. Blessings of Gods most tender comfort for all of your family.

  • JoElla & George Harlan

    Well said, Joel! We always looked forward to reading Gail’s Christmas letters as they sparkled with LOVE for her family and described their adventures with motherly charm and well deserved pride! So thankful to hear that you were able to be with her during those last hours. I pray that it will be a short sleep and that we will all be together again soon! Rev. 22:20 “He who testifies these things says, ‘Surely I am coming quickly.’ Amen. Even so come, Lord Jesus.”

  • Beverly

    I loved your mom. So intelligent, hugely talented, and wonderfully magnanimous. I will miss her greatly. She was a genuinely good and kind person. Love and prayers to you all.

  • Ronn

    I’ve got tears as I type this. Thanks for sharing this poignant portrait. You seem to be passing on many of your mother’s beautiful qualities on to your boys. Love and prayers to your family.

  • Keziah

    Wow, indeed. So sorry to hear of your loss. What a lovely tribute.

  • Vicki (Price) Jacobs

    I’m so sorry for your loss, which came all to soon. I always admired her musical talent at Milo. It sounds like she was a great mother. God bless!

  • Laurie Aden

    What a beautiful tribute to your Mom. She touched so many lives, probably way more than she realized. I have such wonderful memories of her playing for the junior room. The kids LOVED her interpretations of their favorite songs…always lively. May God bring comfort and peace to you all.

  • Suzanne Swisher

    Wow! Simply beautiful. Suzanne

  • Bill and Beth Dickerson

    To our dear Grandson, Joel,
    What a masterpiece of a tribute to your wonderful Mother.
    It’s so hard to say good-bye.
    She was a rare treasure, like an exquisite rose that faded too soon.
    Echos of music from her fingers and heart continue to ring in our hearts.
    We eagerly await the opportunity to perform with her throughout eternity………………
    God hasten the day!
    Noble grandson, we love you,
    From your saddened, but hopeful Grandparents
    Bill and Beth

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