Funeral Meditation for JoAnn Johnston

19 December 2015

The Rev. Todd R. Goddard






Far too often

Elders in our experience

Are not served well in death.

We tend to rely upon our most recent memories

To draw conclusions about entire lives.

Many times we classify people by their chronic conditions.

This is a grave error of the worst sort.

Let us not make this error with JoAnn.


JoAnn was a child of Walworth,

Walking to school and church in the hamlet of West Walworth,

Making and keeping lifelong friends in her girls club;

Marilyn, Barbara, Joyce, Burle, Ethel, and Betty.

Gathering monthly was less expensive than seeing a psychiatrist

(with apologies to Dan)

And a lot more fun, too.

The values of friendship, commitment, and loyalty

Is an example lived and taught by JoAnn,

By which we profit,

And for which, we should return thanks to God.


JoAnn was faith in process;

A towering example of God at work

Through the efforts of Christ’s disciples.

Starting with baptism, Sunday school, and choir,

JoAnn’s life was this church.

From cleaning this building as a child with her family,

To working for missions,

Serving up rolls at the Turkey dinner,

And balancing the UMW’s checkbook,

JoAnn knew that behavior speaks louder than words.

She knew the value of being the love of Jesus Christ

In a world full of sin, pain, and hurt.


Faith taught her to love God and love neighbor,

Which she faithfully did every day of her life.

Strength and resolve made JoAnn

One of the most dependable participants in worship.

Just to get to church, she overcame more difficulties

Then the rest of us can ever imagine.

With grace she always smiled, yet,

She never showed the struggle.

If you love JoAnn,

Follow her example:

Love God.

Love your neighbor.

And get yourself to church.

When in church, say “thank you” to God.


Family was the center of JoAnn’s world,

And Scott, you received God’s greatest blessing,

When she was led into your life.

There was more to Kodak Park than making film,

Let me assure you.

Families were created, developed, and grown.

JoAnn served as “Mom’s Taxi” for AJ and Jana, Mark and Andrew.

She was present at sporting events,

Watched over the neighborhood gang after school,

And gathered everyone in for family brunch every Sunday after church.

She was gram to some and GG to others,

Each of whom received unconditional love and individual attention.

At Sunday brunch

Everyone was welcome, including ex’s, formers, deadbeats, and has-beens

Because in God’s world,

In JoAnn’s world,

There is a place at God’s table for everyone.

That’s just the way it is.

So let’s all just get along.

Her gift of love and acceptance

Is more precious than gold.

Give God your thanks.

Go, and do likewise.


JoAnn lived with a degenerative muscle disease for 18 years,

Yet, this isn’t who JoAnn was.

JoAnn’s growing disability brought family together.

What a blessing.

It may not be the easiest or least contested journey,

That of a family care partner,

But at the end of the day,

What greater love can one return to those who’ve loved us all our lives?

Just as JoAnn, Fay, and Dot took care of their mother,

So too, would this loving family experience

Be returned by this generation.


JoAnn rallied the troops

And everyone stepped up and accepted responsibility.

Taking responsibility and overcoming all challenges

Is a testimony to strength,

Deepens character,

And it grows confidence that,

Indeed, all things are possible with God.

This is a gift that JoAnn has given you,

A gift for which each of us should give thanks to God.

With God, all things are possible.


Right before JoAnn died

She gathered her family around her hospital bed

And laid down the law.

Rather, she laid out before those she loved closest

The values that she held dear

So that you could teach them,

Live them,

And pass them on to the next generation. 

Don’t fight.

Take care of one another.

It’s time to go home.


You see, home for JoAnn was not a house on Penfield Road.

Home is living your life with God.

Home is where Mark and Dot and the rest of her family abides,

And is now where JoAnn has returned.

Home is eternal,

Where all is forgiven and forgotten,

Where love is abundant,

And Sunday’s brunch never ends.

Home is where we, too, are called to abide;

Safely, securely, in the loving, eternal arms of our Savior.

JoAnn has taught us all these deeper values about home.

Thank you God.

Thank you God

For receiving JoAnn home.