My wife, Barbara, and her cousin, Joyce, were very close during their lives. Joyce was just 6 weeks older than Barb. Through-out their childhood years they spent many happy times together, and also attended many of the same schools including Michigan State University.
Barb was raised in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod. Joyce was never a member of any Christian church; her parents came from different Christian churches, and drifted away from church participation.
Joyce was baptized as a baby. She refused all invitations to attend church with us, or anyone else throughout her life. Her refusals could have been caused by a very tragic event during her Honeymoon in Bermuda. She contracted the “hard” version of measles while they were there. This disease severely damaged her first child. Douglas was born both physically and mentally deficient. Joyce and her husband never had him baptized, but Joyce’s mother did perform an emergency baptism for the baby. Douglas died a few months later.
Joyce had two other children who were perfectly normal and who grew into adulthood. However, these children were not given any religious training by Joyce or her husband. This marriage ended in divorce after their children were in or near their teenage years. Joyce married a second time.
Unfortunately, her attitude toward church involvement did not change over the years. She simply refused any suggestions to join us at a church service when she visited. However, since she did not criticize us for our church lives, Barb and I became convinced that she was a believer even if she refused to admit it. We thought that for some reason she could not bring herself to become involved.
After Barb died in November 2018, Joyce and I stayed in touch by telephone. I knew that she had cancer, and we spoke about her health on numerous occasions. Then, in late August this last summer, she told me that her doctor had stopped all of her “chemo” treatments explaining that they were no longer working!
About a month later I received a phone call from her daughter Jill, reporting that Joyce was terminal, in hospice, and was not expected to live more than a few hours or days. I asked Jill if she would mind if I asked Joyce a few questions. Jill said that her mother could not speak, and Jill explained that Joyce would blink once for “yes” and twice for “no” questions. I asked Jill to tell me how she blinked after I asked a question.
I decided to use the Apostles’ Creed to keep my questions as short as possible because Jill had mentioned that Joyce was awake, but in some degree of pain. My questions were slightly paraphrased by me:
- Joyce, do you believe GOD is the creator of all things on earth and in heaven? Jill said she blinked once.
- Joyce, do you believe that GOD’s only son Jesus Christ was sent to earth to live among us, be crucified, die for every believer’s sins and rise again? Again, Joyce blinked yes.
- Joyce, do you believe that GOD answers all prayers? She said yes.
- I told her to close her eyes for several minutes, confess her sins, and then open her eyes when she finished confessing. Several minutes later she opened her eyes.
- Now I asked her if she believed in the resurrection of the body when Jesus returns to judge both the living and the dead. She blinked once.
I recited the Lord’s Prayer. After that, Jill took hold of her mom’s hand. Jill said Joyce managed a smile. Jill said she wished her daughter Chelsea had been present. I asked Jill to keep me informed about everything. The next morning Jill called me to say that Joyce had passed sometime after midnight. Joyce’s body was transferred to the greater Detroit Area for burial. She is buried next to her infant son Douglas.