Susan Spess Shay

Still playing make believe.



I have one girl cousin in the Spess family who’s just a few months older than me. There’s a whole flock of them younger than me. One, in particular, always kept the world on its toes.

Joanee was born the year after me, and from the time she got here, kept everyone hopping. Maybe it was because she had three older brothers. Maybe it was because she didn’t want to be lost in the crowd. Maybe it was just her personality, but Joanie (Joan-ie was the way she liked to spell her name) was never just one of the bunch.

She never met a stranger, and was absolutely certain that anyone Sister Debbie and I were related belonged to her, too. She called my Grandma and Granddad Reeves were HER grandparents, too.

Once she went with Deb and Me to Grandma Reeves house. On the way there, she sat directly behind Granddad, who was driving. As we neared the West Side School, she popped up out of the seat and put her hands over Granddad’s eyes. “Guess who, Granddad!”

Years later, Mom’s brother told me he was working one day near Crested Butte when he heard, “Uncle Robert! Uncle Robert!” He turned to find Joanie and her family, who were staying there in Colorado.

One year for Christmas, we both got rocking horse on springs. Deb and I liked to rock away on ours. Joanie bounced hers off the floor everytime she got in the saddle.

Our horse lasted longer, but Joanie’s trips were more exciting! (And noisy.)

Joanie and I lived together one year while we went to school at Draughon’s School of Business. I was so surprised to find out the girl could cook! I thought her mama, like mine, had done most of the cooking at her house.

She could clean a mean house, too, but she usually did that late at night–and since I’m a morning person, not a night owl . . .

Joanie and Sister Debbie were baptized together back when they were eight and nine years old at our church in C-Town. Later, Joanie was married in our church, too.

She so thrilled when she adopted her husband’s beautiful little two-year-old daughter. Sister Debbie reminded me today that when she found she was pregnant with her own child, she prayed it would be a boy (it was) because she didn’t want that adopted daughter she loved so much to think she was replacing her.

Later, Joanie had two more daughters, who grew up to be wonderful, beautiful, caring  women.

Joanie’s life might not always have been easy, but I have a feeling it was rarely boring.

We said goodbye to my cousin, Joanie, today. She passed away over the weekend. It’s hard to write those words because Joanie was so full of life and, like I said, one of those people who was never just part of the crowd.

I’ll miss that onery little girl I grew up with until the day I join her in the sweet by-and-by.

Thank you, Jesus, for all the women who’ve been part of my life. I’ve been richly blessed by each and every one, especially Joanie.

She’d laugh her head off if she were here to read that today.

Author: Susan Shay

For as long as I can remember, I've loved two things--reading and people--and that led me to become a writer. Many of my stories are set in Small Town Worlds. I'm a wife, mother, sibling and an aunt. I have a deep faith in God, and an exciting life in Christ. Maybe I shouldn't be (after all, he's God!) but I'm constantly amazed at the things He's up to. :)

11 thoughts on “Goodbye

  1. How sweet! I know you wrote this through tears–such a great tribute to Joan-ie! Thanks for sharing!

    • I remember her telling me once that she didn’t like her name spelled with ee. It never looks like our Joanie when it’s spelled wrong. 🙂
      And thank you for the kind words. She was some woman!

  2. Yes, Susan, I know this had to be hard for you to write, (Read this thru tears.) See you soon, Joan-ie~

  3. Yes, I remember that contagious laugh……So sorry for your loss! Mary

  4. Thank you Susan for the wonderful tribute to Joanie!! She was always such a sweet little girl and a sweeter woman. May God grant peace to her soul and may she and Phyllis, Aunt Ruby, Mary Sue, Anna Beth and Lydia Marie have a wonderful reunion in heaven!! I miss all of them, maybe Mom and Lena are in on the gab=fest too!!!!

  5. She cared for her four kids so very much.

  6. A very toughing and moving story. Yes, in the end, we can all be thankful for God letting us meet this amazing people. Merry Christmas….

  7. Unbelievable she is gone. My having been gone from the “loop” since 1970 almost makes it even more so. Joanie should still be a young woman. My memory of her always begins with her smiling face, her eyes bright with genuine interest. I loved your story and I miss you, too.

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