She Shined


During one Minnesota snow storm a few years ago my in-laws’ neighbors ventured outdoors, camera in hand, to snap a photo of a rare sight: Jon, my father-in-law, snow-blowing the driveway.

You see, my mother-in-law Janice took care of things like that. She took care of everything – and everyone – and she did it with seeming ease. She fixed appliances, changed the furnace filter, painted walls, snow-blowed the driveway, mowed the lawn, trimmed shrubs, planted flowers, sewed curtains, cooked a mean pot of sloppy Joes, baked an apple pie from scratch with the flakiest crust you could ever imagine, raised two of the kindness men I know and doted on her husband and grandchildren. Oh, and she was an artist, too.

One day a few years ago I launched my “Janice Campaign” – an attempt to emulate my mother-in-law’s domestic prowess and learn to do things myself without always having to ask Brad for help.

I lasted 24 hours. I think it was a broken light bulb still in the fixture that did me in – I couldn’t fathom how to remove it. Brad called Janice, and she suggested we squeeze a raw potato over the jagged shards and twist the broken bulb off that way. It worked. Of course it did.

The thing is, Janice didn’t perceive these chores to be a burden, like I so often do. She embraced them as part of her role as mother, homemaker and wife. She served her family willingly, joyfully and gracefully. Without complaint.

In the 17 years I knew her, I never heard Janice complain. Not about chores, not about the suffering she endured through five years of cancer and chemotherapy. Never once did I hear her utter a bitter or resentful or self-pitying comment. Never once did she bemoan her lot in life, the fact that her time would surely be cut short by the ravages of the disease. Never once did I hear her ask, “Why me?”

“How ya feeling today?” I’d inquire, and her response was always the same: “Oh just fine, pretty good. How are you? What’s happening with the kids?” Given the opportunity, I’d launch into a litany of complaints about fatigue or my frenetic schedule or the cold I had. And I’d only realize it later, after I’d hung up the phone: that I'd been consoled for my runny nose by a woman who had cancer.

The thing was, she sympathized; Janice truly sympathized. She didn’t offer empty consolation or think to herself, “I can’t believe her nerve, complaining about a silly cold.” I know she didn’t think that. Because Janice wasn’t that way. Janice truly cared about others, about our supposed suffering, about how we were feeling. She always, always sacrificed her own needs for those around her. No matter what her circumstances.

I couldn’t have asked for a better, kinder, more loving, generous, life-giving mother-in-law. Her love and generosity, her spirit, lifted me up for 17 years and will continue to do so every day for the rest of my life.

Janice Johnson was, in a word, graceful. And I am blessed that her light shone directly on me.

Janice Mae Johnson
March 21, 1941 - September 18, 2010

“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16

Painting of Caribbean boats by Janice Johnson, 1998.

Heidiopia  – (September 20, 2010 at 6:22 AM)  

Oh, Michelle, my heart is so heavy for you all. What a gift your years with her have been and what an incredible legacy she has left behind through your own family. I'm praying that you can find comfort in your beautiful memories.

deb  – (September 20, 2010 at 7:40 AM)  

Michelle,
sending love,
reading about this beautiful woman has touched me.
prayers for all

Jen  – (September 20, 2010 at 8:11 AM)  

I'm so sorry. This is an amazing tribute to an amazing woman. I am glad that she was such a delight to her family -- she is an example of what I so badly want to be. Thank you for sharing her and I will be praying for your family.

alicia  – (September 20, 2010 at 8:40 AM)  

I'm so sorry for your loss. You have written a beautiful tribute. Our prayers go with you.
((hugs))
Alicia

Danielle  – (September 20, 2010 at 8:40 AM)  

What a sweet tribute! Sounds like a wonderful woman to emulate and have in your life, for sure! Praying for your family as you miss her.

Krista  – (September 20, 2010 at 8:41 AM)  

So sorry for your loss. These are beautiful words to remember a special lady. Will be praying for your family this week.

S. Etole  – (September 20, 2010 at 8:43 AM)  

My heart is with all of you and the legacy of this beautiful woman ...

Charming's Mama  – (September 20, 2010 at 8:58 AM)  

Aw, such lovely words for a truly lovely lady. I'm sure she is at peace and that you can find peace in her passing. It's something you never get over, but it does get easier.

From someone who's been there.

Holy Hugs - Sydney

Dayle  – (September 20, 2010 at 10:25 AM)  

Michelle, I'm so sorry to hear of your mother-in-law's death. What a wonderful and talented lady. May your memories sustain you in the days ahead.

Grace on the Narrow Path  – (September 20, 2010 at 10:46 AM)  

God bless you my friend. I know you will miss her . . . but I also know she will not be forgotten.
Praying for you and your sweet family.
Blessings,
Bren

Deidra  – (September 20, 2010 at 11:16 AM)  

Beautiful tribute.
I cried at that last photo.
Still praying...

Jennifer @ Getting Down With Jesus  – (September 20, 2010 at 11:18 AM)  

What a beautiful tribute to an amazing woman. Graceful, indeed. She reminds me of you ...

I see her dates there. She came in the spring, then exited this place when autumn neared. To everything, a season...

Today, Janice's boat painting is my computer-desktop background. I will pray for you all, think of you often, each time I sit here at this screen. And I'll think about this brave, courageous woman who pushed off from these earthly shores, to sail to the other side ...

And over the horizon, in a place we cannot see, there are those waiting and cheering her as she sails closer: "Here she comes!" they shout. "She's home! She's home! She's finally home!"

All my love to you, sweet friend.

Love, Jennifer

Lara Prachar –   – (September 20, 2010 at 11:49 AM)  

That was absolutely beautiful Michelle. I know my dad was waiting for her and together they are watching over all of us. Love you guys! ~Lara

Laura  – (September 20, 2010 at 12:22 PM)  

This brings tears. And I am wondering how our children will see us one day? Don't we always look up to those beacons we call parents? I'm so glad you had Janice, what a special lady. But you are pretty special too, Michelle.

Thank you for encouraging me during my emotional breakdown this week :) I promise it will be leveled out soon :). Just a few more days...

amandatdodson  – (September 20, 2010 at 12:55 PM)  

I'm so sorry to hear she passed away. But what an incredible legacy she's left behind for you and your family. I think it's difficult to write about people we love - but you did it so well (and graceful!)

Meg –   – (September 20, 2010 at 1:13 PM)  

Michelle, we wish now more than ever we could be by your side in Nebraska helping you Brad and the boys through this sorrowful time. What a beautiful tribute to such a sweet and gentle soul. Hugs and kisses from everyone back at"home".
Love you all,
Meg, Todd and Mckenna

Lisa notes...  – (September 20, 2010 at 1:19 PM)  

An incredible testimony! I wish I had known her. I want to be more like her. So far to go...

Praying for you as you miss her.

Anonymous –   – (September 20, 2010 at 2:24 PM)  

Wow - what wonderful words you have for her. I am glad you had Janice in your life when you did. It seems she has made you a better person. And so she lives on...

Sending a hug to you today, Michelle.

love, Kathleen

Laura  – (September 20, 2010 at 3:38 PM)  

What a heritage you, Brad and your boys have. You have indeed been blessed.

Your family is in my prayers, Michelle.

B. Meandering  – (September 20, 2010 at 5:11 PM)  

Beautiful, heartfelt tribute. I'm sorry that your grieving time of missing her here on earth has begun, but I'm thankful her suffering is over.

Thoughts for the day  – (September 20, 2010 at 5:37 PM)  

This is very beautiful AND she looked like a very warm soul to have in your family. How precious are your memories now.
Write them down before they dim. Keep them as a log memory journal for your children.
Blessings be upon you in your time of heart ache and sorrow.

Rebecca Ramsey  – (September 20, 2010 at 6:36 PM)  

This tribute is so beautiful, and I'm in awe of what a can-do, amazing person she was. I'm sure she loved you very deeply.
My prayers are with you, friend!

Stacey @ Entropified  – (September 20, 2010 at 6:41 PM)  

So sorry for your loss. Beautiful post in her honor.

Holly  – (September 20, 2010 at 6:56 PM)  

So sorry for your loss. She sounds like such a wonderful person.

Kristi  – (September 20, 2010 at 7:09 PM)  

Michelle, I agree with the others how beautiful this tribute is to your Mother-in-law. I am so very sorry for the loss in your family. I lost my mother-in-law to Alzheimer's a few years ago, and I miss her so much. I am keeping you and your entire family in my prayers. I am so very sorry.

Vanessa –   – (September 20, 2010 at 8:14 PM)  

Amen, Michelle. I considered reading this same verse for her funeral. But there are so many that are perfect for her . . .

Anonymous –   – (September 20, 2010 at 9:22 PM)  

What an example she was. This post was lovely and convicting ... my favorite combination!

My thoughts and prayers are with your family during this season of loss and grief.

Destiny

Lyla Lindquist  – (September 20, 2010 at 9:49 PM)  

Oh Michelle, I'm so sorry. You've honored here with words, you honor her with your living as well.

Still praying.

emily wierenga  – (September 20, 2010 at 10:33 PM)  

i feel so much love for this woman that i don't know...

her face glows.

your words bless deep. oh, she is smiling on you and missing you, friend.

you are a beautiful gift.
xo

Mike –   – (September 20, 2010 at 11:31 PM)  

Beautifully said, Michelle. Janice was a blessing to everyone who knew her.

A Simple Country Girl  – (September 20, 2010 at 11:33 PM)  

Oh Michelle, I came by after I sent the email. This was not only a beautiful tribute, but a convicting story that makes me want to do and be better. I complain and mutter and mumble. I know nobody could or would or should say otherwise.

How do women like your Janice do it with such beauty and grace? Perhaps letting go of all the junk leaves room for more treasures? More treasures to share.

You are so wrapped in blankets of prayers. What a beautiful tapestry God is weaving in and through you.

And that painting is wonderful. The reflections. The details. Isn't that the life we live? Reflections bring out the simplest details.

Blessings (& Prayers).

susie @newdaynewlesson  – (September 21, 2010 at 4:42 AM)  

I'm so sorry for your family's and the world's loss because a woman like that makes the world a better place.

susie @newdaynewlesson  – (September 21, 2010 at 4:42 AM)  

I'm so sorry for your family's and the world's loss because a woman like that makes the world a better place.

Suz  – (September 21, 2010 at 8:34 PM)  

I'm sorry for the loss and the hole her passing will leave. But, as you said, you had a blessing knowing her. God brought her into you life for a reason and she will live on through you, Brad and your children.

Your post really touched my heart and made me remember my mother.

Michelle –   – (September 21, 2010 at 10:06 PM)  

I simply want to say thank you, thank you, from the bottom of my heart to all of you who left such heartfelt uplifting comments here and sent me emails in the last couple of days. Truly, you are healing grace. Thank you!

Michelle

Leslie  – (September 22, 2010 at 9:43 AM)  

Michelle, I'm so sorry for your loss. Your tribute to your mother-in-law is so heartfelt, so lovely, so full of love.
Praying for you and your family.

H. Gillham  – (September 26, 2010 at 4:10 PM)  

How tender...what a delightful lady she must have been....

Now, she has really gone home.

:)

Southern Gal  – (October 6, 2010 at 9:59 PM)  

So sorry for your loss. That was a beautiful story of a strong woman.

Heather at Blessed Little Nest  – (October 10, 2010 at 11:27 PM)  

michelle, this is such a wonderful testament to your loving mother-in-law. her grace is inspiring!
i'll be keeping you and your family in my prayers.

blessing to you.

Mike –   – (April 27, 2011 at 11:03 AM)  

Beautifully said, Michelle. Janice was a blessing to everyone who knew her.

Rebecca Ramsey  – (April 27, 2011 at 11:03 AM)  

This tribute is so beautiful, and I'm in awe of what a can-do, amazing person she was. I'm sure she loved you very deeply.
My prayers are with you, friend!

B. Meandering  – (April 27, 2011 at 11:03 AM)  

Beautiful, heartfelt tribute. I'm sorry that your grieving time of missing her here on earth has begun, but I'm thankful her suffering is over.

Meg –   – (April 27, 2011 at 11:03 AM)  

Michelle, we wish now more than ever we could be by your side in Nebraska helping you Brad and the boys through this sorrowful time. What a beautiful tribute to such a sweet and gentle soul. Hugs and kisses from everyone back at"home".
Love you all,
Meg, Todd and Mckenna

Joybird  – (May 21, 2011 at 11:21 PM)  

Michelle, she sounds wonderful, someday I hope to have a mother-in-law just like her, I'm so sorry she's gone.

Joybird  – (August 17, 2011 at 2:25 AM)  

Michelle, she sounds wonderful, someday I hope to have a mother-in-law just like her, I'm so sorry she's gone.

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