The full-time staffed national office of Christian Life Resources has been around since 1988. Over the years we have hired 30 or so employees. Today we mark the first passing of a former employee. Joan Dwyer has died.
Joan was widowed in her early 50s. She never learned to drive and lived a good 1.5 miles from the office when one day she asked if she could volunteer for us. We got her on board and then she walked back home. In fact every day she would walk 20 city blocks to and from our office. Her value as a volunteer quickly made her irreplaceable so if weather threatened to prevent her from coming in one of us went out to get her and took her home.
Joan later admitted that when she started with us she was agoraphobic (a fear of going outside). Volunteering forced her to face her fear and helped her greatly – but she especially was a blessing for us.
As a volunteer she was every much as reliable as a paid staff person. She kept hours, took work home with her and accompanied us on a few conventions when they were outside of Wisconsin.
Meager economic times brought Joan to my office one day in tears. The early death of her husband left her with little investment and she announced she had to scale back volunteering so she can find a paying job. The timing was certainly more than coincidence. We had just come off of a meeting of our national board where I received permission to add staffing to handle the growing workload. I hired her on the spot as a part-time employee.
Being paid part-time inspired Joan to work all the harder – continuing to volunteer many hours above and beyond her part-time paid schedule.
Joan knew how to type but did not know how to use a computer. She picked up that skill in no time at all. She respected confidentiality which made her an ideal person to help us keep up our database.
Just a few years after starting with us God brought to Joan a fellow by the name of Don Dwyer. Don was as kind and affectionate towards Joan as any of us had ever hoped one could be. And in classic Joan fashion she and Don eloped in Las Vegas – we learned of it via a postcard.
Joan’s time with Don was painfully short. I remember getting the phone call at about 3:30am from Joan that Don had died of a heart attack at his job working the late shift. We all shared in Joan’s broken heart.
When Don died it left a void in Joan’s life. It reminded her of how fleeting life was and how little time any of us have. She worked awhile longer and then felt the time had come to retire.
Retire she did but she was not absent from the office. Retirement just turned her back into a volunteer. By then she had purchased her own computer and so from home she was doing a lot of volunteer work for us remotely.
Joan assumed the role of the staff mother at Christian Life Resources. She was serious about God and could really laugh at herself and others. She was so endeared to us that she served as the Maid of Honor when Diane and I were married.
Joan died of breast cancer. The final days of her roller coaster life were spent in the hospice care unit at the Lutheran Home in Wauwatosa. Diane and I visited her while she still was somewhat able talk, though she was heavily medicated. Yet, her sense-of-humor remained intact. She still chuckled at my sarcasm.
Joan would often tell people that CLR saved her after the loss of her first husband. That was part of Joan’s humility. Joan was instrumental in the work of this ministry. She loved people and demonstrated it regularly by caring for others as they wrestled through maladies. She especially loved her Savior. She and I would tangle over Bible translations and she was eager to get more understanding of Scripture through our regular staff devotions and in private conversations.
Joan now stands before the throne of God. A sharp contrast to seeing her lying in bed at the hospice. At the moment of her death her eternity unfolded before her. She is now reunited with those who have gone before her – her parents, Bill (her first husband) and Don. Most importantly, Jesus is now her mentor. He is now her counselor on the truths of Scripture. The paradise we long for is what she now has and we are happy for Joan.
While we would have wanted more time with her, as she taught us so much, we rejoice that she is in the best of all places – with her Lord. Thank you, God, for Joan and for the heaven secured for her through Christ!