I was sitting in my car, palms sweating, and unsure of what to say when I first met her, so I practiced in the rearview mirror. “Hi, I’ve heard so many wonderful things about you.” “Hi, you’re everything everyone said you would be.” “I hope I’m not imposing, but it’s so good to finally meet you.” No, nothing felt right. I got out of the car, straightened my clothes, and walked toward the door with my stomach in my throat. The door opened and there she was, standing in her happy place, her kitchen. Her smile lit up the room. The feeling of her generosity and love towards others filled the space. She put the lid on a boiling pot and ran over to give me a greeting hug. From then on, I knew this woman was something amazing.
Joan Satterfield was the kind of woman we should all strive to imitate. Her wild, curly hair complimented her laughter and wide-eyed grin that followed each funny story she told or heard. The way she could make you feel as though you were the only one in the world is something I’ll never forget. You knew she genuinely wanted to know who you were, what made you laugh, tick, cry, and what goals you might have. Joan was not the type of person who judged others, ever. She was accepting of all walks of life and could relate to anyone. She never wanted anyone to think poorly of her, so she did her best to make friends with everyone in a room.
She made the choice to drive an old, high mileage vehicle when a brand new one was offered to her. She chose to adopt families during the holidays rather than lavish her own with gifts they didn’t need. She was always aware of her surroundings, and it was her goal to make someone else’s day wherever she went. She would spend her free time sending out cards for any occasion – get well, sympathy, congratulations – because she herself loved receiving mail and wanted to bless another with her handwritten prose.
Second only to her love for her children and family was Joan’s love for cooking. She loved to cook and should have had her own her own show, seriously. She was the first to sign-up to make a meal for someone in the church, to bring in the biggest part of the workplace celebration dinner, or invite her family members over at any chance she got because she wanted to sew seeds of love and faith into her prepared meals and dinner table conversations.
I remember I was obsessed with her homemade scalloped potatoes. Every time I would be over, I would scavenge through the fridge for any remnants of that tasty dish, being able to taste it in my mouth before it was even scooped out of the bowl. I asked her once, “Joan, I have to know what your recipe is for these potatoes because I can’t go too many more days without another batch.” She replied, “Oh, it’s just a little dash of this and a little dash of that. But I just follow the recipe on the back of the Argo corn starch box, and you should be good to go.”
So I washed, peeled, and sliced about 10 potatoes, placed them in the cooking pan, carefully followed the ingredient list and instructions on the back of the box, poured it over the potatoes, and waited for about 1 hour for the dish to be table ready. My mom arrived home from work, surprised that I lifted a finger in the kitchen because, truthfully, I wasn’t as well versed cooking in the kitchen as I was primping in the bathroom. We all sat down, dug into the potatoes, meat, rolls, and green beans. After my dad took one bite, he said “Tal, I think you’re missing something.” I jumped up, carefully scanning the back box instructions, because I knew I had done everything right. So I tasted it. He was right. What had I missed?
From then on I tried two more attempts, adding only a few extra ingredients each time, hoping for a better result, but to no avail. I called up Joan, “Hey, I’m not having much luck with these potatoes. Are you sure that all you do is follow the instructions on the back of the Argo box?” “Oh, honey, I don’t know. I’m sure you’re doing it right. I just add a pinch of this and a sprinkle of that.” But when asked what this and that were, she couldn’t tell me. I’ve never mastered them because you know what was missing? Her touch.
Her touch could be felt everywhere. I’ve already said that she made you feel different when you were around her, but her touch was like lightening running through your being. When she would pray, you knew that God was listening intently. When she prayed, her words were worthy of a televised service. Throughout her whole life, Joan never lost sight of her faith and who God was to her and to the world.
In March, I believe, of 2007, Joan was sent to the Cleveland Clinic to undergo treatments for a rare and aggressive form of Leukemia. It was then that Tia willingly gave up life as she knew it for her mother. Tia, one of my very, very best friends, was, I think, 21 at the time and was preparing to finish up the last semester of her junior year at WVU. The very first weekend that we left to go see Joan in Cleveland, Tia was already playing the part of treatment trip director. She knew where everyone was staying, had already made hotel arrangements as well as vehicle arrangements, was making friends at the hospital, and fully taking over her mom’s care as the family advisor.
Since that first weekend in Cleveland, Tia has made her mother’s care and treatment her complete priority. If it meant staying in Cleveland for a few years, traveling back and forth from West Virginia to Ohio when they were able to live at home, moving to Parkersburg for treatments, finding a facility in Florida and moving there, finding a trial in Texas and moving there, finding something, again, in Florida and moving back to what Joan considered her “home away from home,” Tia did it. She arranged it, researched it, organized it, facilitated everything.
I think from that weekend in March 2007, Tia ceased to be a friend that you only looked to for advice and became someone I looked up to because of her character and undying love for others. True, this was her mom that she had given her life up for, but I believe she would have done it for anyone else, too. That’s how her mother raised her, and Tia and her mom were identical in that respect.
For me, I continued to live a somewhat normal 20-something life. I went to the movies; I planned for the weekends; I took trips with my husband; got together for dinner dates with my girlfriends. Tia’s life ceased being Tia’s life when her mom became sick. Her complete focus – at all times – was on her mother, her care, her doctors, her appointments, researching available trials, looking into the up and coming medical treatments. Her mother became her sibling, her boyfriend, her husband, her child. The love of a mother isn’t only seen in mothers; it’s seen in anyone who would lay down their life for another.
Every time I would see Tia, she would be merely feet away from her mother and would only allow herself two hours, at most, if we were going to go on a day trip. The bible verse, John 15:18, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends,” was definitely written about our Lord and Savior. But with everything in me, I believe that verse also stems to individuals, too, and how God requires us to care for one another. Tia is selfless. She is consumed with a passion for helping others, with seeing good things come into their lives. She is just an amazing human being that I’ve been privileged to walk alongside of for over a decade now.
When I think about Tia – coming from a similar age and life goals standpoint – I often wondered if I would have been able to do what she did? Would I have been able to shut down my relationships with others to solely focus on my mother and her well-being? Would I have been able to continue day after day looking toward the needs and wants of another instead of my own? Would I be able to even look forward to tomorrow, or would I be dreading the same routine as the days pass? Would I be able to live life without resentment? Would I be able to look at photos of my friends getting together for an evening out and not long to be there so badly that I wished I was anywhere but by the bedside of my greatest love, my mom? Would I be able to be happy for my friends as they moved on in their lives – buying first homes, getting married, having kids, advancing in their companies – and not covet their life? I don’t know. I don’t think I could have ever have been as strong as Tia has been these past 8 years, but you know what? Tia would say she wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else.
That’s who she is. Her mother is not and was not a burden to her, being her mother’s everything was her privilege. She woke up each day with a renewed spirit knowing she was exactly where God wanted her to be. She woke up each day with a smile, knowing it was another day spent with her mom, and how could life be spent in any better way? When she was living close and even when they would come home for visits, my plans shifted and I would tag along as much as they would allow, wherever that would be – hospital, home, shopping for specific needs, whatever – I was there. I loved seeing Joan look at Tia with these eyes of “You’re my everything, and I thank you for your life sacrifice,” only to see Tia looking back at her with eyes of, “You’re my mom, and I wouldn’t be anywhere else.”
To anyone looking on the outside, it would seem as though Tia became the mother and her mother became the child, but Tia never viewed it in that way.
Every time Tia looked at her mom – hair, no hair; skinny, healthy – Tia saw her mom for who she always was and always will be. Tia believed – we all believed – that Joan would be restored with a complete healing and it was never even a thought of “Well, what if….” That didn’t enter Tia’s or her mother’s mind ever because, I believe, they felt that would mean that they weren’t trusting in the ultimate miracle worker, Jesus Christ.
I don’t think anyone – a believer or non-believer – will ever understand why there is such thing as cancer in the world, but the best part about this tribute is that Joan never once denounced her faith. Today, Joan is in Heaven with her wild, curly hair blowing in the wind, laughing, and smiling that smile that could light up the darkest of hearts. I don’t have to hope for that. I know she’s in Heaven because she – despite all she went through in life, she believed in the Lord and His ultimate plan no matter what the physical life threw at her.
You may be thinking, “But how? Wouldn’t you give up that kind of thinking after Year 1, Year 2, Year 3, Year 4, Year 5, Year 6, Year 7?” The answer is “No.” She never gave up and neither did Tia.
Tia posted on her Facebook this:
Mom battled for 7 years, 7 months and 18 days against a disease that claims victims in weeks and a few short months.
She had secondary Acute Myeloid Leukemia; a disease that is considered “incurable.”
You lost the battle, but you won the war.
“You lost the battle, but you won the war” – for those who don’t believe, she means that she lost the physical battle here on earth, but she’s dancing with Jesus.
When I think about that, it makes my want to see her again (physically) seem selfish, and that’s the last thing that Joan was. Because truth be told, when I think of her, I still see her smile. I still feel her love for me and others surrounding the space I’m in. I still feel the sincerity of her hug. I still can taste her home cooked meals. I can still see through those eyes that were filled with love, faith, and belief in something so much bigger than herself.
Tia and Joan have taught me so much about what it is to be a person of loyalty. A person that’s truly loyal to their faith, a person that would do something for others before they would do anything for themselves. What it means to be a person that will make a forever mark on those that they come in contact with physically or virtually. As I wrote each word, my fingers shook. It was then I realized not only did my thoughts concerning Joan and Tia resonate in my heart, they are in my very being.
Right now, Joan has let her hair down, it’s whipping in the wind, and she’s singing to her Savior once again. If you don’t know Him, her Lord and Savior, the greatest gift you could ever give Joan is to surrender your life to Christ and become a follower of His. If you’re unsure of how to even go about that, please reach out to me or to someone who’s connected to Jesus, and they’ll show you the way to secure eternity. This will be the best gift you will ever give someone or yourself.
Services for Joan will be held at the Mount Zion Church in Calhoun County, Saturday, October 25th, 2014. The viewing/wake will be held from 12:00pm – 4:00pm, and the funeral service will begin at 4:00pm. If you knew her or not, feel free to come and pay your respects should you wish to. Joan would love to have you in her company.