Friday, February 06, 2015

Farewell Jodie

I met Jodie 5 ½ years ago after moving to Cambridge and into a new church congregation. I was assigned as a visiting teacher to Jodie. When my companion, Megan, and I visited the first time, I had a hard time understanding what Jodie was saying; she talked very fast and had a thick Boston accent, although if you asked her, it was a “Sum-muh-vull” accent - not Boston. A few years later, my assignment changed but we stayed close friends - exchanging dinners, having playdates, and engaging in some of the most spiritual discussions of my life.

Jodie was a proud resident of Somerville for almost her entire life. She moved a few houses across the Somerville-Medford town line for a few years, but never considered herself a Medford resident. She showed me the street she grew up on and she talked about how all the young kids moving in called it “the ‘ville” now, how Davis Square was hardly recognizable, and how gentrified it was becoming. She loved the grittiness of Somerville, the diversity of the people, and the general busy-ness of the crowded city.

She was a lot like Somerville: always a busybody, rarely able to sit still, all action, constantly chattering but never wasting time chatting about dull or meaningless things. Jodie was one of the most honest people I have ever known. She never asked “how are you?” without really meaning it. She sometimes told me I looked tired, but she also gave the best compliments.

Jodie always had a hard time with organized religion, but never flailed in her relationship with Jesus Christ. She told me she had a rough upbringing, but then turned her life around and dedicated it to Christ more than a decade ago. She talked to God the way most people talk to each other. Sometimes she praised him, sometimes she begged him for whatever it was she wanted, and sometimes she was so mad at him that she fought with him.  

Jodie often left lengthy voicemails on my phone. Here is a snippet from one that lasted 2 minutes, 11 seconds in October: “Hi Emily, it’s Jodie. I am feeling better. I had the worst week of my life last week. Every bad thing that could happen happened. But I endured and I did not curse God. But I prayed because I was too afraid I would curse Him. But we talked about it and He’s cool….”

Sometimes she attended the Mormon church with me. She loved taking the sacrament, bringing her granddaughter, and livening up Sunday School classes with her honest commentary. She had no problems calling out a whole congregation for not reading from the scriptures enough or not helping the poor enough. She was honest and big-hearted, and she expected everyone who called themselves a Christian to do the same.

She sometimes attended the Catholic Church because it was so close to her house. She enjoyed the music and the rituals. She even liked confession. Even when she attended the Catholic church, she always said she knew the Mormon church was the true church. But she still paid tithing at both.

Our church puts on a wreathmaking activity every year around Christmastime and Jodie owned this event. She loved the live Christmas music, the spiritual message, and socializing with women while making a wreath. She always brought about a dozen friends and never missed it. She attended this in December between stints at the hospital and made a huge bushy wreath with a gigantic bow on it. It was about half the size of her front door.

Jodie always had crazy things happening to her. She called them her “God winks” - times when she knew God was looking out for her. In December, she posted on Facebook that she wanted a free Christmas tree. An hour later, a friend of hers pulled up with a free tree. He said he was walking near Davis Square, had just read her post, and a man randomly offered him a free Christmas tree. It was perfect.

Another time, she saw there was an Aerosmith concert nearby and convinced a friend to take her even though they didn’t have tickets. They sweet-talked an usher and made it into the concert. When she found dimes on the ground, she said they were signs from her husband, who passed away suddenly a few years before we met. She loved him and talked about him often. Sometimes she would hear a song on the radio and swear that he had sent it to her at that moment.

Jodie worked as a housecleaner for a living. She worked hard and was proud of it. She bragged about how spotless the bathrooms were once she was finished with them. She worked up until a few months ago when the physical stress of her job caught up with her. Jodie never had a lot of money, but never considered herself poor either. She always contributed to food drives and toy drives, and always bought me and my kids Christmas presents even when I told her it wasn’t necessary. Bruce cherishes a shark tooth that she gave to him. Phoebe has a whole collection of playdough and coloring books. Oliver got some finger puppets. I have a few pieces of clothing she gave me, including a purple sweater that she said would look good with my red hair.

Jodie always looked out for the underdogs. She collected coats and warm clothing for the homeless. A few weeks ago, she said she couldn’t sleep because she kept thinking about the homeless sleeping outside on such a cold night. She was a frequent volunteer at the Ruby Rogers shelter in Union Square; she served food and chatted with the homeless like they were her siblings. Being a widow herself, she was always mindful of others in her situation and comforted several women who lost spouses.

She babysat my kids a few times, sometimes on short notice. One time she watched Bruce, Phoebe and Oliver while Scott and I attended a work dinner. I hadn’t left Oliver with anyone except family and he was still breastfed exclusively, so I was really worried about leaving him for a few hours. I texted Jodie in the middle of dinner, “How are the kids?” She didn’t reply, and I tried not to stress out and enjoy the night. We never texted, so I wondered if she even had texting on her phone. Two days later, she finally replied, “WHO ARE YOU AND WHY DO YOU WANT TO KNOW?” Turns out that she had gotten a new phone, didn’t have my contact info in it yet, and got the text much later than I’d sent it. Jodie will be one fiercely protective guardian angel.

Jodie loved all my kids, but she had a special spot for Oliver. When I was pregnant with him and trying to come up with a name, she asked, “Have you thought about the name Oliver?” Except that she said it, “Oh-liv-ahhh.” I loved the way she said it and the name stuck.

Jodie has two grown kids about my age and a handful of grandchildren. She loved spending time with her family and loved cooking big meals with them. Jodie was about 4’10” and maybe 75 pounds after a Thanksgiving dinner. She was Italian and loved food, but she was such a busybody it never showed on her frame. Jodie always raved about the food I brought her, and I think I may have brought her more just because she praised it so much. She told me I needed to open a restaurant because I was shortchanging the world by not sharing this food with the general public. I told her she needed to try my mom and grandma’s cooking. She liked trying new foods, but also had a few favorites. Carrot cake may have been her number one choice, so I made her a big one every year on her birthday.

Jodie had some chronic health problems, but never told people how serious they were until it was too late. She didn’t want to be remembered as a sick person, and so she carried on as usual until she absolutely could not. When she was put on hospice care, she went to a respite center for a few days. She came home from that and complained about how there was nothing to do there: “You just lay there and watch TV! There’s not even a garden to walk in or activities or anything!” When Jodie finished her work here, she died on Thursday, February 5, with her children at her bedside. I played Aerosmith in her honor, and I imagine she is having quite the party with her husband right about now.

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Blogger laura said...

That is beautiful and so captures the Jodie that I love and miss so much. Thanks. I am so sad I did not get a chance to say goodbye. She was a one of a kind-we need more like her.

12:58 PM  
Blogger Nicole said...

Thanks for this loving memorial and thanks Margaret Moore for posting the link else I would have never heard this sad news...

3:02 PM  
Blogger ellen said...

Wow, Emily. This is wonderful. I think you introduced me to Jodie once. What a gem!

10:26 PM  
Blogger Cagney and Laci said...

What a nice tribute. You are totally spot on with her personality. Jodie was a character and I will miss her. She never cared what people thought and was so true to herself and that is so admirable! Farewell Jodie!

9:59 AM  

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