I would like to be in Indianapolis today where, in a few hours, there will be a celebration of the life and ministry of JoAnne Fields. I grew up knowing her as Jo. She and my mom (and the other two women – Lois and Lois – in the photo taken in 1971 in Indianapolis) were college friends at Bethel in Minnesota. In fact, these three women were in my parent’s wedding in 1952.
As I kid, I met Jo (and her husband, Don and their two daughters — who were “way” younger that I) a number of times. I felt like I knew them (especially Jo) more than I did because of Mom’s stories.
Then, when we moved to Indianapolis in 1976 (as I entered high school) we connected again. Fields lived in that city. Jo and the girls (Becky and Debi) took Mom and I to the important places in Indy that first year we were there — the Tea Room at Lazarus downtown, the shoe store (what was the name of that place?) where the shoes flew in wire baskets up to the second level — places like that. Maybe even the Art Museum.
Eventually (1991-ish) I ended up at Faith Church where Fields had been going “forever.” There I grew to appreciate Jo’s keen intellect and wit, her warm and unpretentious hospitality, and her deep love for God and his Word.
I remember going over to their house one Sunday for dinner. I was accustomed to people feeling the need to impress one another — even if they didn’t admit it out loud — by serving fancy recipes on the best dishes in their clean-for-company house. Jo was running around the house barefoot, there was a little dust on the piano, and we ate regular food at a regular table.
And it was WONDERFUL.
She engaged help in the kitchen — put people to work — and made sure that everyone was included in conversation. I’m not sure I’d ever met anyone who was less impressed with title, rank, age or social standing or more engaged with people as valuable, beloved image-bearers.
I eventually learned to call her JoAnne (like everyone else at the church) without hesitation. Somehow, though, when I received the email from Debi saying that she died midday on Wednesday of this week, my heart and mind returned to Jo.
Jo taught me how to do inductive Bible study. I imagine that the group gathering at Faith Church this morning will include dozens upon dozens of people who can say the same thing. Jo love the Word and taught others to love it as well – and to love the One whose Word it is. She also taught (and wrote) on Personhood which impacted me personally and which I’ve often used in training I present for others.
Jo was one of the people who, when she came to visit at the hospital just after mom’s stroke, Mom received with joy. Jo would come to the doorway and knock and identify herself. Mom would respond, “spit and slide under.” And they would laugh and the stories would start.
So, when Debi sent me this color photo (taken in 1991 when they all gathered in Indy for Debi’s wedding) on Wednesday afternoon, she share a thought that I’d already had.
It was a mental picture of my mom meeting hers at the “gates” and the two of them going through this ritual.
Knock, knock. “It’s Jo Fields.”
“Spit and slide under…”
Laughter. Laughter without any more of the pain or uncertainty. And I don’t think it has stopped yet.