I thought of you today……..

I can’t believe it’s been fifteen years.  December 29, 2002 to be exact. Fifteen years ago today, my dear sister in-law Joanne was killed by a drunk driver.  Joanne was an ER nurse on her way to work when she was cruelly taken away by a drunk driver at 6 o’clock in the morning.  I had spoken to her briefly on Christmas day, she was busy and I knew I could catch up with her later.  Later never came.

Nothing is more jolting than the phone ringing at 7 am, especially when your family lives out of state.  My mother called me to tell me the terrible news about Joanne.  She had been killed in a car accident. I could barely breathe, Joanne and I were very close. She had been a part of my family for 17 years.  I remember when I first met Joanne.  I told my brother you had better not let this woman get away.  Seven years later she became my sister in-law.  She left behind two young children, along with my brother and many friends and family.

Joanne had moved back to the small town she grew up in to be closer to her widowed mother.  She built an addition on her childhood home so she could help care for her.  Family was everything to Joanne.  She wanted her children to have the same kind of childhood she had, growing up in a small town and being actively involved in the children’s school and church.  She worked weekends at the hospital so she could spend more time with her kids during the week.

Joanne would give you the shirt off her back.  She was always thinking of others.  The day she died, she had volunteered to take another person’s shift at the hospital.  We had planned a trip with her family and mine to Mexico the following year. Growing up without any cousins, I was excited at the prospect of both of our families going on vacation together, and our children getting to know each other.  We lived in different states but talked often on the phone.  The last time I saw Joanne was the Summer of 2002.  We went on a family trip and had a grand time.  I was so looking forward to our Mexico trip.

Over the years I had my niece and nephew come and spend time with us in Wisconsin.  I will always treasure those times.  I’ve always tried to do right by my niece and nephew, because I know had the situation been reversed, Joanne would have done the same for me.

Joanne’s children are grown now and I know she would be so proud of them.  She has a beautiful granddaughter as well. I think about her often and wonder what her life could have been.  She accomplished a great deal during her short time here on earth.  She was an organ donor, and her death benefited over 200 people. I didn’t even know that was possible.  She help found the Center of Hope at the hospital where she worked which offers aid to victims of sexual assault.

Making the five hour trip for the funeral was a very difficult time for us.  We last saw Joanne six months earlier when they came to visit us.  Pulling up to the funeral home was surreal.  There was a line of people out the door and around the building, waiting to pay their respects to this vibrant, caring person.  I think I counted at least four people who said Joanne was their best friend. She always listened and never had harsh words for anyone.

I’m not a religious person, but when I hear people say “what would Jesus do?”, I say  “what would Joanne do.”

You are forever in my heart Joanne. I miss you so much.


Joanne 2002

39 thoughts on “I thought of you today……..

  1. What a beautiful tribute. I’m terribly sorry for your and your families loss. I lost my mom 15 years ago now and I can honestly say time does not heal all wounds it just makes more space in your heart to survive with the pain. It sounds like it was an honor to know her.🌸

  2. A beautiful tribute to someone you cared so much about. That’s what true connect is all about. All these years later, you present this homage as if it were just yesterday that this happened. Truly sorry for the loss of your sil.

  3. Such a tragically moving blog and a reminder that life doesn’t wait for anyone. Live, love and laugh endlessly you never know what’s around the corner. My thoughts with you and your family xxx

  4. A touching and beautiful tribute…. I stopped going out for New Years decades ago because of the awareness of the impact of even light drinking on one’s ability to function behind a wheel. This tragic end to a mother’s life because of someone not making arrangements for someone who hadn’t been drinking to drive them home reminds me of how important a decision not to drink and drive is. Hugs for you and your family who will forever remember the beginning of each new year as the anniversary of the end of a cherished family member’s life by an irresponsible drunk driver.

      • If he has any humanity, he will be imprisoned the rest of his life with the realization he murdered a person, in a real sense, with his car and irresponsible behavior. Driving that impaired, the court should have made sure he was imprisoned and off the roads for life at least. That’s a shockingly light sentence.

      • I know, he had two previous DUI’s as well. It was a travesty of justice no doubt. The creep was a total piece of crap, he actually tried to blame the accident on Joanne. There were multiple eye witnesses who saw him swerving all over the road before the accident. I hope he rots in hell!

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