For Jodi, JoJo, Jodz, Black Bartz
Jodi: her birthname. In Hebrew it means “praised.”
JoJo: the name she chose to identify herself. In Scottish, the term “Jo” means “sweetheart.” That her name was JoJo just means she was a double sweetheart.
Jodz: my nickname for her. It means nothing, other than it was my pet name for her, and that I was fond of her.
Black Bartz: her nickname given to her by her family while she was growing up, because she had such a dark complexion.
I am going to miss Jodi. I got to know her pretty well over the years. She even adopted me as her sister. She’d start her text messages with her usual, bubbly, “Heya Sis!” Her last text to me was about how she made split pea soup and wanted Randy and I to have some, and that she’d leave a container of it outside her patio door in Jack’s kitty condo. My only comment to her was, “Just don’t leave it in his litter box,” to which I received a line of belly laugh emojis and her, “I’ll try not to mix those two up!”
(Talk about mixing things up: when Jodi told me about her new Maine Coon kitten named “Jack,” and her new sweetheart named “Rick,” I would get the two mixed up in my head. I’d tell Randy, “Yeah, Jodi’s got a new boyfriend named Jack.” Imagine my confusion when I’d talk to her and she’d say things like, “Jack is learning how to use his litter box!” I’s sorry Rick. I was born blonde. I’m so bad at names.)
Jodi was a good friend to me. When I stuggled with my bipolar illness, she’d talk and listen. Well, she talked more than listened, truth be known. She could talk the ear off frog, wherever frogs have ears. Somtimes it irritated me, like when I was busy, which was most of the time. Not as often, the Lord helped me see she was a bit lonely. So I let her chatter, knowing somehow that it was my turn to listen. And try to be patient. After 2 hours on the phone. Funny how I’ll miss that now.
There are many times when Jodi was a good friend to me. When I was in the hospital with pneumonia and a 104.7 degree fever, she came to visit. When she wanted to make up for some kindness we had done, she’d buy us groceries. When she would buy her favorite white and dark chocolate Zebra mochas, she’d always get this Starbucks addict a venti latte, too. When she really couldn’t afford it, she’d buy us Christmas gifts and host a small get-together at her apartment with Jeff, her mom, and Randy and I. She’d make her famous tuna salad pasta. Randy hated the peas, but usually ate them because Jodi was his sister and it was made with love. “They’re so good for you!,” she’d say.
The best thing about Jodi was that she was my spiritual sister. Someone had asked if Jodi had a faith preference or local church. From our long conversations, I know she believed in Jesus. She asked questions, wanted to go to church at Elmbrook, was confused on some points (like most of us are), but I know she had faith. I know she loved Jesus, however imperfect that looked. God knew her motives. Like he does with all of us. To him, we’re like 5-year-olds bringing our scribbled drawings to our Mommy or Daddy. The really cool thing about God is that he’s not an art critic. He puts it on the refrigerator. He’s our loving parent. He sees any desire to please him in some small way as our attempt at love.
Jodi was not perfect. She did not go to church every Sunday, or tithe, have it “all together,” or always say or do the right things. She was a lot like me. And that’s okay. Like any good parent, our heavenly Father does not look for perfection, but rather love. If we do something “wrong,” he gently corrects us because he knows we will either hurt ourselves or someone else. So often we imagine God is giving us a good whoopin’ or rejecting us, when all he is trying to do is love us. Protect us. Giving us something good for us. Like any loving parent. Or sister. Kind of like eating the peas.
I know that Jodi is in heaven right now, welcomed by her perfect Father, imperfect herself, but full of faith and love. I mean, how can you critique love? How can you criticize love? When it comes to love, the old adage, ”Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” does not waver with age, race, religion, intelligence, or life experience. We all see the beauty in love. The bible says, “God is love.” If you picture God in any other way, as angry, vengeful, spiteful, hurtful, fickle, demanding, or any other insecure thought we might have, it is a forgery. It is counterfeit. It is a lie. God is love. All his motives are rooted in love. Can you see his beauty? All he wants is for us to love him back like his little child.
Jodi was a good friend to me, a sister I never had. She made me feel loved by all the little stuff she did for me. I also think Jodi would want you to know how very much she loves you all. Despite. All has been forgiven, because she knows how God has forgiven her. So, if any of you would like Jesus to relay your love to her, I am confident he would do that. If you would like to tell him you’re sorry, or that you love him, I know he’d welcome you with open arms, too.
The Prodigal Son (Luke 15:10-31)
10 In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
11 Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. 12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.
13 “Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. 14 After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. 15 So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.
17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father.
“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.
21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’
22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.
25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27 ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’
28 “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’
31 “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”
Thank you, Jodi Lynn Vail, for being my friend.