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One In A Million

One In A Million

Maybe you have one. Your “Go-To Spirit Lifter.” Joyce is mine.

When my mind was a mess, Joyce listened with the same compassion she’d give to a 7-year-old at the elementary school where she was a counselor. Her infectious laugh leaves you wondering why you ever thought you had something to cry about.

Just before the pandemic we celebrated (There is a lot of celebrating when you are with Joyce) her birthday with a glorious sail on a Florida bay. My next visit I don’t expect she’ll remember me.

Joyce was diagnosed with a rare and rapidly progressing brain disease.

The woman I counted on to wear a pink boa or bring bevy of friends to my parties can no longer complete a sentence. Once the guardian for her brother with disabilities, she is now the one for whom others decide her doctors, her dollars, her death plans.

Joyce has always been jolly. The first time Tony spotted Joyce giggling on her way out of a classroom he proclaimed, “I’m going to marry that one.” As decades of their married life passed, Tony envisioned his youthful bride would care for him in his later years. The unimaginable has replaced the vision.

I can’t count the number of people who are crestfallen by this diagnosis of early death for a loved one so full of life. Joyce has a circle of fun-loving women who have been steadfast support to one another since they were teens. In the center is Margo, Joyce’s bosom pal since junior high. An Ethel and Lucy pair, they’ve had all measure of hilarious escapades and disastrous adventures.

Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) strikes one in a million. It found Joyce, our one in a million human. All are heartbroken, but you can’t see it in Joyce. The bubbles of her effervescence still topple out like a newly opened bottle of champagne.

Her laughter is still with her. Her joy is so indomitable that—up until now— even this fatal disease has been unable to touch her essence of undeniable joy.

We never know when our brain or any other part of our body might change in an instant. My hope is to learn the Joyce joy lessons to spend more time in the uplifting and light filled parts that she has shown me for some 30 years of friendship. Perhaps when I see her, I’ll be able forget for moment what I’ve been crying about.

Coach Koenig

What are the qualities you hope to live more fully?

How might you lighten the lives of others by your presence?

Who is your “spirit lifter” when you’re feeling low?


  1. Beautiful, Susan. Serendipitous reading this today as I was part of a zoom service yesterday for my friend, Bhakti, who was also the ever-optimistic pursuer of the fullness of joy in life. ? We were and are blessed, huh?!

  2. I met Joyce when she was elementary counselor to our daughters, and later hired her at Heartland Family Service, but our touchpoints most often were the Groundhog Prom and Night of a Thousand Stars. I can see the smile and hear that laugh. Beautiful tribute. We lost a dear friend to this disease just a year ago.

  3. Beautiful. Thank you. As I’m dealing with the gradual loss of one of my spirit-lifters, this moves me to tears. It also fills me with joy and gratitude that we were able to have these bright lights in our lives. I pray I can carry that light to others.

  4. My joy lifter is a friend from high school who always has words of strength and some giggles to offer. May you hold that same joy for others the way your one in a million friend has, Susan.

  5. Your sharing s always touch my heart! I know you are a Joyce to others. A sad turn of events for her who truly sounds like one in a million. Many hugs and light and love to you, Susan. Thanks fir sharing about your Joyce.?

  6. OMG
    I have never meet Joyce but wish I had – such a beautiful tribute to such wonderful lady – people need to learn from her life how important it is to enjoy each and every day❤️❤️
    Thank you for sharing

  7. Joyce… if only every passenger aboard our sailboat could bring the joy that you always brought us. That laugh…..
    Sail on sailor.

  8. Your words are written so eloquently!! JOYce has many special qualities and her smile is still hanging on through this terrible disease. She is definitely One in a Million!!

  9. Joyce IS one in a million. A million smiles. A million laughs. A million times caring for others. She will be hard to bring down. May your loving glow last until your very last breath, dear one.

  10. Thank you for such a beautiful tribute to our Aunt Joyce! We love hearing from you all because you were EVERYTHING to Joyce!

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