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?