A Tribute to Joan


A lot can happen in a year. And by “a year” I mean a school year, September to June. Around this time last year, for example, I recall sitting in the main office of our school, talking and laughing with our school secretary, Joan. Joan, like me, was an avid gardener. We talked about the vegetables we would grow over the summer. We shared stories and giggled about the silly antics that the kids had gotten up to over the year. I told her that the next school year (2014-2015) would likely be my last at Jamieson Academy as I was moving to town to be closer to Shawn. I had worked with Joan for most of my 23 year career, and I knew I would miss her when I moved.   Little did we know that in just one short year, everything would change.

If I had one word to describe Joan, it would be professional. Although the Principal is the one who gets the credit for running the ship (sorry Leo), it is really the school secretary who keeps a school running smoothly. She doles out the band aids and ice packs to hurt kids like a nurse. She deals with the irate parents and disgruntled teachers like a true diplomat. She is the only one who can fix a jammed photocopier and who knows that the paper goes face down on the fax machine but face up on the copier.

We all knew that Joan was sick last year, when she would have to leave her desk to take a rest on the couch in the staff room. However, we did not know that she was literally dying before our very eyes. Nor did she know that the bitch we call cancer was consuming her body and that June, 2014 would be the last time that she would wave the busses off as the super excited kids (and even more excited teachers) embarked on their summer holidays.

As a staff and as a school, Jamieson Academy was deeply saddened when Joan suddenly passed away in September, 2014. But life must go on, and through a chaotic period of trial and error, we found a lovely new school secretary.   Things were back to normal by Christmas, and Joan, though missed, was becoming a memory.

By mid –school year, my own life took an unexpected turn when my relationship with Shawn started to fall apart. While I had been spending the school year getting my ducks in a row to make the move to town, I realized in February that Shawn was not on the same page.  When the relationship finally ended in March, my body was engulfed with a heavy grief, and I wondered, “Will I ever find happiness again?”

However, it is hard to be sad when you are around nearly 400 energetic kids every day. There were just so many exciting things happening at the school!   For one, we had gotten a huge grant to develop a school vegetable garden. The kids would wait with bated breaths when Miss Strang (me) would make an announcement, “Could the cabbage and the cauliflower group please go to the greenhouse.” One hundered kids growing twenty different types of vegetable plants makes for a fun year!

In June, our plants were ready to take up residence in the new school vegetable garden. I was calculating the space I would need to grow our abundant crops when suddenly I noticed a big, white fluffy feather on the ground at my feet. Well, those of you who know me, or who have read my book, will know that finding such a feather for me, is a sign of the presence of angels. And at that moment, I felt a peaceful, warm energy, as if the angels were actually surrounding me. Suddenly a thought (more like an inspiration) came to me: We would dedicate our vegetable garden to Joan!   As a school, we had struggled to come up with a way to remember her, but when I shared my idea with the staff, they agreed that there could be no more fitting tribute than that. I was feeling quite pleased with myself while walking back to my office, and then I saw it. Another white feather right in front of my office door! What are the odds? In my 23 year career, I had never before found a feather at my workplace. I took that as another sign from the angels.

On June 15, the whole school came out to watch our dedication ceremony, and I was one of the participants to pay tribute to Joan. I told the story of finding the two feathers, which I held up for all to see, and how these signs show us that Joan is with the angels. Just as my speech finished, I watched in disbelief as another large white feather slowly floated from the sky and landed among the students. A little girl picked it up and brought it to me. I cried.

Some would call this coincidence. I believe that there is no such thing as coincidence and that these signs are heavenly messages that everything is unfolding according to God’s plan. It gives me great comfort to know that Joan’s spirit will be with our garden and that her beautiful voice is singing with the heavenly choir.

And as for me?   My worry about never finding happiness was very short lived, as I eagerly anticipate a summer filled with adventure, romance, travel and passion……….but that’s another story for another time!

Enjoy your summer, mes amis!

Joan 2


29 thoughts on “A Tribute to Joan

  1. Beautifully said Florence. Joan was a high school friend and I can still hear her singing in our Glee Club. Such a humble and caring person. Your tribute is perfect and the white feathers well as you said it, the signs are always there, we just have to take notice. Joan will always be with us. All the best to you my friend too.

  2. A beAutiful tribute to your friend Joan…and the feathers of her spirit are happy. Xo

  3. Beautiful words Florence, and I cried too with the story of the feather. Imagine a feather appearing when you were doing your dedication. She is sure sending a sign from heaven. God Bless. Enjoy your summer !!

    • I know, Carol Ann. It was so surreal. The way it floated from the sky, just like in the Forest Gump movie. At first I could not believe what I was seeing, but then the little girl brought it to me. It was a moment I will always remember.

  4. So glad that angels are continuing to guide and protect you — and despite your own challenges – you always see and remember the angelic in others, like Joan.

    Offering your students a glimpse into nature via your planting is a great gift you have offered – you always find a way to make ‘the good’ happen – while others just throw their hands in the air and complain.

    Cannot wait to spend an evening with you, dear Flo, next weekend in your piece of heaven.

    Love, Kathy

  5. Lovely story and I have no doubt the feather was Joan communicating with you. Dedicating the garden in her memory is the best idea! I am also thrilled that kids will still get excited about gardening and can stay off their social media gadgets long enough to do it. I have hope in the future generation after all.

  6. This so beautiful..Joan is my baby sister…We loved her so much and miss her dearly.
    Thank You for the wonderful Tribute to her.
    God bless you…I am happy you found true love again..lol
    Lenora Moulton/Antle.

  7. Florence, this is so nice…thank you for all you have done in Joan’s memory .You are a wonderful person…all the best to you…Sandra

  8. Joanie had the voice of an angel. I loved to listen to her sing. Thank you Miss Strang for having the inspiration to listen to your heart and together with the many children and staff she served create this garden in her memory. I do believe in angels I also believe there are angels living among us one named Florence.

  9. Your story truly showed Joan for the amazing, gentle woman I knew over the years at work. She always had a smile even though her health struggles were overwhelming on times. Yes, Florence, you are so right about the feathers and the angels who send them to help lift our spirits. I still have the very first one my Mom sent to me! Thank you for putting a smile on our faces (and tears in our eyes) as we remember a sweetheart of a woman, Joan Rowland!!!!!!

  10. I too am a school secretary and found your story very touching and a beautiful story about your dear friend.

  11. A beautiful tribute to my sister-in-law. My husband, Joan’s oldest brother passed away in March 2014, only six months apart. I am hoping they are together with the angels watching over us.

  12. I moved out to sask. to finish school . Moved on to Alberta and worked on my brother’s ranch. I moved to Edmonton where Joan came back into our life.We got apartment and party every weekend. But after five or six months she got really home sick. My boyfriend at the time, got a plane ticket for Joan to go back to Newfoundland. I miss here so very much.Over the years we talked on facebook . I have to see her garden when i go home next year. R.I.P. MY FRIEND


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s