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A Most Gracious Host

—for Mary Joan Fetter
Joan, do you know that your name means “God is gracious”?
And Mary means “beloved.” Mary Joan, beloved 
by your daughters, your sons, your ten grandchildren. 
Do you see your daughter’s face shine when she shares stories 
of Windy Hill Farm and the magic you made there? 
She tells of your flare for flowers and beautiful tables set with daisies
from your fields, coffee, tea, and treats always at the ready. 
A most gracious host, your welcome was for everyone. 
Family. Friends. Football teams. Refugees from Vietnam. 
Someone you helped to keep out of prison. 
The couple you hosted from England. 
For sixty-three years you set the smorgasbord for Christmas Eve.
You made the pannkaka like your mother did. Eggs, sugar, flour, 
milk and junket. Your home was full of people and music. Piano. 
Violin. Hymns. “Oh Come All Ye Faithful.” “Silent Night.” 
You made care your career, becoming a nurse. 
You cared for a young man with polio in an iron lung.
You cared for people in their homes. 
You cared for patients in the Children’s Ward.
You cared for children in schools. 
You cared for your own children.
Your children’s children. 
Your mother.
Your mother took care of a man who was alone 
in the cabin with the coal stove, close to your family’s farm. 
In his will he left your mother the seventy acres, the ponds, 
and the streams, the land where your family still comes and gathers. 
There are pictures of you, Joan, in a purple dress, lace at the neck 
and waist. You are at a long table filling up your plate. Around you, 
the barn is a whirl of bright skirts, bandanas, boots, and smiles. The sun 
shines through the wooden slats, warming the floor 
filled with your own family. There is music and dancing. 
Beloved Joan, your life is a legacy of grace and kindness.
©2022 by Carolyne Meehan