It seemed she was constantly typing in the computer room if she was at home. My mother was a busy woman, a woman on a mission. It was her desire to keep the arts alive in Snowflake, AZ. She loved the arts and was ever mindful of the impact they have on people.
Growing up in her home, I could not help but have this same great love for expression in any form of art. I remember being a very young child and going to concerts. I watched the conductor, with his wand waving and suddenly beautiful music was heard. Here was magic! Sometime after the intermission I would fall asleep and my father would pick me up and carry me out to the car for the short 6-block ride home.
It was in this little town of less than 10,000 people that I began to learn about what power one person has when they live life on purpose. Yes, Snowflake is still a tiny town, but it is a town that was touched by a very powerful woman. A woman who wanted to have for her children what she was given.
When my mother was growing up there was someone living in Snowflake that brought the arts in a very real way. His name was Mr. Crandell. He was a teacher, and a beacon of light to those whose hearts were mesmerized by beautiful music and prose. He was my mother's teacher. In a town that was drunken with the sweat of athletes, he was a lone voice who said there was more - much more.
So my mother, 30 years after Mr. Crandell was only a fond memory of those who knew him, decided it was her mission to carry on where he left off. She started with one project that would inevitably bleed into the next project. From each came a myriad of other associations with boards and committees and meetings and hours and hours of discussion on the best way to get things done.
My mother has been dead for 12 years now. There is not a single person from my immediate family living in Snowflake. I do not know if her life's work has continued. Maybe she has become as Mr. Crandell, a memory for those who were around when it happened, while the rest of the world has no idea either one existed. But there will always be her brood of 11 to carry on her memory. We are growing ever more - my last count put us at 60, including the grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
JoAn Washburn died at age 58. I marvel sometimes at the list of things she accomplished in her 58 years - and the truth be told, most of it was accomplished from age 43-58. It was today 12 years ago that I sat in her bedroom and wondered if she was going to come home from the hospital dead or alive.
I remember sitting in that room, leaning against the headboard, staring down at the blue carpet. The room smelled as it had my whole life, my mother's smell. I sat there for hours wondering how my life was going to be changed. Even before the doctor told us she would not live long, a foreboding had taken over inside of me.
Now, so many years later, I still wonder how my life is going to be different because she is gone. I don't do things the way everyone else does. I tell those I love that I love them, and often. I hug a lot. I say what I think when I have the chance, because I am aware how limited and rare each window of opportunity really is.
I will probably never write a play, be on a guild, start any foundations, organize any performing arts associations, be on the city council, or have an entire sports team of children. My home is silent as a tomb. My computer is full of half-written, poorly worded memoirs. Those who are in my life will go on much as they have when I am no longer here. Yet I am only worried about one thing. Who will know about JoAn Washburn? To whom will her legacy be passed on since I have no children of my own to tell about this magnificent woman?
So I tell you. There once lived a woman whose heart was as big as the expanse of heaven; whose dreams were magical and whose idea of life was so much more than we could imagine. She was known by many as a woman with a vision. She was known by several as a confidant and friend. She was known by some as a hero and a mentor. She was known to me as "Mama."