JoAnn Simmons Koonce Eulogy given 3/2/2019
Each time one of us would say “I love you” to my mother she would smile sweetly and reply “I love you MORE.”
You couldn’t argue! She wouldn’t have it—She had declared it so. But Isn’t that how a mother’s love is supposed to be? just MORE somehow?
JoAnn Simmons Koonce was MORE, simply, lovingly, awesomely, MORE.
She was the only child of Bruce and Sudie Simmons, a wife, a mother, a cousin, a friend, a colleague, the 1959 Sweetheart of Theta Chi, a Cub Scout Leader, a classroom volunteer, a painter, a HS basketball player, a church servant, a follower of Christ, a resident of NC, KY and SC, a Wildcat AND a Tiger Fan. She was all of those things but what will come as no surprise is that she was still so much MORE!
Our mother was MORE than a hard-worker, she gave everything her all. She worked full-time with three children and never seemed to miss a beat. My dad would tease her that she made every job she had into three times the job she had agreed to do. She passed that work ethic onto all of us and while it may drive our spouses crazy from time-to-time. I am grateful for the gift of being tired in the evening knowing that I gave that day my all.
Our mother was MORE than a wife. For 55 years she was a best friend, partner, and confidante to our dad. She kept him organized, she was his person, his playmate, and she became his faithful caregiver throughout a ruthless battle with cancer. She was at his side every step of their life together. There is peace in knowing that they are reunited—whole and healthy again. What a reunion that must have been!
She was MORE than an average Mom and Nana, she was all-in. She kept grandkids for Camp Nana and Papa, made homemade paper dolls, hosted family beach weeks and Thanksgivings, planned crafts for our family time, and played games with the kids. Throughout our lives our house was a place where people were welcome—she made it that way. She hosted a hungry and dirty crew of Jeff’s fraternity brothers during their initiation. When I was in High school, she literally stayed up all night long and prepared breakfast for a 50+ high schoolers after each of my proms just so that all of my friends had a place to safely crash after a fun evening of dancing. She would make crazy selfies and videos with us. She was always up for fun and loved to be in the middle of the action.
Our mother was MORE than on your side—if you were hers, she was fiercely loyal. Sure she knew that we had faults, but we were hers and she had our back. No one said anything bad about her babies. That loyalty was extended to other family and friends too. She gave so freely to others.
Our mother was MORE than a little bit sassy. She was strong-willed and a bit bossy if we are being honest. If she had a game plan for us to follow, you had better get on board. The last day that I was with her we shared our hearts, we sang together, we prayed, and I began sobbing with my head on her hands. She rubbed my head and told me to go on my planned trip to London in a few days—and that I had to go or she would not be happy with me. She said “Baby, listen here, I will not go anywhere while you are in London. I know what is happening and I am ok with it. You WILL go.” I took that to mean that she was feeling better and had complete control of the situation. Because, it was my Mom and she always set the game plan. We would not have wanted her to be any other way. (I will say that she did indeed keep her promise—just not with the exact timing that I had imagined.)
Our mother was MORE than strong. She was grace, strength and resilience. From losing the love of her life to cancer, to struggling with lung disease, to fall after fall—she just kept getting back up and fighting. She set such an example for us all on how to face adversity. She approached it all with unyielding determination, and a genuine positivity. We have learned so many lessons from how she lived her life.
Our mother was MORE than a little mixed in her metaphors. She was notorious for switching them around. We still aren’t sure if “Dead as a church mouse” or “quiet as a door nail” is right or wrong?!?
Our mother was MORE. She was an all-weather fabric for our family. She covered us with warmth and protected us from the elements. She fed us and clothed us but, more importantly, she nurtured our hearts, passions, and dreams. She gave us so many gifts in the traits that we carry and the way in which we have had love modeled for us.` We are blessed.
Our mother was MORE than loving. Her love was boundless and unconditional. We knew it—there was just no question. We are aching and missing her fiercely. I’m sure any one of us would pay about any price to tell her that we love her one more time and have the opportunity to hear her sweet response.
But even as I think about saying it to her, I can hear her, almost like muscle memory, in my heart and deep in my soul say “I love you MORE.”