ForeverMissed
Five months ago in early October, I received a voice message from my mom. She stated she wasn’t well and needed me back home. That’s the day all gears shifted and I knew I had to spend as much time as possible with her. She had been diagnosed with lung cancer and we knew we had a battle ahead. She chose to fight with treatments and was shuffled to various health care places all the while receiving help from friends and family. Some of the stand out moments near the end of 2019 were Phil’s make-shift wheelchair ramp to help keep her in his home where she really wanted to stay, Ann’s countless hours of transporting her to appointments and housing family (including all of Aunt Jolene’s kids... my cousins) during our many and oftentimes last-minute visits, My Aunt Jolene spending weeks at a time by her side and arriving on New Year’s Eve to ring in 2020, heartfelt visit from my Uncle John or my movie-like dash to the hospital on  Christmas Day and celebrate the holiday. It was also incredibly special the day Phil, Ann, Aunt Jolene and I had the chance to toast her 79th birthday with bubbles (nonalcoholic, sorry Phil, no 7&7 this time) and share tiramisu that Ann made and was their annual tradition. 

After several months of extensive treatments, we found improvements were no longer a reality.  We made the decision to move her to assisted living in Cleveland so she and I could have more time together. Before leaving Florida, her friends and members from Unitarian Universalist threw her a going away celebration. To my surprise (I hadn’t realized she was so popular!), she had so many people showing up to  wish her a safe journey - they had to stagger the visits because so many folks wanted to visit. This is a sliver of my mom’s life I didn’t have the opportunity to see and be part of. In her last weeks and days, my wife, Sharon, and I spent time reading her Dave Barry, listening to music and holding her hand until the very end. She left us without pain and in peace. She was graceful, beautiful and held more love in her heart that most inspire to reach. 

My mom was born in Iowa on a farm with a lineup of wonderful siblings John Bergstrom, Judi Brooks and Jolene Carlson-Bergstrom. She spent 40+ years in Florida and several decades teaching English and Creative Writing in Flager county, an active member and president of the Unitarian Universalist Church and the best Mother anyone could ever ask for. She spent her last weeks in Cleveland just blocks from our home and right on Lake Erie. This was a special time together. She was loved and admired and left lasting impressions on all. She will be missed and will stay in our hearts. None of this would be possible without each and every person that receives or is forwarded this message. Thank you to all. With love….

Joan Mergeline Thate
November 9, 1940 - March 20, 2020


Posted by Ellen Nielsen on March 24, 2020
Joan, I went to the beach early Sunday morning and thought of all the times we walked on the beach together--the time we found the dead loon--the time we watched a green turtle digging her nest--all the sunrises. And all the conversations--your wit and your gift for words. You are still out there somewhere, part of the tide and the wind and the huge sky. I miss you.
Posted by Stephen Frieg on March 24, 2020
As a neighbor of Joey and Sharon I must say that I never met the lady but, judging by the way Joey is, I'd say he lost one fantastic mother. She raised him right and - I believe - she'll continue to improve our world through Joey and every person Joey meets. Class acts produce class acts. Prayers.
Posted by Eva Sullivan-Knoff on March 23, 2020
Joey, we are so deeply sorry for your loss. Our earliest memories of you and your mom are when you visited Chicago for the summers. Your mom was so lovely, witty, brilliant and creative in countless ways, warm, kind, giving. I was privileged to read a few of the things she had written and was touched through her gift and expression.
We loved the way she and your uncle bantered, the beauty she created in gardening with your aunt or redecorating. Our family warmly remembers our Christmas Eve gatherings.
She was a woman of beauty that had so much to give and offer to others.
She will be deeply missed by all who knew her.
Peace to her memory and love to you.
Eva, John, Andrew, and Bea
Posted by Sandro Galindo on March 23, 2020
Your mom sounds like a pretty special woman. I'm sorry for your loss.
Posted by Michele Austin on March 23, 2020
I met your mother through Ann, my step-mom. It was years ago when I came to Florida to visit. Ann and Joan were out by the pool, sipping wine and talking. I sat down and was immediately taken with how beautiful and gracious your mother was. I was in awe of this woman sipping wine in the early afternoon, in her swim suit, with perfect red lipstick on! In the years following I had many opportunities to get to know your mother better and what really stuck out was....she was as beautiful inside as she was outside.
I am sorry for your loss and will keep you and your family in my thoughts and prayers. I look forward to meeting you in Florida to honor your mom.

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Recent Tributes
Posted by Ellen Nielsen on March 24, 2020
Joan, I went to the beach early Sunday morning and thought of all the times we walked on the beach together--the time we found the dead loon--the time we watched a green turtle digging her nest--all the sunrises. And all the conversations--your wit and your gift for words. You are still out there somewhere, part of the tide and the wind and the huge sky. I miss you.
Posted by Stephen Frieg on March 24, 2020
As a neighbor of Joey and Sharon I must say that I never met the lady but, judging by the way Joey is, I'd say he lost one fantastic mother. She raised him right and - I believe - she'll continue to improve our world through Joey and every person Joey meets. Class acts produce class acts. Prayers.
Posted by Eva Sullivan-Knoff on March 23, 2020
Joey, we are so deeply sorry for your loss. Our earliest memories of you and your mom are when you visited Chicago for the summers. Your mom was so lovely, witty, brilliant and creative in countless ways, warm, kind, giving. I was privileged to read a few of the things she had written and was touched through her gift and expression.
We loved the way she and your uncle bantered, the beauty she created in gardening with your aunt or redecorating. Our family warmly remembers our Christmas Eve gatherings.
She was a woman of beauty that had so much to give and offer to others.
She will be deeply missed by all who knew her.
Peace to her memory and love to you.
Eva, John, Andrew, and Bea
her Life
We'd like to get together in Florida sometime in the near future when it's safe and the world calms a bit, to celebrate Joan and share memories and stories about her life. We'll keep in touch in upcoming months.

Everyone be safe. 
Recent stories

Why Joan was so Great

Shared by Jon Baird on March 28, 2020
I've known Joey since we were 13. My family moved to Florida from South Carolina during my Eighth grade year. I picked up skateboarding as a lifestyle pretty quickly. There were kids in my neighborhood (which was pretty far out 40) who inducted me. I met Joey while out skating with some mutual friends. The first day I met him, I spent the night at his house. So we could wake up early, which for me was never before 10am, and go skateboarding all the next day. I remember worrying to myself that I was going to forget his name. I did forget his name.

I met Joan that night as you may have assumed. I feel like I remember it perfectly but I'm sure I've gotten it wrong. Joan was watching the Pelican Brief when we got in. It was a little after dark, which she was never a fan of.

So I show up in this woman's home who has never met me and I'm with her son who I've known for probably three or four hours at this point and she welcomes me and makes us dinner. And it felt like I may as well have known them both my whole life.

I lived in Florida for a few short years, and spent a lot of time in Joan's home. Joan was always engaged with us as angsty teens, we would have conversations with her about current events, our plans for the future, and our problems and she was really there to offer judgment-free reflection with only kindness in mind.

I knew Joan as a teacher, a mother and mentor to one of my best friends in life, and as an individual with the capacity to give themselves to others unendingly.

Joan's life was an example of who you can be if you are motivated by love and personal connection. Our lives were all enriched in knowing Joan, and we keep her memory with us in practicing kindness, patience, and understanding.

A Poem by Joan Thate (MOM) Art Appreciation 101: The Quiz

Shared by Joey Thate on March 22, 2020
Art Appreciation 101:  The Quiz

  1. When accidental window light picks out a staggering spot on the painting so you see that particular space for the first time in a brilliant beam of cognition
    1. There it is, what had not existed before
    2. Although almost certainly it had
    3. Where were you?
  1. When that happens, and now you know, once more, ambush windows can disclose an infinite stream of revelations beyond heart breaking because they are so profoundly
    1. Demanding
    2. Hidden
    3. Alive
    4. Momentary
    5. Again, where were you?                                                                                                                                                       Joan Thate   2009


Untitled Poem by my Mom

Shared by Joey Thate on March 22, 2020
"It’s already been said
It’s already been sung
It’s already been painted
and already hung
It’s already been carved from stone
It’s already been molded of clay
It’s already been wrenched into three acts
and already performed as a play
But, while under our unexceptional sun
There is, we’re pretty sure, nothing new
It cannot be your whole truth
until it wriggles live out of you."

Joan Bergstrom 2010