Last weekend my family came together to celebrate and honor the life of my beautiful Grandmother, Joan Lee DeVor Davis. She passed away last November and has truly left a big hole in so many of our hearts. We gathered in Capitola, CA, where she had lived for many years, raised her youngest two sons and had many of her grandchildren visit anytime we could. As I listened to my aunts and uncles pay tribute to her during her celebration, it really made me think about what a truly amazing woman I am descended from. The weekend could not have been more beautiful, perfect spring weather, surrounded by gorgeous flowers, a perfect send off to the matriarch of my mom’s side of the family.
My grandma was a quiet soul, usually preferring to be in the background, definitely an introvert (maybe that’s where I get it), keenly observing the ginormous family that she had a part in creating. She was an incredibly intelligent woman, attending Stanford college in the 1950’s, eventually marrying my Grandpa Hank Davis and starting their family that grew into 11 children. If you asked anyone, Joan was a sweet, caring, incredibly loving human. She was very hard on herself throughout her life, but as we look at her time here, it was plain to see just how amazing she was. Being a mother to 11 children, who are all incredibly smart and talented, had to have been a difficult task. I am a mother to 2 boys, and it is the hardest, but most rewarding aspect of my life so far. I can’t imagine raising 11. But her legacy really was raising these incredible humans! It was made very clear as we listened to our aunts and uncles speak about her, that it was a passion for her to parent each of them to the best of her ability and to make sure that they were nurtured and able to express exactly who they were meant to be in this life.
As her grandchild, I have very fond childhood memories of my Grams, visiting her at her house on Opal Cliff drive, surrounded by tons of cousins and exploring the beach, the boardwalk, and Capitola Village. I remember she had a closet full of VHS movies that she had recorded from the movie channels she had with cable. It was literally floor to ceiling tapes, every movie you could think of, so many of my favorite classics that I got to see for the first time in her living room. A lot of them were probably not appropriate, but when there were a ton of cousins of all different ages running around the house, it was probably a blessing when we would all sit down and be still for a few hours ha ha! I remember seeing Steel Magnolias, Beaches, Fried Green Tomatoes and Pretty Woman to name a few amazing classics! Seriously, such fond memories that I will cherish for my entire life.
My Grandma was the baby whisperer! She could put any baby to sleep, just hand her a crying ball of fury, and within a minute she had them smiling and cooing. She instilled a love for babies into my mom and that was passed on to me as well. Seeing her with my boys as babies was one of the highlights of my life, and I know it was a highlight for so many of my cousins as well. I was truly lucky, as she moved to our area later in her life to live, so I was able to spend a lot of time with her outside of big family events. I loved listening to her tell stories (she was an amazing storyteller), or hearing her cheer me on as a parent. She always complimented my parenting and told me how well I was doing raising our boys. She never imposed her advice on you, but if you had any questions at all she was so very happy to share her wisdom. She loved flowers, whale watching, creating beautiful needle point art, knitting, music and laughter. She was a great cook and some of her classic recipes will always be a part of our holiday celebrations. She was so understanding, so tolerant of others views, and so very forward thinking for a woman of her generation. Not to mention, absolutely drop dead gorgeous.
All of these amazing qualities show up throughout our family, because we were blessed enough to learn from the best. I loved hearing my aunts and uncles talk about their mother. How she gently guided them through hard life situations, creating an environment where they were able to make their own choices and decisions while feeling her genuine support and unconditional love. She made sure to let them express their own individual qualities and talents. They also had the house in the neighborhood that all the other kids wanted to be at (there’s always one!) So, on top of her own 11 children, Joan welcomed extended family and her children’s friends with open arms and treated them as one of her own. I look back on my childhood and can see how my mother was influenced by her mother, becoming a loving stepmother to my step siblings and pretty much adopting my best friend in high school because she needed a home and parents who gave a shit. I just feel so blessed that we come from such an amazing person.
My grandma leaves behind 28 grandchildren (I am #4 in the lineup, I believe) and 28 great grandchildren (and counting…there will be many, many more). I honestly feel that even being one grandchild of so many, my Grams made an effort to make us all feel special. She kept so many awesome mementos from all of us, and really knew what all of us were up to in our lives. She paid attention and made it a point to know what was going on with us, even if we didn’t know it at the time. In the last few years of her life, I was able to help my mom and aunts out with a bit of her care, and she always acted as if it was a huge burden for me to help her. In no way shape or form did I ever think that. I was truly honored to be able to help in any way I could, because it meant that I got to spend time with her and talk with her about life. Before Covid hit, we were able to have a big family reunion up in Idaho, and it was so cool to see her with all of her kids/grandkids/great grandkids. You could just see her swelling with pride in her quiet, stoic way. I really hope that she knew how much she was loved by every single one of us.
When I was told that it was time to say my goodbyes, I didn’t want to accept it. It kind of came out of nowhere. We had actually all been preparing for the passing of my Grandpa Hank (stay tuned for that blog post), because he was nearing the end of his battle with cancer. She had made it through all the Covid craziness and a few other hospitalizations, but when she went in this time, I just knew that she wouldn’t be coming back out. I am very thankful that I was able to see her and talk to her and give her one last hug. She held my hand tight and just kept telling me over and over how much she loved me, how proud of me she was, what an amazing mother I was and how much she loved the boys. I didn’t want to let her go during that final hug. And yes, she was sick, but she also seemed completely at peace and happy with her final days. She was able to have so many conversations with her children who came to be with her and was given the chance to make her final wishes known. And when the time came, she slipped peacefully away surrounded by her children…her legacy. We should all be so lucky at the end of our lives.
Joan Lee DeVor Davis will be forever missed by everyone whose lives she touched. And there are so many. She will live on in the spirits and hearts of her children, grandchildren, great grandchildren and beyond. We will continue to tell her story, to live our lives with the wisdom she bestowed upon us and the example of living life as a truly good, and perfectly flawed human. She was a gift to this earth and a soul that should be forever celebrated.
Joan Lee DeVor Davis, Born April 5, 1937, Left this Earth November 5, 2021