Teraji: Crash a reminder our lives can change in a heartbeat

The style of how Joyce Hall supervises is apparent in this

Joyce Hall was attempting to speak from her hospital bed in a
weak and pained whisper, in spite of her broken ribs. She said,

Howard’s going to be so upset, Kat.

Joyce Hall was attempting to speak from her hospital bed in a weak and pained whisper, in spite of her broken ribs. She said, “Howard’s going to be so upset, Kat.”

“Why?” I asked.

“They had to cut my wedding ring off … 42 years, we’ve been married 42 years.”

Just as Joyce would like to put that ring back together, it seems that much of Gilroy is praying for the lives of the Hall family to be put back together. A week ago last Tuesday, as was reported in the Gilroy Dispatch, Joyce and Howard Hall and their two granddaughters were in a terrible head-on collision on the way home from vacation in which one person died, and five others suffered major injuries. The Halls suffered multiple injuries and broken bones.

On my way home from choir practice tonight, I was asking myself, “What good can come out of a horrible situation like this accident?”

Well, one thing is the outpouring of love and concern I am witnessing, love from all those friends, co-workers and neighbors who know the Halls.

In phone messages, emails and stopping me to talk in the grocery store, they in one way or another echo the words of Pat Walker, who said, “They are two people that I came to know and like very much, their openness and outgoing kindness reaches out to me and to all who know them. Prayers and Aloha nui loa are in my thoughts today and always.”

There is the generosity of the Gilroy locksmith who came to their house to help the couple’s friends get inside to take care of the animals who were without food and water in the initial aftermath of the accident. He offered his services free of charge.

Then there are the friends taking care of their home 24 hours a day and feeding their pets. A friend who walks their dog is getting to know other dog walkers and making new friends in the neighborhood.

There are multiple messages like this one being received every single day: “It makes us think about how delicate life is and how we should appreciate what we have everyday,” Dolores Kirchner said. “What a horrible thing to happen to such wonderful, good people! I am praying for them.”

Howard is known for volunteering each December to help with the Migrant Toy Giveaway in which families living below the poverty level in Gilroy receive the only toys their children will have at Christmas time. He enthusiastically welcomes them and practices his Spanish with them, his twinkling eyes and fun nature making them laugh.

I am learning more about how both Joyce and Howard work tirelessly as volunteers all over Gilroy, helping others in more ways than can possibly be listed here. They volunteered this spring to help low income people get free tax service in order to complete their taxes. While parents were busy with the tax preparer, Howard got toys out for the children and helped put them at ease.

Howard treats everyone with equal regard. One thing Howard does that not everyone knows about is that he gives aid to those living on the streets of Gilroy, such as an elderly homeless woman who is deaf. Howard often stops to help her, communicating with her by hand signals and writing notes.

He often visits those who are ill, including those who are depressed and terminally ill. When everyone else has long since stopped visiting someone who has withdrawn and shut themselves off, Howard still tries to lift their spirits with his gentle sense of humor.

“He is not put off by anyone’s condition, no matter how desperate,” one of those he visits described, a man who wished to remain anonymous. “No matter how terrible I am feeling, he doesn’t treat me like a hopelessly sick person. He can still make me laugh.”

Joyce is the first one to make food and bring it over if anyone is in need. She provides food for every important occasion or event at her church. As a nurse, every day of her life is filled with caring for others in one way or another.

Both Joyce and Howard volunteer at the winter shelter for the homeless, making big pots of soup to carry down to the Armory.

Howard is always the last one to leave, staying longer than all the other volunteers. Joyce supervises the team as it serves more than 100 cold and hungry people per night.

“Well, I have to go now,” Joyce said last evening after the short conversation we had when I called to check on her. “My roommate Violet needs help with something.”

And I thought, that is just like Joyce, already trying to help someone else, even with many broken bones of her own and facing a long road to recovery. That’s just the kind of people the Halls are.

Someone close to the Halls sent me a text: “I have learned that conditions can change in a heartbeat.”

And now that we are more deeply aware of this fragility of how our lives can change in an instant, our relationship has changed. Each time before we hang up the phone or part company, Joyce, Howard and I never fail to say to each other, “I love you.”


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