Lisa Currie

By Lisa Currie

I write this with a sodden heart — my dear colleague and town neighbor Johanna O’Toole died suddenly last week. She leaves this huge crater in Toms Brook, a giant gaping hole. Oh, we always hear that people can be replaced. Well, whoever said that did not know Johanna O’Toole. She was a selfless and dedicated councilwoman and person who went out of her way to help — to be kind and considerate. No…she can’t be replaced — not as a mother, not as a wife, not as a grandmother, not as a friend, and not as a neighbor. She is irreplaceable.

When things like this happen, the situation makes us pause and reflect on our lives and the lives of others. Don’t take a minute for granted — appreciate the treasures of life.

Living in Shenandoah County is something we can treasure — value every neighborhood because we are so small. Not unique to Toms Brook, our towns are family communities not a community of families.

Oh, I know as a teenager, I was leaving this place with rocket boosters on both hips. Living here, I couldn’t get away with anything without my mother discovering the truth because everyone knew everyone else’s business. Well, as an adult, we discover that those same two reasons for young people are the qualities adults think make this place special. This connection creates a family community.

Living here, day in and day out, we forget or even take it for granted that we know our neighbors and feel a connection. Besides the death of my friend and colleague, I was reminded of family community when a friend, who lives in a large metropolitan city, visited.

Yes, life in any large city is different from Shenandoah County, but one difference is the fact that we know each other.

You might not know your city neighbor or even greet your neighbor on a sightseeing stop such as the Meems Bottom Bridge. Our friend was somewhat alarmed when the car slowed down as we walked toward the bridge’s entrance. We were not alarmed as we knew the Toms Brook neighbor in the vehicle and had time for a chat.

Our friend was paying close attention when some person approached our vehicle outside Shaffer’s Catering in Woodstock. I was not alarmed as it was a friend, just saying hello, passing the time of day. Our friend laughed when she discovered that Judy Rhodes of Country Rhodes Farm left fresh eggs on our porch swing; she laughed harder when she realized no one stole our eggs.

Living here, it’s easy to find a friend on every street corner — a face that you know because you have been part of a community where each person matters.

It’s a treasure that should never be tarnished or stained. Let us celebrate our family community each day because without our celebratory recognition the day may vanish before our eyes, leaving our lives smudged with remembrance or blemished with sorrow.

Toms Brook resident Lisa Currie is a retired professor of English as another language and an adviser at the Lord Fairfax Community College in Middletown. She has worked at The Shenandoah Valley Herald and various other newspapers in Virginia.