laughter, chicken salad, and the juice

On Thursday, June 30, 2011, I was convinced that it would be difficult to ever laugh again.  One of my family’s dearest friends slipped from our time into eternity. Julia Wigley, this is for you.

To know her was to love her, and to laugh – LOUDLY, and often.

Julia was one of the most incredible people I’ve ever known.  To this day, I have no idea why or how she became known as “The Juice.” Everyone who was close to her called her that. She answered to it, so we continued to do it. Everything about her was larger than life, legendary even.  She didn’t just smile; she glowed.  She didn’t just laugh; she bellowed.  She didn’t just cook; she created masterpieces that were nothing short of ecstasy!

I’ve known her family since I was an infant, and I think I have been intrigued by them for my entire life.    Our households were stark contrasts. I’m an only child; there were at least 20 people in their house on any given weekend….I still don’t know how many kids actually lived there. My household was quiet, structured, and not demonstrative;  hers was loud, exuberant, and unbelievably affectionate. In my home, there were light meals and takeout; in hers, pancakes the size of platters, and enough chicken salad to feed all of the Armed Forces at once.

I must pause to discuss this chicken salad…MAJESTIC!  I’m not really a meat person, but I willingly, and unashamedly ate this. This divine concoction was rumored to cause grown men to break down and cry, spirit-filled testimony services to erupt, and even all-out wars to break out. No one really knows how she did it. There were never normal bowl sized batches, but rather mega gallon mounds of this stuff. Word spread for miles around, household to household, church to church whenever the Juice made chicken salad.  You didn’t want to be the last person to arrive and miss out, but also didn’t want to get caught as the person who consumed the last bite of it (that’s when the wars broke out!). There are no words to accurately describe this phenomenal chicken salad; I’m hungry just typing about it! It caused severe damage to taste buds – – rendering them incapable of appreciating another person’s attempt at making it.  The Juice’s chicken salad had the perfect consistency, all of the flavor and ingredients were evenly distributed, and there isn’t a person on the planet who could beat this recipe.

When I think about it, you could describe the Juice in the same way. She was perfectly consistent; I never saw her change. She treated people with love and compassion, no matter their status, goals or mistakes. All of her dreams, hard work, love, and humor were evenly passed on to her family and friends. She gave herself willingly, openly, and without boundaries to everyone she knew.  If you needed it, and she had it, then you had it. There isn’t a person on the planet who could outshine her smile. Her laughter was infectious. You just couldn’t help yourself. Humor and joy overflowed from her so much, that before you knew it, you were doubled over, trying not to fall out of your chair, laughing uncontrollably at whatever story she told.

I will miss her stories, smile, and laugh… and I hope that heaven remembered to install a large enough kitchen …

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