As a child Joanna contracted polio, a nationwide horror that most of us can’t imagine today. I was reminded of just how horrible and terrifying it was (and still is, in some countries) when we visited a North Carolina Museum of History exhibit devoted to the disease. The recorded sound of an iron lung machine coming in via speakers as we stood before one of the machines brought Joanna to tears. And the fact that some of her symptoms have since returned via post-polio syndrome seems flatly unfair to me.

Unlike one of her childhood friends, Joanna was never confined to an iron lung. But she suffered plenty — missing quite a bit of school, being subjected to painful treatments with hot, heavy, wool compresses (a regimen developed by an Australian nun), and having all of her toys and clothes burned to prevent further spread of the virus.

Polio is one of several experiences from Joanna’s past that might have killed or seriously embittered a weaker person (such as her husband, perhaps). But the experience also undoubtedly contributed to the fact that my wife is now the most empathetic person I know, in addition to being almost incapable of “wasting time” by sitting still (even when she should).

To take the words from the Lee Ann Womack song, Joanna knows better than most of us to “never take one single breath for granted” and to “give faith a fighting chance.” Given the choice, she’ll always dance.

Lyrics here, with video below.

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