Joe Lenning passed on, at the age of 66, to be with the Lord Saturday morning, November 11, 2023. The world became a better place when he was born in Montgomery AL to Joyce Ann (Fulmer) and Robert Lenning on June 6, 1957. But his brother Mike and sister Sheila were not so sure about his adding to their world. So, while Joyce was in the hospital, they ran away in protest against this addition to their family, who, even before his arrival was getting so much attention!
They packed their things, which included sandwiches from their teenage Aunt, now Gail Cornelius, and walked all the way to the curb, farther than they’d ever gone by themselves. When they reached the curb,they realized they were not allowed to cross the street, so sat down to contemplate their future course of action.
Gail and their dad watched them without their knowledge, and with much amusement. The details are blurry these long years later but they decided to return eventually. As it turned out Joe was the sweetest baby and little brother that ever lived and their youthful jealousy was forgotten.
Joe spent his entire career at UPS and worked his way up to driving the large trucks across state lines. He was quick with a smile and a joke and enjoyed making others laugh. He was always helping others, especially his mom, whom he visited almost every day at her nursing home.
Joe was preparing for retirement when the Lord called him home. He loved his friends and the little cat he rescued from the side of the road. He fed stray cats during his runs with UPS. He even made a little house to protect them from the elements.
Joe, whom his family called Joey, is survived by his beloved mother, Joyce Lenning, his brother Michael Lenning, his sister-in-law Dana Lenning, his sister Sheila Lenning Stephens, his brother-in-law Guillermo (Will) Fernandez, his niece Stephanie Lenning Bethea, and Aunts Gail Fulmer Cornelius and Kathy Fulmer Lankford and their husbands Kenneth and Ronald, plus cousins Robert Ball and wife Becky, Debra Cornelius, and Kim Lankford Thrasher and husband Ray, David Coenlius, Jess Lankford and his wife, Kim and Michele Busen.
A light went out here when Joe crossed the veil but the warmth of that light can still be felt by those who knew and loved him. Joe believed that when his spirit would be absent from his body he would be present with the Lord. This knowledge provides comfort for those who, though we miss him terribly, realize that he is rejoicing in the presence of our God.
It’s easy to think of Joe’s passing as “Why did he have to go?” But looking with spiritual eyes, it’s apparent that he got to go…he was given the opportunity to cross the veil and experience real life ahead of the rest of us. C.S. Lewis wrote that we are in the shadow lands and real life will only begin when we cross that veil to be with the Lord.
Joey is an irreplaceable soul who made an imprint on the lives of those who are fortunate to have known and loved him. Our pain at his passing is deep, but our joy at his new life in Heaven is great.
A poem by his sister addresses this. Knowing that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord, she nonetheless asked the Lord, “If it were possible, what would a soul who was allowed to visits or her own funeral feel?” This is the poem that she wrote in response :
Today I stand but soon I’ll lie
Where others line up to pass me by
And state how natural I appear
As if these words I might still hear
As if I’m dozing, gently, there
But I’ll have slipped this mortal form
My body left for others to mourn
My spirit watching, close, somewhere
Wondering what the tears are for
Hovering near for one last glimpse
Of faces I have loved and kissed
I’ll whisper: Loves, weep not! You see
No pain, no fear remains with me
No effort, sadness, misery
No future angst, no history
No more confusion, guilt nor gain
No, my dear ones, just love remains
Love thrusts through this, my last night
Love fuels my faithful, final flight
Love whisks my will to worlds unknown
Where angels wait to welcome me home
Where loved ones urge: dearest take heart
Real life is here, real life can start!
The scales they fall, my eyes they see
I’m something new for eternity
Let loose from this unyielding clay
My boundless spirit free to play
Absent a body, brain, or breath,
Ahead is life! Behind is death!
Sheila Stephens copyright
We will see him again, when we get to leave these shadowlands behind and cross into that land where real life begins.