John’s Journal: Reflecting on 2020

Dear Friends,

It’s been eight months since I created an entry for this journal. It has been a difficult and dangerous time in our world. So many people are suffering serious illness and experiencing the heartbreaking loss of loved ones. Others struggle with the loss of work, and hardships they never imagined. We’ve all been living with new realities that affect our daily lives. Still, the heroic actions of countless frontline health care providers, educators, public servants, volunteers, and essential workers have been an awesome demonstration of the “better angels” of our natures. I am grateful to all the people who keep putting themselves at risk to help others.

In spite of all the darkness that surrounds us, the light of selfless love still shines. Though some selfish leaders work to divide us, the promise of hope continues to bring diverse communities together. The vast majority of us believe our common interests far outweigh what divides us. We will build a better world together and love will prevail.


Although our family hasn’t been able to be together when we wanted to be, we have been when we needed to, and that has been a blessing. Since the pandemic began we have celebrated the marriages of two of our children, and are now anticipating the birth of our second grandchild. We’ve also said goodbye to a wonderful woman, Ann Marie’s mom, Pat Lord.

On July 4, high on a hilltop at Roeliff Jansen Park here in Hillsdale, surrounded by family members, Maggie and Devin were married. Following the ceremony, we went to our home where we celebrated into the night, playing, singing, eating, and sharing our stories and hopes. Maggie and Devin are now back in Hong Kong where Maggie is teaching at the American School there.


On August 1, Patrick and Diana were married at a church near their home in Manassas, Virginia. The wedding and the reception following at Diana’s sister Angela’s home, were beautifully planned and lovingly carried out. With everyone sharing in the preparations, ceremony and celebration it was a family affair that we’ll always cherish. Both these weddings were different than they might have been in another year, but they could not have been any better. The emphasis on faith, hope, love, and family filled all of our hearts and will last forever.

On October 6, with all her 8 children nearby Ann Marie’s mom left us, but her spirit, now freed from her battle with Alzheimer’s, is soaring again. She was a woman who gave her family, friends, and neighbors unconditional love, and did so in an unforgettable manner that will live on in the stories, laughter and memories she created. We miss her.

During the first several months of the pandemic from February to June, Maggie and Devin lived with us part time and lived with Dev’s folks part time as Maggie remotely taught students in Hong Kong from here. Ann Marie was also teaching first grade remotely from home, and our nephew Joseph was living with us too. He was also working remotely from here. It was an extraordinary time and we’re fortunate to have the home and compatibility to make it work.

In mid-October, with Maggie and Dev back in Hong Kong, our daughter Colleen, her husband Pat, and our 2 yr old granddaughter Ella moved in with us. They had been living in the Bay Area in California for several years but were planning to return to the East Coast in 2021. The pandemic and the wildfires in California led them to accelerate their plans, and we were thrilled when they asked if they could stay with us as they transitioned and chose a new place to live and work. Colleen is expecting a baby boy very soon (before Christmas) and our time with their growing family is a gift beyond measure. It is a precious time in our lives. We will soon have a newborn here. That anticipation plus being a part of two year old Ella’s daily discoveries, hugs and laughter, are joys that words cannot convey.

So, in closing I wish that this holiday season will bring each of you, your families and our world moments of stillness and moments of peace. I hope the months and years ahead bring us good health and greater understanding. I sincerely thank you for being my friend and for the kindness and care you give to others. I hope our paths can intersect in person in the new year!

With love,

John Farrell

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