Consider it Pure Joy is the personal memoir by Jennifer Jones Austin of her experience when leukemia ravaged her body. It is her personal legacy of being upheld by faith and the support of her husband, her mother and family.
I received my copy the first Sunday of August when along with the dynamic preaching of Rev. Danielle Brown, that blessed the people of Highland Park, we were thrilled to see Atty. Jennifer Jones Austin and her husband Sean. For me, whenever I see Jennifer, or one of her siblings, I feel many good emotions, my eyes water and my heart grows with happiness. A little backstory, Jennifer’s dad was a year ahead of my dad when they met as students at Crozier Theological Seminary. The fruit of their lifelong friendship continues to envelope both families in love and memories. It was in the fall of 2010 when I got a call from Jennifer’s mother, Mrs. Natalie Barkley Jones, and she told me that she wanted my husband to coordinate a bone marrow match drive. I admit that when I heard her voice, I answered the call with my usual bonhomie and it took me a minute to process the seriousness. I don’t remember what I said, but I remember hearing words from Jennifer’s mom such as, now, serious, can’t wait, important, no time, need help now. I sat up in my chair, reached for a pen and started taking notes.
The Sunday that we held the drive at Highland Park, I remember going into the fellowship hall where nurses from the Wellness Ministry where taking cheek swabs. I was overwhelmed when I saw the crowd of people standing in line to have their cheeks swabbed. In that moment, I felt in my spirit that my friend, Jennifer, was going to make it. This was confirmed for me a few weeks later when I was getting ready for church and saw Jennifer featured in a national news story on Sunday morning.
There were severe restrictions on allowed visitors to see Jennifer, my dad, who was living at the time, made trips to NY to visit Jennifer and he kept me and my family updated. Dr. John Scott, who pastors in NY and was a student at Crozier, when my dad and Jennifer’s dad were there, also kept our family updated on Jennifer’s condition.
Though I knew Jennifer’s road to healing had twists and curves after reading her book I now know that I did not know much. At points, the suspense of what was happening to her had me on the edge of my seat. The standout for me is how she juxtaposed some of her harrowing physical events with the assurance of her faith. She does this with elegant honesty. It is not preachy, nor is it sappy. It is her truth.
April 2011, a little over a year after her transplant, Jennifer’s family, including her mom, siblings, nieces and nephews gathered in DC to visit friends, celebrate birthdays, Easter and Spring Break. For Good Friday service, they went to Metropolitan Baptist Church, where my dad was preaching one of the Words. Though I believe, their plan for Resurrection Sunday was to go to New Shiloh, somehow they came to Highland Park. It is hard to put into words my joy in seeing all of the Jones family. An explosion of heart happiness is the best I can do. Jennifer looked amazing, beautiful and brand new. She is a miracle with no hint of smoke.