Skip to content
“God gave our family the greatest gift we could ever receive”
Jonelle Calderwood, Trisomy 18, 7/21/1988 – 12/6/2012
On July 21st, 1988, God gave our family the greatest gift we could ever receive, Jonelle. Some would say she was born disabled, but if you ask anyone who knew her they will tell you she was born with a gift and was the greatest blessing our family ever received. She taught everyone that crossed her path love and understanding. She eased away pain and sorrow and she brought happiness and smiles to everyone. Sadly, for all of us who loved her so dearly the Lord took his finest angel Joni home, on December 6th, 2012.
Joni is a daughter, a granddaughter, a sister, a cousin, a friend, and the greatest secret keeper ever. She was the sweetest, kindest, and most loving person I have ever known. It didn’t matter how bad your day was just seeing or being near Joni would sooth the stress away. She always had a smile, a kiss, and bubbles ready for you. I haven’t met a single person that could resist Joni’s kisses or her bubbles. I call her my little secret keeper because she would always listen to me, it never mattered what I had to say, I could be telling her my secret dreams and wishes or confessing to something stupid that I had done.
There was never any judgment or disapproval in her eyes, only an overwhelmingly unconditional love. I remember how I used to lie next to Joni on the floor at my Nana’s house; I would talk to her and tell her everything. I poured my heart out to her when I was sad, happy, or confused. Often I would imagine she was talking back to me and telling me everything will work out and be ok, she comforted me more than anyone could ever know. When I would share my secret desires and dreams with her, I would imagine Joni sharing hers with me. I always imagined that her dream was that some day she would be able to walk, talk, and no longer have to carry the burden of her diagnosis.
She would run to us with her arms wide open and tell everyone how much she loved them. Joni was such a blessing to our family, she was our glue, our pivot, and most of all she was and still is the center and heart of our family. I was so scared to be around her when I was younger, but it was a fear of breaking someone so special and amazing, she seemed so fragile to me. However, as the years passed I came to realize that she was the strongest person I knew. She lived a life filled with pain, illness, and many surgeries. Although, none of this ever stopped her from being the amazing person she was. Even in the hospital after a horrible surgery, Joni had kisses and a smile to share.
Joni taught me patience and understanding. She taught me to be strong and she taught me that no matter what obstacles come my way in life, they can be overcome. She helped me to recognize that her diagnosis did not define her; instead she broke the boundaries of that diagnosis and defined it. She proved the doctors wrong so many times because she knew it was not her time to go home yet, she had much to accomplish before she could go home. She had more strength in her heart than many people I know today. She was not going to give up easily, she fought for her life and to be a part of the lives of the ones she loved. Her strength gave us 24 more precious years with her than the doctors thought we would have. We all know Joni had her difficulties and struggles, but we also know that she had the most amazing support system constantly surrounding her.
Aunt Teen, Nana, Uncle Jon, Papa, Faith, and Tanner you gave her the most amazing life she could ever ask for. You didn’t keep her hidden away and only treat he diagnosis. No instead, you treated Joni. You showed her some of the world. You treated her like any other person and you showered her with so much love she could never have a moment’s thought of being different from anyone else. Joni is home with our heavenly father and now she can do everything she wasn’t able to do here on earth. Sometimes when I close my eyes, I imagine Granny Great and Joni running through the sand laughing together, finally reunited in heaven. Other times, I see her sitting at our Granny Great’s knee and telling funny stories, and I pray they are not my secret stories. Actually, I know they aren’t we had a pact and she will keep my secrets close to her heart. But I am sure I will get an ear full when I see her again, and that is ok because it will be a gift to hear her voice. I know that as I am grieving so are all of you. A little bit of our sunshine has been taken away.
Each day will begin to get a little easier over time and I will laugh again because I know Joni is looking down on me, on all of us, and she wants to see smiles not tears, she wants to hear laughter and not sadness. For Joni I will forever look up to the sky with a smile and remember her life and overwhelming unconditional love. I will endeavor to go through my life showing everyone I meet the same compassion, understanding, and love that Joni showed all of us.
Jonelle “Joni” Clderwood, beloved daughter of Jon and Justine Calderwood, went home to be with the Lord on December 6, 2012 from complications of Edwards Syndrome (Trisomy 18). She passed away peacefully at home.
Jonelle was born on July 21st, 1988 in Nampa’s Family Birthing Center. At the time of Joni’s birth, it was quickly determined that there were complications and she was taken to Mercy Medical Center. From there she was transferred to St. Luke’s, Boise, where chromosome testing showed that she had Trisomy 18. In 1988, very little was known about Trisomy 18, and we were given a very negative prognosis of her life expectancy being a few hours to a month. We are very blessed that we were able to have Joni in our lives for more than 24 years!
Joni began attending the child development center in Boise when she was 3 months old. She enjoyed her time there until she began preschool at Maple Grove Elementary. After preschool, she attended Riverglen Elementary, Les Bois Junior High, and graduated from Timberline High School in 2007. She always loved going to school, and had many friends that showered affection on her through the years.
Joni’s life was always difficult, with many surgeries and hospital visits over the years, but that never stopped her from being happy. She was full of smiles and giggles, and loved to blow bubbles. She was the light of our lives. Joni enjoyed her family very much, and always seemed to find reasons to laugh at them. She especially loved being a big sister to Faith and Tanner, who will never forget that she made them who they are today. She is their inspiration and was the best role model they could ever ask for.
Joni loved the outdoors. She loved camping and 4-wheeling. She loved long walks and picnics. And for some reason, she loved fish. The aquarium was one of Joni’s favorite places to go.
We are very grateful to all of the people, teachers, doctors, and nurses who helped care for Joni over the years. We are especially grateful for her Papa and Nana. Thank you for all the hours of care and devotion you lavished on Joni. She was your little angel, and was very lucky to have grandparents who loved her like you did.
Joni is survived by her parents, Jon and Justine, sister Faith, brother Tanner, maternal grandparents Bud and Norma Horton, paternal grandparents Kent and Alice Lamberson, and numerous loving aunts, uncles, and cousins. Joni was preceded in death by her paternal grandparents Bill and Jacquie Calderwood, paternal great-grandmother Jennie Calderwood, paternal “Teta” Eileen Caldwewood, maternal great-grandmother Helen Gaskins, and many other beloved family members.
Joni touched the hearts of all who met her, and many lives will be forever changed by the experience. She endured and overcame many challenges in her short life, but was tired and heard the call to come home.
She will be missed more than words can express! Joni was our sunshine, our happiness, our world. Joni, we love and miss you, and look forward to the day we are reunited in Heaven. Butterfly kisses!