You took me under your wing a bit at boarding school. Took me out to stay with your Mum at Gatton on weekends and we played tennis at the university, reassembled Nolan’s Trial jigsaw puzzle and tried for hours and hours to ride your Mum’s Penny Farthings. Laughs! And remember your stepdad teaching us to change a tyre by putting your car up on blocks and taking the wheels off? The first, second, third, fourth (and last) tyre I ever ‘changed!’ Ah.
At uni you introduced me to Akiko. So that the two of us odd balls could keep ourselves occupied while you studied. It was a perfect match. You were a very good and kind girl, Jo. A sensible girl. But I do have a vague memory involving Teacher’s Whiskey… and another time you came with me on a Straddie camping trip. And befriended a couple of 15 year old boys – nice boys who sat on the cliffs with us one evening and apologised for their dad’s pervy nocs and asked you whether girls liked boys who didn’t drink. You said something kind and wise for sure.
Then you went to London and I moved up and down the East Coast. After a few years, you came back and visited me at Newcastle and I was embarrassed about my life of babies and welfare so it was awkward. But I remember first that you were calm and kind as always, and second that you were having the age old difficulty transitioning from a London to a Brisbane life.
When I heard you were so very ill I was so scared, I was paralysed. Cathie gave me your number. Dave made me call even though I didn’t know what to say. But you were perfect Jo. You were calm and kind, sitting with your feet in the bath, splashing your baby girl, breathless but with such love in your voice for your kids, your partner, your brother, your stepmother, your friends, your past, and hopeful for the future. I didn’t have to say anything but tell you I love you and wish you well. Jo, I hope you had at least one friend to share the crap with too. No, I know that you did.
After that conversation I prayed hard to all the gods I don’t believe in that I could give you a year of my life. A good strong vibrant healthy year. Not because I am a good person but because you deserved at least that. And though I hadn’t seen you for years, I could – and still do – trace the impact of your kindnesses, your infinite patience on my life in all directions.
A Christmas and a half later I got another call from Cathie – operation, complication, didn’t wake up, funeral. And such deep deep sorrow.
Jo, in your presence my words stopped jamming up then running together and tripping over themselves and coming out stupid, though when they did you still listened so carefully. In your presence, I was first able to slow down and just breathe.
Thank you Jo.