News of her death last month was a shock. I had just met with her weeks earlier and she was as energetic as ever. As details became known, it became very clear that Jo had a sense all along. She developed plans for her "work" kids to help them cope with her death. These preparations were made months in advance and were incredibly thoughtful. Imagine writing letters to those you care about, knowing the end is near, and still being as dedicated to living as ever. Incredible courage and vitality.
I thought, "Wow, Jo was making new friendships as she was dying." This certainly isn't a rare phenomenon, but it is phenomenal. It's an incredible life lesson: Live life for you, stay in the moment. That's exactly what Jo did, she faced death and kept going. She easily could have retired or isolated herself. She continued living life, for herself and those she cared about. She valued herself.
Jo was the poster child for living in the moment. She blocked out outside and internal distractions, and was able to enjoy the moment for what it was. She could have had a tasty dinner and wondered if this would be her last great meal. Instead she chose to enjoy the meal for what it was, a great meal.
To be honest, I was confused and upset as to why Jo didn't confide in me, I am a psychologist after all. In a way it was shameful and egotistical, but it's how I felt at the time. Then it hit me: it wasn't about me, it wasn't about her, it was about living. Jo didn't let death take control, she lived on her terms. Talking about life expectancies, cell counts, immune systems, would have taken away from her essence of living. She was a genuinely open person, she accepted her fate.
I'm not doing Jo justice, she was more remarkable than words can capture. However, I hope you gained a sense of her spirit and love for life and others. I hope when adversity presents itself and you are feeling hopeless, defeated, and overwhelmed that you find your way and thrive. Regardless of the situation, you can have some sense of control. You have options, just like Jo.
You will certainly be missed. Rest in peace, Jo.
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