This week marks the 13thbirthday that will pass since my best friend Jo passed away in a car accident early in 2006. Her birthday is always bittersweet for me. She was a remarkable human being, the kind of person that everyone was drawn to and who had the natural ability to bring people together. Her passing, as most accidents do, took everyone by surprise. It hit me like a sucker punch. Jo was 32 at the time and less than a month away from having her first child. I know without a shadow of a doubt she would have been the most incredible mom to Alex. It wasn’t to be…
Jo’s impact on me was immense. I remember meeting her when I was 14. She was a couple of years older than me, but we had an instant connection. We were almost inseparable for many years that followed until she moved to the USA to pursue a career in the hospitality industry. We engineered many crazy adventures together in the afternoons after school, during the holidays and over weekends. We documented these adventures in photographs shot on 35mm film and crafted home-made cassette tape mixes for Jo’s car. I often hear a song now from one of those tapes and it transports me straight back to those times. Looking back I realize how simple life was back then. I can’t help but smile, every time.
We also ran hundreds of kilometers together and my deep love of running was cultivated on the roads around her home as we shared our thoughts on life, love and everything else while training. I was never as strong or fast as she was, but she never left me behind. Next year when I cross the Comrades finish line in Pietermaritzburg, I’ll be fulfilling a 27-year-old promise that I made to her to run the race.
Every single one of the thousands of memories I have of Jo and things we did are positive. We never had a disagreement about anything. We laughed from the deepest parts of us. So why the bittersweet feeling?
The truth is that I never imagined a world without Jo in it and I don’t ever recall telling her what she meant to me in all the years I knew her. I absolutely adored her, but I realize now that I took her and our friendship for granted, in the sense that I just assumed she’d always be around. Losing her didn’t just bring the usual feelings of grief and loss, but also feelings of guilt. She was a beautiful woman inside and out and I never told her just how much I admired, appreciated and loved her when I had the opportunity to. I thought I had forever…
Life is short and we never know what the hours ahead of us hold. Appreciate the people around you and make sure they know they’re loved, appreciated and cared about. Even if you think they already know, it takes nothing to tell someone or leave a note for them letting them know how you feel. There’s no forever. Make today count.
#LIVELIFELOVELIFE #liveinthemoment #bebetteratbeingbetter #payitforwards #ShiftHappens