I've decided to republish an old post today, as today is the one-year-anniversary of the tragic loss of "the girl who lives within my heart".
Rest in peace darling girl, I miss you...
This is Joanna Jones, or 'Joey' to me.
She's an awesome girl; we met in Sydney nearly ten years ago. I was on a blind date with a flaming-red-haired bass player, a magnetic man who would naturally go on to break my heart (as all bass players do, every now and again).
For our blind date he had invited me to his gig and I had foolishly accepted, surrendering him the upper hand from the word go - he must have known his rendition of Play That Funky Music would send me a little lolly-eyed. And oh it did.
The only other person who stuck out that night was Joey. She was the singer in his band, originally British but living in Australia with her family. Joey was a wild, funny, bright-eyed, spark plug of a girl - and an amazing singer. Bass player had had too much to drink on our blind date so Joey drove me home, and somehow we had become lifelong friends before we'd even reached my house.
It was one of those effortless, instant soul connections... amplified when bass player broke up with me, and Joey nursed me through my crushed heart. She really helped me through a hard, hard time.
When Joey needed a place to live we soon became flatmates, and soon after that, workmates. Joey needed a job to support her singing career, and I had become jaded about the pretentious world of television and wanted out. We decided to become nursing assistants at our local nursing home, specifically, in the dementia ward. It was possibly my life's most rewarding year - working with some of the lovliest, sweetest, people I have ever met - who are now long gone. Joey and I would chat and laugh about our weekend plans and latest boyfriends, while doing the most perilous of tasks. There was toileting, cleaning, showering, and tending to people who died on our shifts. We look back on those times and still can't believe we did it. And I secretly miss it. It was an honourable job.
Soon after, Joey's family were given terrible news... after four years in Australia, their visa had expired and they were required to leave the country. Even though they were a working, tax-paying family of five, Australia wouldn't have them on a permanent basis, and after a series of long-winded appeals - and almost begging at times - they were deported. It was a heartbreaking time - not just for them - but for me. I was losing my closest friend, and I took it hard. Joey and I stayed in close contact over the next couple of years and our friendship wasn't broken. We visited each other, bought calling cards and spoke regularly. Joey always planned to move back to Australia as soon as she had finished her studies, which would have qualified her to do so. An incredibly ambitious girl, she was always working, studying to become a music teacher, and was in a new band in with her sister. Jo worked so hard on her dreams, and with her talent, I was sure she would be rewarded in the end.
The last time we spoke was on Facebook, about two days before April 1st, 2009. I wished Joey luck for her weekend in Venice, a belated Valentine's Day break with her new boyfriend. She had just completed her studies and had finally become a music teacher. Joey never even made it to the airport. While turning into the carpark at the airport, she was caught in a horrific accident and killed instantly. Everybody else in the crash survived. It was B who broke the news, and I remember believing it was some kind of dark April Fools Day joke. It had to be. When I logged into Facebook and saw so many messages of grief, I knew it was real. It was impossible to contemplate. I couldn't imagine never seeing Joey again.
What got me most of all, what kept me awake in tears every night as B stroked my back, was the sheer cruelty of this tragedy. That a 28-year-old girl, who had her whole life ahead of her, that had so much to live for - marriage, children, her music - was all taken from her. She was a sweet, caring soul, who loved animals. She never did anything to harm anybody.
A couple of weeks before this, my boyfriend had been offered the big move to Hong Kong. While I was genuinely considering coming along because I wanted to be with him (plus a chance to explore the world and shake myself up a bit) I had a really good job as an entertainment reporter in Australia that I'd worked incredibly hard to get, and I had been having nightmares about leaving it. I wasn't sure I could.
Joey's premature and tragic death was the one thing that convinced me that there was more to life than interviewing Angelina Jolie. I decided to accept an opportunity that she will never have and see the world. I'm so sorry I never got to tell her as I had been saving it - she would have been so excited!
I don't believe Joey will ever truly be gone... as all lost loved ones do, she lives within the hearts of people who loved her - and as she was... carefree, youthful, healthy, and full of hope. While memories preserve life, the impact of one person's kindness can echo in the world for an eternity. I truly believe that. I miss her. And if I really listen hard, I can hear her singing with the angels.
Wow this has been a really long post! If you have made it this far, thanks so much for reading it.