Yesterday morning I found out my friend Jo died. Via Facebook.
I knew Jo was ill & her condition rapidly deteriorating - I had talked with her daughter in San Francisco earlier in the week. But the Inbox message was shocking nonetheless. It’s a sign of the times. Notification via Facebook. I don’t know if it would have been less impacting had there been a phone call.
I have been privileged so far in life – I’ve lost no one close to me other than beloved pets. This is a first & memories have been surfacing since receiving the news. I have cried intermittently. It’s surreal. What do I do with Jo’s address and phone number in my contact list?
At one point when I was crying in my bedroom, my 7-year-old came in and wrapped his arms around me. “It’s just like that in life sometimes, mom. But you still have me.”
He doesn’t remember Jo but she visited him in the ICU after he was born, bringing him his copy of Goodnight Moon. She indulged his piano banging whenever we went ’round her place during his toddler years and she didn’t mind when he pulled out and scattered the cat and dog toys. She was at his 1st birthday party, pouring herself a drink in the kitchen when I stormed in.
“The cake is horrible!” I panicked, my face flaming hot with embarrassment. “Nobody’s eating it. What do I do?” Jo burst into raucous laughter. “Tell them they don’t have to. Let them off the hook,” she suggested.
I met Jo at the dog park when I moved to San Francisco in the 90′s. We both had Golden Retrievers who became thick-as-thieves friends. As publisher & editor of the reputable photo metro photography magazine, she gave me my first literary break as a reviewer of photographic works.
The years progressed and Jo & I attended photography lectures together, hung out in her kitchen, took the dogs for outings at Alamo Square, drove across the Golden Gate Bridge for a Thomas Friedman book signing and we shared. Gossip, hopes, dreams, disappointments, failings, family talk. Jo was there snapping pictures at my City Hall civil marriage and she was there not long after offering refuge and comfort as the marriage went to pieces.
She was always ahead of her time with the latest Mac , scanner and photography gear, trying out digital but hanging onto her decades-old Leica. When she discovered Photoshopping as a means of removing errors, she sat for hours clicking away at dust particles and glitches. The scanning phase…I don’t think there was a plant or flower for miles that didn’t get plucked up and pressed to the screen for scanning & photo-shopping.
Three years ago she was at the other end of the phone line as I sobbed. My Golden Retriever Atticus had died. Two days later she emailed. Her Golden, Chance, had perished suddenly as well. “Attie must have needed Chance.” That comforted me – the thought of perhaps the two of them frolicking together in some parallel universe.
“Rest,” she wrote “knowing that she is no longer in pain and that she will be with you always in the best of ways. Don’t forget the (somewhat schmaltzy) crossing over the rainbow bridge where she will be waiting for you.“
How apt. Jo is no longer in pain. And I hope she has crossed the rainbow bridge to meet her friends waiting on the other side. When it’s my time to cross, I hope she’ll be waiting there for me too.