For Jo

I was in my truck on my break at work, talking on the phone with Eve about our friend, Joanna, and the last stretch of her long journey. She had been admitted to hospice the evening before. Eve mentioned Jo’s affinity toward dragonflies. I didn’t know this about her, and I wish I did, seeing as my own totem is the praying mantis. A dragonfly flew toward the windshield of my truck, hovered there for a moment or two, and flew away.

I later found out this happened mere minutes after Jo passed away.

I ask myself now, hours after the dragonfly zipped up to me and flew off, whether my mind made the connection or if it meant something deeper. I always look for signs in the comings and goings of insects, so I believe the latter, but would it really be so bad if the former were true instead? If the dragonfly’s random location and timing were truly random and I imagined that it had some spiritual connection to Jo, would it mean any less? I think not.

I debated whether or not to write and post something about Jo. What can I say about the woman who meant so much to so many people? She was a good friend to anyone she came into contact with, even if only words on a screen were exchanged. She supported my writing and inspired me not to quit, even when it looked like nothing would ever come of it. I made her a character in one of my books (thanks to an anonymous donation), and she really pulled the entire story together. The story would have a huge gap in it if it weren’t for the fictional manifestation as Jo, and it speaks volumes of the person that even the fictional version could do so much. The funny part is that I don’t think she ever read that book.

She called herself Optimistic Doom, and the name was fitting. She knew she was doomed, but she never lost her optimism. She never stopped being Jo or her Twitter personality of Doomy. She had a selfless attitude despite the hand she was dealt.

I remember when I heard the cancer came back. I sent her a message, telling her I was sorry to hear it. She told me not to be. She said she was going to kick its ass. I heard people talk about ordeals with cancer as if we’re fighting an epic war against it. You always here about someone beating cancer or losing the battle. I never knew what that truly meant until I saw Jo fight against her own so bravely.

I loved her spirit. I remember when she got into arguments with people on Twitter. They were always epic. The one that sticks out to me the most is when she went against the guy who was using Breast Cancer Awareness Month to talk various Twitter women to send him pictures of their tits for his background. She ended up posting a picture of her own post-mastectomy topless picture with a caption that read: “Because cancer isn’t ‘cute’ or ‘fun’. It deforms. It kills. Think Pink? No.” That took balls, and I admired her more than ever for it. I’ll never not retweet that when it comes up. It put every attention-seeking, cleavage-showing bitch to shame.

I know there will be tweets or post or casual obituaries that will say she lost her battle with cancer, but I don’t think that’s true. Cancer my have taken her life, but it never beat her. She walked tall, having few moments of doubt and anguish, but the cancer didn’t win. She stared death in the face, flipping him the bird, even as he came to take her. She was a warrior, and in my mind and heart she remains, and will always remain, undefeated.

A few paragraphs will never do her life justice. She was a loyal friend, a loving mother, a beautiful human being, an inspiration, an angelic warrior. I can throw as many adjectives and adverbs out there as possible, but I can never put into words what Joanna Mace was and still is. It’s a testament to her immortal spirit that this writer found something he can’t put into words, but she would love that I tried.

I’m going to finish this piece how I started it: with the dragonfly.

It’s said that the dragonfly carries the wisdom and enlightenment of transformation and adaptability, the essence of wind and change. It reminds you to bring more lightness and joy into your life. Those who personify the dragonfly delve deeper into their emotions and shine their true colors.

I’ll think of Joanna every time a dragonfly zips on by.

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