Thursday, April 14, 2011

James, Joanna and the Highway

One of my best friends in the world is a man.  His name is James.  When we first met we hated each other - like, really, really despised each other so much we couldn't stand to be around one another.  For years.  Then, I had a falling out with another friend, Dan, who was James' roommate at the time.  The falling out was over something very, very stupid that spiralled out of control fast and involved the loss of pretty much that whole friend group.  One day I went over to their house to drop off a few things that belonged to Dan but he wasn't home and James was there instead.  James said he wanted me to know he didn't agree with everyone else and he felt I hadn't done anything wrong.  That meant so much to me at the time, especially coming from someone who hated me.  A while later, I learned he also stood up for me at a party where everyone was bashing me and I wasn't there to defend myself.  That took a big person to do - standing up to all your friends for someone you don't even like because you think they're being unfair.

I decided maybe I had this James pegged all wrong, after all, so I called him and asked him if he wanted to hang out.  All of a sudden, it was totally different!  We got along SOOO well!  We made each other laugh so hard our bellies hurt and we had such a great time together - I couldn't believe it.  In no time at all, we were the best of friends and couldn't figure out why we had never gotten along before (here's a hint:  we *may* have disliked traits in each other that were very similar to traits we possessed, as well).

Over the years, James grew to be a very close friend and confidant to me.  We supported each other through many tough times and enjoyed many good times together, too.  James was in our wedding party and never fails to call me, even if he's on the other end of the country working or we're too busy to get together for months at a time.  We can always pick up where we left off.  We can be honest with one another about everything, never having to beat around the bush or pussy foot around things.

James, like many people, comes from a broken home.  He has been on his own since he was 15 and had his share of hard knocks in the 18 years since then.  He has lost many loved ones, including his step father and his step mother.  His sister and mother have had many health problems over the years, as well.

James, like many people (including myself) made mistakes in his youth and has a son he cannot have a relationship with.  He has grown immensely as a person since that dark time in his life and deeply mourns the lost relationship with his child.  He adores children and children adore him.  Even my very shy son who makes strange with his own grandmother all the time doesn't hesitate to go to James cheerfully and James always welcomes him with a beaming grin and open arms, kissing him on the forehead, breathing in his scent and holding him tight.

James, like many people (including myself) has had many relationships over the years, searching for 'the one'.  He has had much heartbreak through this journey, too and I've done my best to support him and see him through, knowing that he wants to have a lasting relationship and a family.

James, like many people (including myself) found what I believe is 'the one' for him a couple of years back.  Joanna is the perfect compliment to him.  She doesn't mind his busy-bodying, his perpetual tardiness, his compulsive need to clean and organise everything.  She loves his quirkiness and his 'take no prisoners' approach to life.  She loves his roundabout way of doing things and his very strange sense of humour.  She is not jealous of his closeness to me in the slightest.  She accepts him exactly as he is and does not have one ounce of judgement for him or any of his past mistakes in her oh-so-sweet heart.  She is truly a gem and a treat to be around.  From the moment I met her, I loved her and knew she was the right girl for James, despite his being 11 years her senior.  I was so glad he found her, both for him and because I like her so much, too.  She  is crazy for him and has followed him around our fair nation for work, living anywhere and everywhere, to be with him.  The kindness, sweetness, fun and joy in this girl knows no bounds.  Her laid back attitude and 'come what may' approach to life is the perfect compliment to James' personality and the two are truly a special pair.

When James phoned me this morning to tell me Joanna was hit by a car on Henderson Highway and killed yesterday afternoon my heart absolutely shattered for him.

Fuck that the world does this.  She was only 22.  TWENTY TWO.  They were just here on the weekend, borrowing our truck to get a new bed for the bedroom they just renovated.  She was talking to me about their future and when they'll have a family.  She was telling me how much she loves James and how great it is to be with him.  I can't stop sobbing thinking of these lovers divided.  I can't stop thinking about James and his big loving heart that he usually hides (from too much hurt), all raw and exposed now, choking back tears on the phone, telling me, "She was my sweet princess."  I can't stop thinking about what her last moments were like, what she might have been thinking, how frightened she must have been, the pain she must have experienced, the confusion and sadness...  I can't stop thinking about her family, mourning their TWENTY TWO year old daughter's death.  I can't stop thinking about all the FUCKING ASSHOLES out there who are sailing through life, screwing everyone in their paths and how this ABSOLUTE GEM of a young woman has been stolen from us.  I can't stop thinking about what the last thing her and James said to one another might have been (how I yearn for it to have been, "I love you.")  I can't stop thinking about how I would feel if my husband didn't come home today.

Joanna was crossing the street.  It appears the person who hit her wasn't even looking and didn't even apply the brakes before unintentionally taking the life from her, forever removing her from this world and all those that adored her.

**UPDATE: The 18 year old male who hit her has been charged with criminal negligence causing death.  Racing is suspected.  Several eye-witnesses said the crosswalk lights were flashing and vehicles in the outer two lanes had already stopped.  He changed lanes to the median and didn't see the flashing lights or Joanna.  His life, too, is forever changed due to one single lapse in judgement.  How many 18 year olds drive recklessly?  I'd venture to guess 80% or more take risks with vehicles in the first years of having their drivers' licenses.  This young man was no different than many others - except that his fun ended abruptly and with death.  If he has any conscience at all, I'm sure he'll never get over this.  Charging him, incarcerating him, admonishing him; none of these things can bring Joanna back, nor can they clear her from his mind.

Please, please, PLEASE - I implore you - never walk away from someone you care for without telling them you love them.  No matter how mad you are, no matter what happens, no matter what they have done - tell them YOU LOVE THEM before you part because they may never return.  Please appreciate everyone in your life, today and every day.  Too often we get ground down by the day to day stuff of life and forget to relish in the joy of those dearest to us. 

Please, too, most importantly, don't be distracted while you're driving.  I'm sure this person who took Joanna's life is a good person with a good heart and loved ones, too.  I cannot imagine having to bear the knowledge that you took life, however unintentionally, for the rest of your days.

Sweet Joanna, please know that you are loved as you pass to the next stage of existence.  Please know that you were cherished and will forever be cherished in the hearts of many.  Please know that your love and acceptance of my dear, dear friend James softened his heart and changed him for the better.  Please know that we will miss you sorely - so sorely.

Lastly, enjoy this new adventure you've embarked on.

James, please know that you are such a cherished friend to me and that I love you; when your heart hurts, my heart hurts.  Words cannot say but I am telling you with my heart.

Much love.  Love, love love.


  1. That was a beautiful tribute Amy. I can't even imagine, it's a terrible terrible loss.

  2. Passionately written. What a terrible loss. Sending you strength.

    Also, great new blog look. Looking forward to hearing more from you.


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