I hope these life stories offer you a little inspiration
Grief has been a journey for me. Much has changed, yet still many things remain the same. If you ever find yourself saying “Someday I’ll…” I encourage you to read some of my life stories below to help you turn those great intentions into actions.
Today is your day! I hope that my journey will help you on your journey too.
It’s an honour when you show your love and appreciation
I have always taken the time to tell people in my life how much they mean to me. It is mostly on birthdays, anniversaries, or other special occasions. I am always especially careful to find the right words to express my feelings of appreciation in a card; sometimes in a poem or together with a piece of art.
I too received heartfelt messages from my husband, friends and even my children, once they were able to express themselves. It is an honour to receive sentiments of love and appreciation from a loved one.
But it wasn’t until I experienced some devastating news, when life took an unexpected turn that I found healing through expression.
It is always the right time to show your appreciation for a loved one. Perhaps the sharing of my story will inspire you to do it now, rather than wait for some day that may never come.
One little moment can have a huge impact
All it takes is one moment and one’s life stories can change paths completely – sometimes by choice, and sometimes by chance.
When my best friend since childhood was diagnosed with glioblastoma (brain cancer) – that moment changed everything. The ripple effect was unstoppable, affecting the lives of so many.
We all deal with tragedy differently; perhaps we react based on our personality. I am a ‘Helper’, a ‘Fixer’ and as described by the Enneagram Institute, a ‘Helper’ is caring, demonstrative, generous and people-pleasing. This did NOT help me however. The period following the diagnosis was a blur. I felt an unsettling pull at my core, this insatiable need to make things right. When I sat in the hospital room with Joanne, her husband and her doctor, I learned that fixing this was not an option. I was in shock and left with only one option – love. Let me explain.
As a fixer, my equilibrium was off kilter. The feelings were overwhelming and unsettling. My heart felt like a balance scale that teetered between high highs and low lows: emotional highs of anger at this not being fair, to the lows of emptiness, devastation and disappointment.
I decided to show my appreciation
A few weeks later, driven by the need to fix the imbalance, I had an idea! The ONLY thing that I could do in addition to being there of course, was to let her know the impact Joanne had on us while here in this world. When I started to think about how lucky I was to have had Jo in my life for almost 45 years, a wave of gratefulness washed over me – a feeling of warmth, comfort and contentment. The countless memories, the priceless moments, the meaningful life lessons, the adventures, the knowing that she was always there for me and me for her – it was a true unconditional love that we shared… I felt lucky! It was this overwhelming love I felt that made me decide to express in a personalized book. A gift that I could give her that told her how felt.
Everyone has at least one story to tell about someone who means the world to them – this is one of mine.
These are some of our life stories…
Joanne has always been my inspiration…ever since we were little girls. My family lived 5 houses down the street from hers. Maybe it was my brilliant red hair that made her notice me…who knows? But I truly believe that it was fate that she invited me to her 6th birthday party. I was only 4. As school age kids, one grade makes quite a difference, but Jo and I were kindred spirits from the start.
With creativity and imagination at our core, our shyness to the world of people who didn’t know us kept us from branching out too far. We spent many a day (outside of school) playing board games, playing make believe, dressing up, building forts, putting on puppet shows, making crafts, painting ceramics and laughing our faces off. At what? I don’t remember but I do remember us both laughing so hard to the point that no sound would come out at all. And that would make us laugh even harder.
She would always say ‘sure’ to my elaborate visions and plans and with her help and talents, things always came to fruition. Even when she said “you’re crazy”, she would always dive right in to help. Joanne believed in me and we created lots of things together, we even made a swimming pool in my backyard… well it was more of a wading pool. With wooden garden stakes and a roll of polyurethane, we made a pool that fit the two of us perfectly. Like two peas in a pod. And we sat in it all day with great satisfaction and a sense of accomplishment.
It is important to reflect on the memories
Our life stories together are what keep me thinking positively. I always looked up to Joanne and tried to model myself after my best friend. She was like the big sister I never had. The difference was however, that we never, ever fought. We would freely share clothes, meals at each other’s houses, and even a few family weekend trips too. Not to worry… we never shared boys. Funny thing though, we both ended up with Jeffs (my husbands name is Jeff and her husband’s last name is Jeffs).
Joanne invited me on weekend camping trips with her parents in the Watts VW camper van. I was introduced to outhouses, comfort stations, the Coleman stove, water snakes, canoeing and Kilarney Stew!! And in turn, she accompanied my family on trips to the exciting city of Montreal.
We had our own friends in our respective grades at school, but neither of us had another friend who shared all the same interests and likes that we both enjoyed. We shared a lot of memories: horseback riding camp in the summers, mucking out the horse stalls and hauling the bails of hay at the Sparks Farm behind my house, cottaging on our own at my uncles cottage (the payment for which was completing a thorough spring cleaning and that meant lots of mice poop — Joanne was not afraid of much).
I introduced Jaonne to sewing and we started out making clothes for our dolls. As teenagers, we graduated to creating the latest fashions for ourselves and later on our own wedding dresses… always turning the ideas in our heads into reality. She was always so detailed. She made things look perfect.
Cherish True Friendship
Joanne’s friendship and love had a way of making a person feel beautiful in a world that can sometimes make you feel the opposite. A friend’s love sees the beauty within and builds up your confidence — we did that for each other. So much so that we even were so bold to try our hand at modelling. Joanne was beautiful… like a butterfly. Often times she didn’t see it and that is what made her even more beautiful.
I always marveled at Jo’s many talents and skills. One thing in particular… Joanne was so organized. She was an inspiration to a little girl whose room was always a disastrous mess. My mother appreciated Joanne’s influence of course. On occasion, I would take everything out of my room and carefully put things back together. I was inspired by Joanne’s unspoken model…there is a place for everything and everything has a place.
Appreciating what I learned
I also remember she would come back after her summer family camping trips with souvenirs that she had collected along the way. She had stories about everything and could make a little stone from the BC coast or sand from a beach in PEI feel like treasures. It was all about the presentation. Over the years she collected many cherished souvenirs which you can see displayed artistically and carefully in Rob and Jo’s home and pictures… So many pictures in albums that beautifully document all of her life’s stories and experiences.
Her artistic abilities, which came so naturally to Jo, were also an inspiration to me. It was as a teenager in high school that her true talents started to flourished. After completing a Graphic Design Program, she worked at a graphic design studio where she did production art with a faultless skill and precision. When I finished university, I got a job at the design studio too, thanks to Jo’s introductions. Best friends… after all the years of being in different grades, and cities during university, we worked together famously for two years before I moved to Toronto.
I have been blessed with a true friend in this life. A gift and a blessing that cannot be measured, compared nor explained. Our spirits have been intertwined since we were little girls. We share many of the same life stories too! Our connection was always far stronger than the physical distance that came between us after I moved away to Toronto. I have always asked myself, how did I get so lucky?
For all the times I spent with Joanne, up until and including the moment I said good-bye, she was my inspiration. And she always will be.
Joanne’s gift to me
Joanne just had a way of making you feel good. She showed us what it is to be dedicated to the special people in our lives; especially her husband whom she loved dearly and felt so grateful to have found him. Jo was a wonderful example of what it looks like to deal gracefully and practically with what challenges come your way. Thanks to her, I now get excited about chocolate and Baileys on a hot summer’s night at the cottage or a great guacamole dip and chips before dinner. In every visit, whether in Ottawa, Toronto, Florida or Italy, she brought to light something new and exciting. She taught me to live in the moment. Be practical about things. To take time, have patience and pay close attention to the details — all inspirations for living.
Joanne will never be further than your thoughts
I want to tell everyone who misses her terribly (and I am speaking from the experience of having lived apart from her for 25 years) her roots run deep and with a profound impact. She had a way of getting into your head and your soul. Joanne will never be further than your thoughts. She will be present when you share with others her life stories.
She will be in every flower you see, chickadee that sits on a branch by your window, tomato that you pick from your garden, butterfly that flutters by, in every sunset, sunrise and all those picture perfect moments that capture the ideal vision of a season.
Joanne lives on in our children who got to know her too and they will share these values with their children and so on.
For if we all slow down and take the time to literally smell the roses, feed the birds, savour good food, appreciate life’s simple moments, laugh and dare to be silly at times, and most importantly love deeply, honestly, sincerely and with our whole heart, we will be honouring Joanne’s legacy.
Express your appreciation
Joanne continues to be my inspiration. Little did I know at that time, but she would be the inspiration and the reason for my determination to build createLIFEBOOKS into a business. The book I created for her, sparked my interest in helping others create books for the people that mean the world to them. If you want to learn more about how you too can create a LIFEBOOK for someone, please take a look at options here.
When you createLIFEBOOKS, you are inspired to capture the stories of life, love and appreciation that make up the essence of a person.. Many have said that the journey is as rewarding as the final book itself. If you feel inspired and would like to turn love or potentially grief that you are experiencing into gratitude with a lifestory book, please reach out to me. I would love to help.
And for weekly inspirations about life, people, friends and taking time to be grateful, follow us on instagram @createLIFEBOOKS