I had a few days to reflect on the impact this horrible disease has on the people it effects as well as those around the person with it. For those of you who do not know what it is please take the time to read about it on the link below and donate whatever you can.
I have recently lost a friend to ALS.
My friend Jo-Anna Downey has lost her battle with ALS on December 1st. She was amazing person with so so much love. When she talked to you it was like she only talking to you and taking in every word. She had the best laugh. Anyone who knew her or was in the same room as her knew and loved that laugh.
I wanted to write about the first time I really met her. I probably met her before that night but I really remember it. I was in High School and I had to either go to school in the morning or I had to work on the weekend. Either way, my parents had some friends over and it was late and I was woken up by the noise. I went down in my PJ’s and I went into the kitchen to tell them to shut up and instead of yelling at them like I normally would, there was Jo. She came over to me and yelled”my baby” and gave me the biggest hug. We spent the next hour or so chatting in the kitchen. The talk in the kitchen I’m not even sure what we talked about now but I know after that I always looked forward to seeing Jo and having a chat.
Because my dad is a comedian I spent a lot of time going to see comedians perform and Jo-Anna was always one of my favs. I loved all her open mic’s at Spirits and the Eton Tavern. And when I took the Event Planning program at George Brown College and we had to do an event I of course chose a comedy night and I knew I needed Jo to be our host. She did an amazing job as did all the comedians that night that I made volunteer for our event.
The GBC event Get Lei’d photo by Ryan Visima.
Every time I saw Jo she would say “my baby” and give me a big loving hug. I will always love her. At an age when you think you know everything and not everything and everyone is cool. She was alway so cool. I always looked forward to seeing her, getting a big hug and to have a little chat. I loved hearing her laugh and not knowing where she actually was. You knew it was her laughing and you automatically would laugh yourself when you heard her.
I found out Jo was diagnosed with ALS while I was living in Ireland. That was over 3 years ago. She deteriorated fast and it was heartbreaking. The woman who had the ability to make people laugh and help those starting out or just practising stand up and to have her voice taken away was absolutely horrible. I saw her a few times when I was home visiting and I would give her a big hug but our chats no longer happened. I really miss those.
Jo at my Mom’s surprise 50th birthday.
When the Ice bucket challenged happened I was more than happy to contribute. I really made me want to do what I could. And thankfully all the money raised with the challenge it made a difference.
I am so sad that Jo is gone but also happy that she is now free and able to watch over all of those who love her and laugh her amazing laugh wherever she may be.
RIP Jo aka Mama