Jojo Cheung (née Young)
25 April 1975 - 9 March 2015
Darling Jojo, my Mamoon, I'd rather be anywhere than here reading this. But given I can't change what has happened I am instead honoured to stand before so many of your loved ones.
I feel the great weight of responsibility to do my friend justice with my words. I mean how does one speak in regard to death of someone who was so unbelievably effervescent and full of life? Flirty, cheeky life?! As it is I am still shaking off the shock, as I'm sure you all are, and part of me still thinks she and I will be having a beer together after this, laughing at some nonsense or other and dissecting human nature. Like the rest of you I'm sure, my head is resolving this news while my heart is refusing to catch up.
Jojo and I have been mistaken as sisters by random baristas for as long as I can remember. I was always flattered to be observed as even vaguely similar to the carefree glamour next to me. I once compiled a list of attributes of my friends I'd like to emulate more. Aside Jo's name I had written COURAGE. It was early on in her breast cancer fight so of course courage was the obvious choice then, but it wasn't just recent events that had made me write that. She had courage and confidence of the innate kind. Attributes the divine miss Daisy has inherited. It was always Jojo that strode into a party with me bluffing my way behind her. Crazy, feisty Jojo, with her head tilted ever so slightly up and to the side as if to tell the boys, 'Look, don't come at me with anything but your best ok?!' She was so utterly cool our Jojo. Cool without the ego. She had that no bull energy which was such a striking counter to her femininity. She walked into a room and people took notice. It was always thus.
One of my favourite memories was when Jo and Jools came to stay at my place in the Byron hinterland many years ago, pre weddings and babies. After a long drive in their camper they arrived to my cheers and, driving a bit too enthusiastically into the carport, the van roof smashed the overhead light. It was an almighty noise and a comical and out there entrance, so classic and so typical of Jojo!
How I miss the Bondi days with Jojo and her cat, called, of course, Cat. We were carefree and loving life, content to study and party, study and party. She never tired of creating challenging conversation with random humans. She loved people and people loved her. She was a natural born extrovert, and when Facebook was born, boy did she love that! Speaking of social media, she once posted to Facebook after a night out with me, Trav and Jet. 'Bondi', she said, 'You ain't nothing but perfect, irrepressible, irresistible trouble.' Just like you Jojo, I thought! Incidentally, that night was the last night out we had together. Very shortly after, she received the news that changed everything.
Changed everything but her strong spirit that is. She never lost herself when she became a mum, when she married Jools, or even when she was diagnosed, she just became more of herself. It takes a strong woman, a self-assured woman, to hold true to herself through life's biggest changes, both good and bad. Her cancer battle saw her develop such stoicism, I was in constant awe. What a warrior she was. She displayed such grace under all that pressure and didn't complain nearly as much as she could have. She even managed to keep her trademark cheeky wit. I can only imagine how the nurses would've loved her. This beautiful radiant woman bravely telling cancer where it could stick it! She was naturally ballsy and she met her year long challenge in the truest definition of the word - she was determined and courageous. Talk of not beating the cancer was forbidden. She would've been forgiven for falling apart, for complaining and giving in to fear. But she never did. Beyond that she never faltered in her support of those she loved. She carried on being that kick arse friend who went above and beyond, who was so extraordinarily generous, despite feeling so sick and drained. Sometimes I forgot she was in the fight of her life due to the fact that she was just so NORMAL.
Jojo was a rare creature. She really KNEW her friends. She understood her friends because she loved and observed them. She was present in her conversations. She listened. Not to respond in quips, but to truly understand and advise, and that is a rare quality. I talk of her guts, and yes she was ballsy it's true, but always without sacrificing her delicacy and calm. She was staunch but with softness, and she always spoke her mind and was sometimes honest to a fault but never without tact and her natural empathy. Ultimately, she was the best of all things, in perfect balance.
She simply adored her little family. Jools, darling Daisy, you were 'her Leos'. Daisy's beaming face on your wedding day, not even a few short years ago, will forever be etched in my memory. That and the fantastic chinese dragon she surprised you with. Quintessential Jojo really. I always loved how she loved you both and how demonstrative she was about it. When we were all last hanging out on new years day this year, she and I were chatting and she saw you, Jools, simply reading your paper and said, 'one sec Mamoon, I just need to tell Chuggy I love him', and up she got. Dearest Daisy, Jools, Pam, Dale, Simon and Nicky, you will continue to miss her terribly I'm afraid. It's impossible not to. I know how proud of her you all are and I like to think of you all having your own private angel watching over and guiding you now.
A friend of mine in Byron teaches a little Year 3 student who wrote this poem in class the day Jo left us. He wrote, 'I'm flying free in Mother Nature's palms, I am happy. And now that Mother Nature is watching over me I am happy, fun and loving.' Jojo would have gone nuts over this poem, and it resonated when I read it as it's how I like to think of her now... happy and free, loving and fun, in mother natures protective palms.
When Jojo was studying naturopathy, she and I were having one of our marathon phone calls. We were talking science as only two closet nerds can do, and the subject of the chat, gut flora, is now irrelevant, but her clever phrasing in reference to that subject - to weed, seed and feed - I have always remembered. It was so catchy! So perhaps it is a good phrase for us all to recall now in her wake. It is up to us all now, in our own time, to WEED out the sorrow, the grief, and anything else so un-Jojo that we may have in our hearts. We need to SEED our souls now instead with the positive stuff, the knowledge that our friend, wife, mother, daughter and sister, is in peace and restful bliss, a place without any struggle; and then we must all FEED that knowing with our own individual memories of the divine Mrs Cheung. Our hearts must be so well nourished by these memories that they grow and expand to spread the love and light she was so good at shining on us all. That is what she would want. That, and for you to check your boobies!
I will love and miss you forever Mamoon.