Panama Jo has sailed into the sunset and I will miss her.
I was not honoured with a very long or very close friendship with her - we lived too far apart for that and too many circumstances intervened as we each navigated the challenges life threw our way in middle age. How much I wished then and wish now that we had been able to grow closer, for I admired her tremendously!
When I met her, she was gamely facing down impending major surgery on her hips and running a B&B in one of the most beautiful surroundings it has ever been my privilege to visit. She had limited mobility at the time, but had exercised considerable ingenuity in arranging things so as to attend very effectively to her duties as "mein host" despite the physical difficulties imposed on her.
I never saw her less than calm, centred, focused and in complete command of herself and every situation that came her way. Still, she pointed frequently to Steve and Dianne as her best supporters and aides de camp, and displayed such pride in her talented and thoughtful children that I sometimes regretted my own childless state out of sheer envy.
The last time I saw her she was very fit and healthy, glowing with strength and pleasure, delighting in her successful hip surgery and walking around my home property with vigor and her characteristic deep joy in sheer living. She was planning things again -- nothing stopped her from planning and looking toward the future, it seems -- and the options she was describing to me for her future encouraged me to dare to follow my own dreams and move ahead. I will always remember her this way, walking through my gardens in the late spring sunshine, dressed in a lively yellow outfit with her distinctive island ambience all around her even in staid old east central Ontario.
I would not have sailed through my own storms without the tenacious example and kind encouragement she gave me. I will not forget her easily, nor cease to thank the benevolent spirits that caused our paths to cross.