Remembering Joanna

I am not going to lie, but the past week has been difficult. It has been a hard transition for me to move from Summer to Fall, lounging to responsibilities, house to apartment, and Oregon to NYC. It is during those times — when I feel down and irritable — that I try to remember that everything is relative. At least I am alive and well with my family and loved ones. Unlike Joanna. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about Joanna. On good days, bad days, cherished moments with my children, phone calls with my siblings, walks in the park, and routine activities, Joanna flickers through my mind. It is with a heavy heart that I remember my sister-in-law’s sister, Joanna. Might seem like a convoluted relationship, but she was more than just a distant relative; she was the sister of my brother’s wife as well as a friend, a mother, a daughter, a partner. Although Joanna passed away more than 2 years ago, it seems like yesterday and still brings tears to my eyes. 9 months after she was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia, the world lost her. And what a great loss it was.


Joanna was positive, energetic, sweet, cute, bubbly, loveable, loving, and smiley. She had the most beautiful toothy smile that looked like Carly Simon’s. She was petite and made every garment look like it belonged in a runway show. She was up for anything, energetic, sensitive, and caring. I overlapped with her in NYC for a handful of years, and we not only became friends because our siblings were married to one another, but because we genuinely liked each other. For Pete’s Sake, we went together to Andre Agassi‘s last semi-final at the US Open (my favorite player in my favorite sport in my favorite tournament) — hence, a very special person.


Bigger version. Look at those lips! And eyes! She was a beauty.....but more importantly a good, solid, loving person.

Bigger version. Look at those lips! And eyes! She was a beauty…..but more importantly a good, solid, loving person.


After she left NYC, she met her fiance and had a little baby boy, Myles. Although we didn’t see each other as frequently, we always knew of each others’ whereabouts and kept in touch. Ken and I were so excited for her when she got engaged and were looking forward to her wedding. But a week before their big day, she found out that she was sick and would have to delay her wedding. So cruel and so unfair.


Myles in Late 2011.

Joanna with Myles in late 2011.


It has been incredibly sad watching a young family fall apart. Not only did Toby lose his fiancee, but Myles lost his mother and will grow up not knowing the person who put him on this earth — the pride and joy of Joanna. My stomach gets queasy just thinking about this tremendous loss and how it will affect Myles for the rest of his life.


Myles 2.5 years ago.

Myles 2.5 years ago.


It has also been horrible to see how leukemia took away not only Jojo’s life, but the friendships and relationships she had as well. I am very close with my sister-in-law, Katie. I feel that she is my own sister and best friend. I love her deeply and so it has been sad to see how Katie has suffered by losing her sister. I can’t even begin to imagine losing a sibling, and it has been traumatic seeing this sisterhood torn apart by death.


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When there are days where my kids whine too much, or life seems so unfair, I think back to Joanna and how she fought to stay alive. And yet wasn’t able to. I think about all that she endured — the physical pain, the loss, the struggle.  She fought as hard as she could, and tried everything. And yet, it wasn’t enough…


8 year old photo. Joanna in the orange, KT in the wedding gown.

8 year old photo. Joanna in the orange, Katie in the wedding gown.


Joanna passed away on March 20th, 2012. This is what Katie wrote about her passing: “at two o’clock in the afternoon Joanna passed. She was surrounded by love and luminosity as her breath merged with the breath of the Divine. Baby Joanna was born on 7/7/77 and passed on the Spring Equinox. Immediately after her last breath we all gathered around and sang her baptism song, Morning Has Broken, to welcome Spring and celebrate the release of her body from suffering and hospital life. It was a beautiful Spring day in Boston. Joanna fought for life and would have done anything humanly possible to be here with Myles, Toby and all of us. Let peaceful and loving memories of Joanna’s life fill all of our hearts today and forever. Please take a moment to sing for Jo-Jo.” Please click, to hear the song that brings Joanna’s spirit and memory to life. GULP. Still makes me cry with sadness, pain, grief and regret.


The lovely KT, with her youngest daughter, Nadia, and my daughter, Zoe.

The lovely Katie, with her youngest daughter, Nadia, and my daughter, Zoe. Thankfully, we are alive and able to take care of our children.


So, I am sorry to be such a debbie downer, but it is a good reminder to be thankful for what we have. Two legs, a working heart, a healthy life. Although Joanna is no longer with us, her spirit and story continues to propel me forward and be grateful for LIFE. There is so much to be grateful for.  I send my love to you and yours, and hope you all have a great week.

Anika Yael Natori, aka, The Josie Girl

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  1. A very touching post and an important message. So, so sorry you lost your friend. Reading your post reminds me of loved ones who were taken from me much too soon as well.

    On a lighter note, I love reading your blog! I live here in Eugene and met you when you were in school with my niece Molly many years back. Reading your blog is a perfect way to begin the day. 🙂

    • Thanks so much for commenting on the blog! What a small world! How did you find the blog? And thanks for reading. Eugenians are the best.

  2. I also remember Joanna as such a kind, beautiful and fun person. Life is so hard and unfair sometimes. xoxo

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