I was recently shocked and saddened to find out Jo St Leon, an inspirational writer on Elephant Journal, a mentor and friend to many, had passed away.
Jo came into my life as a mentor when I completed the Elephant Academy in 2020. I was fortunate to have her as one of my mentors and I soon realised there was so much more to this amazing lady. She had written many articles on “Lulu,” the name she had given her lymphoma.
Those articles eventually formed a part of her book, The Light in the Darkness: Musings on Living with Cancer. I remember how proud she was the day her book was published. No doubt that book has helped many others in their battle with cancer. An accomplished musician in the classical music world, having toured the world with her viola and later teaching students her craft, she also wrote music articles. Such a dedicated and talented woman.
As the weeks, months, and years passed by, we supported each other’s writing, and I always felt so honoured when she commented on my articles, as I knew it was always from her heart—a huge and generous heart. She wrote some wonderfully varied articles, from her first date at 62, to her articulated views on things such as Roe vs Wade, to her embarrassment at being scammed, and her lifelong battle with weight. Always authentic and always trying to educate or offer insights to others. And always supporting other writers on their journey.
Last week I was driving and for some reason Jo popped into my head. Connected on Facebook, I often saw Jo’s posts and I realised as I sat there at the traffic lights that I had not seen a post from Jo in months. First thing I did upon arriving home was check when I last spoke with her in Facebook Messenger. It was back in June after a fall she had, and I messaged her to check in. She mentioned she was heading up North for a 10-day retreat, which she was excited about, as she had not been well. Then I checked her Facebook page and my heart sank.
Jo had passed away in July, and for some reason I did not see any of the tribute posts come up in my feed. I sat there for what seemed like the longest time, holding my phone and reading, through my tears, some of the beautiful messages that were posted on her page. And whilst it’s been a few months since her passing, for many of us in the Elephant Journal community, this is all very new.
I had never met Jo in person, only over Zoom and chatting in Messenger. We weren’t lifelong friends or even close friends—as friendships go—but nevertheless she left an impact on me. She checked in when my own mum died in July 2022. She always encouraged me to write and write what needed to be said. She spoke at length with me about my book and how to go about publishing when I’m ready. We formed a smaller community inside this much larger Elephant Journal community, and I always felt so grateful for that.
It’s taken me a week to gather my thoughts and somehow put into words a fitting goodbye to this beautiful soul. I’m a loss and grief counsellor, yet nothing prepares you for loss. Nothing prepares you for discovering the loss of a shining star through a Facebook post and realising her passing slid by without so many of us knowing. Nothing prepares you for that sadness.
But Jo could also be a no nonsense woman and I suspect she would be surprised at how many hearts she touched. How many people felt privileged to know her. How deeply her words resonated. How much value she added. And how fortunate so many feel to have known her. We’ve lost a special lady with so many incredible gifts. I’ve lost her encouraging words on my articles and a genuine friend. The world has lost one of the good ones.
Vale Jo. May the legacy of your words and music continue to inspire and teach people. May your book provide comfort for the many struggling with cancer. May your love and kindness still be felt by those who need it. And may you always be remembered for your special heart and soul.
I will miss you, my mentor and friend.
Please share your stories and memories of Jo in the comments, so we can make this the tribute such a wonderful member of this community deserves.