Our beloved Jill slipped away quietly on Monday. We were surrounding her bed, us dinosaurs and Sara. Shaz was holding Jill’s hand as we sat and told stories and laughed and reminisced about how we met her, the places we had worked, how Jill had touched us and what she had taught us.
Jill turned her life around in 1977 when she stopped drinking alcohol. She enthusiastically got into recovery and dedicated her life to helping others, professionally in alcohol and other drug services, and in her personal life.
Jill was a friend to the halt and lame, the downtrodden and stigmatised. An AOD version of Mother Theresa perhaps, transmitting hope to broken souls? Except she didn’t wear white, she smoked cigarettes, drank lots of good coffee, had great hair and gave people the fingers. Many people who came into her orbit do call her ‘Mumma’ though…
Jill gave people a chance. She extended a helping hand, communicated clear boundaries and took no shit. She held people accountable, and did so without shaming or blaming. Jill loved working with people affected by addiction and because of her personal experience, knew that recovery was possible. She was kind, consistent, predictable in her work, showing by her example that it was possible to behave well and treat people with respect no matter the situation or where they came from. A first time experience for many who came through her doors full of self judgement and shame. She was a brilliant assessor and clinician, able to meet people where they were at, not imposing a fixed idea onto them. She loved the work and it showed.
Jill was a good friend and life member of the select group ‘the dinosaurs’ some of whom stand here with me. We meet regularly over a meal to discuss the state of the nation in the AOD sector, support each other, talk about ourselves, eat and laugh and maybe do a spot of shopping. Jill would order a dessert which she ate while waiting for her main meal.
Jill was loved by many and she had many loves. Some being her daughters, Joanna and Sara. Her beloved grandchildren. Roy. Desserts. Music. Cats. Friends. Shopping. Reading. Good coffee. Clothes. Movies. Colleagues. Being in recovery. Cigarettes. Good food. Clients. AA.
She was courageous, warm, funny, stylish, super smart, compassionate and authentic. What you saw was what you got. I love that.
Jill showed up for her life and let herself be seen. That takes great courage and daring. That’s what she taught us. Thank you Jill xx