Learning About Me

Ejo #123 – Anniversary

One year ago today I was snuggled up in a very cosy bed, in a small hotel in the Sololaki neighbourhood of Tbilisi, Georgia, sleeping off a horrendous hangover after a night of cavorting. We had a 5pm flight back to Dubai that afternoon, and plans for a very lazy morning. I did hear my phone buzz a couple of times during the night, but definitely wasn’t in any hurry to check my messages. At around 8.30am I got up for a quick dash to the toilet and casually glanced at my phone as I lay back down in bed. There were a couple of messages from my sisters, but more alarmingly my youngest sister Pieta had tried to call me. I called her right back and asked her, “What’s going on, is everything OK?” trying to ignore the mounting, irritating sense of anxiety in the pit of my stomach. I can’t remember exactly how she started the sentence – something about Mum being prepared for emergency surgery. But the world stopped when I heard the words, “She didn’t make it”.

Sometimes, the brain knows and doesn’t know, at the same time. My brain heard what my sister said, but definitely didn’t want to compute what it meant. In a two second period, my brain tried to convince me that the surgery had been called off, for some reason. That my Mum didn’t make it to the operating theatre because… she’d been moved to another ward, the hospital had been evacuated, the doctors had rescheduled the surgery. Anything.  Any other translation.  On another level my brain grasped that my Mum was gone. And so, my adrenal glands shot adrenaline into my circulatory system; causing my pupils to dilate and my muscles to tighten to the point of shaking. Causing my heart to race and my breathing to became shallow. I sat up in bed, ramrod straight. I could suddenly see everything in the room in the sharpest of detail, all the colours brighter. I could actually hear a conversation outside our window, even though I couldn’t understand the words. I heard a motorcycle starting up. “What do you mean?” I asked Pieta. I can’t remember her response. In a state of fight or flight, I desperately reached for words. “Is Mum dead?” I needed to hear the word no. I can’t remember the response, but it wasn’t no. The response, whatever it was, was not one which my reptilian brain recognised. I asked Pieta again… “Is Mum dead?” There was a pause, and this time the answer was yes.  Our Mum had died.

I think this is the point at which I went into shock. I cannot remember the rest of the conversation. David reckons I said the word fuck, several times.  That seems about right.  I cannot remember saying goodbye to my sister. I know I didn’t cry, not right away. Not yet. I remember just being confused. My brain simply refusing to comprehend. I remember turning to David and saying, “I don’t understand” over and over again. I remember looking into his eyes and not even really recognising him. I remember curling into a ball in bed and holding onto my husband for dear life. And I remember wailing. I remember actually willing my body to go back to sleep, wishing for the blissful oblivion of sleep. And my body complying, shutting down.  Thank god.  I drifted in and out for a couple more hours. Wailing every time I gained consciousness, every time I woke up to the nightmare of remembering. And finally, the tears did come. Sobs that racked my whole body. And, “I don’t understand” on a loop. Over, and over again.

I don’t understand. I don’t understand.

We had to check-out of the guesthouse at midday, so I do remember having to get up and shower. Like a robot would shower. Knowing how to shampoo, when to rinse, programmed to scrub the right spots for the right amount of time (maybe a little longer than the right amount of time), eyes glazed. I remember having to pack, somehow I packed. I remember checking out, my eyes red and swollen from crying. Smiling when the lady asked if we’d enjoyed our stay. Knowing that she must have heard the cries of despair emanating from our room all morning. Not caring.

We left our bags at reception and wandered the grey, bleak streets of the city. For hours. I wasn’t hungry but I drank Georgian wine. A lot of it. I wanted to blot out the pain, but of course this was pain that couldn’t be blotted. David was wonderful, of course. He arranged time off work and booked us on the first available flights back to Melbourne. I remember being at Tbilisi airport, crying uncontrollably and not caring about all the people looking at me, with discomfort. I don’t remember the flight back to Dubai. I do know that I cried so much, my eyes swelled shut. I didn’t care.

This is grief. This is what the death of a loved one looks like. I bet if I asked my sisters for their account of the same day, it would be similarly full of details and blurs. I hate that it’s been a whole year since this day happened. I hate that the magnitude of it slips away, day by day.  I no longer cry myself to sleep (much), but I still feel the bewilderment and dissonance of the finality of my Mum’s death. I still don’t understand. A small part of me is used to not seeing my family for a year at a time, and that part of my mind is going to get a real fucking shock when it realises that this is it. There is no next time. She’s not there anymore. The house is sold. There are other people living in it. Walls have been knocked down. The world has continued to turn, without my Mum. An entire part of my life is gone. Forever. The world still turns.

This morning I sniffed a bottle of my Mum’s favourite perfume. Her signature scent, Lulu. It smells like her, but… not really. My Mum’s pink sweater still does smell like her, but, after a year, that scent is fading. As though everything about her is retreating further away. Is grief misplaced love? Love with nowhere to go? Maybe. It sometimes feels like that. A dead person is just a memory, a concept. Loving a real person is expansive, it’s infinite. Loving a dead person is an exercise in futility. I don’t believe that my Mum can still hear me or see me.  I don’t believe that she’s still around. I wish that I did. I’m sure that would bring me some comfort. What I do believe is that I hold all the love she ever gave me, I hold it all in my heart. And I hold it very, very close. It’s all I have left of her.  And that’s something that will never fade.

60

My beautiful Mum.  I love you so much. I miss you more than anything.

 

Ejo #122 – Fuck You, Facebook

Facebook.  You’ve heard of it, right?  It’s the social networking site that, since 2005, has become so widespread and popular, we can’t even imagine life without it.  Considering it’s been on the market for fifteen years, Facebook’s interface certainly hasn’t improved in line with its explosive popularity – mostly because it hasn’t needed to.  Facebook’s appeal lies not in the way it looks, or performs, but rather, in how it makes you feel.  It is systematically designed to be addictive, to administer micro-doses of feel-good neurotransmitters every time someone likes or comments on something that you’ve posted.  Human beings are complex creatures, but our brain reward centres operate very simply.  When the brain gets a drop of dopamine, it enjoys it very much and wants more.  Facebook knows this and its programmers have learned to manipulate the interface, in order to take advantage of that.  Why?  The longer we spend on the site, the more advertising we are exposed to, the more money goes rolling into Facebook’s coffers.  It really is as simple as that.  But that’s just the beginning.  

We all know about FB’s sketchy privacy practices.  On a global scale we seem to enjoy Facebook enough to ignore the fact that so much of our personal data is shared with big corporations.  Perhaps we feel it’s a small price to pay for the privilege of staying connected to so many other people, so easily.  Or maybe we just aren’t aware of exactly how much we are giving away.  Did you know that Facebook allowed huge companies like Spotify, Netflix and the Royal Bank of Canada complete access to your private messages?  Not just the ability to read them, but also to write and delete them!!!!  WTAF?!  The first you heard about your data being used in such a shitty way was probably when the Cambridge Analytica scandal broke.  Suddenly there was an outrage.  For a while.  And then it all died down and it was back to business as usual in Menlo Park.  Facebook continues to act behind closed doors and to avoid anything more than a mere semblance of transparency.  And that’s before we even start talking about the fake news. 

In 2016 FB discovered millions of false pages that may have contributed to Trump’s shock win at the election.  Seemingly genuine pages that were peddling outright lies.  “Pope Francis endorses Donald Trump.”  “Someone was murdered after agreeing to testify against Hillary Clinton.”  “Bill Clinton raped a 13 year old girl.”  None of these stories are true but they spread like wildfire because FB’s algorithm favours stories with high engagement.  And nothing engages people more than sensationalist bullshit.  The most commonly shared news content on Facebook today is from Fox News and other right leaning outlets, such as Breitbart.  Not exactly paragons of journalistic truth.  But it actually benefits FB to spread misinformation and lies.  They are not invested in the truth, and they keep trying to wash their hands of any responsibility when it comes to the veracity of content posted on their site.

Despite that, occasionally they are compelled into increased accountability.  Only as recently as last year, FB pledged to eliminate white nationalist/supremacist pages from their site.  They didn’t particularly want to, as doing so goes against their “freedom of speech” ethos, but public and government pressure forced their hand.  But, because they are an unregulated beast, several nationalist, alt-right, white supremacy groups still hold court on Facebook, untouched.  Only when specific complaints about a particular page become public does Facebook bother to take any action.  Otherwise these hate-spouting organisations are allowed to operate unchecked.  In addition, these extremist groups are permitted to magnify their exposure on FB through means that are in violation of FB’s own rules, i.e. inauthentic coordinated behavior (using multiple pages to promote the same content in order to increase readership).  If I did that, I would be banned. 

In its purported claims to be seen as unbiased and non-partisan, FB has been forced to partner with a number of third-party fact-checking organisations.  Last year they came under fire for taking on a partnership with a company that is a subsidiary of the right-wing, white-nationalist publication Daily Caller.  Not exactly unbiased.  These fact-checkers have a huge influence on which news articles are seen (and not seen) by Facebook users, and considering that more than half of Americans now use social media as their primary news source, it means that these “fact-checkers” wield a huge amount of power.  So why would FB give a far-right group the job of checking facts on its site?  The answer seems to be that they want to suck up to the Republicans, and in particular they want to suck up to Trump.  When Democrats, like Elizabeth Warren, campaign on a promise of breaking up and regulating Facebook, it’s easy to see why the behemoth social media platform would favour the incumbent president and party.  So much so that they are prepared to bend democracy to their will in order to insure Trump stays in power.  They have $556 billion dollars riding on it.  

Following the 2016 election, FB started openly pandering to the Trump administration, crumbling under the president’s online whining about how he was being unfairly treated on the site.  But the slide from left to right had started much earlier.  Months before the election, FB actually discovered evidence that Russians were acting to influence the result (in Trump’s favour).  They kept that information to themselves, and did nothing to prevent Russia’s continued interference.  And Facebook continues to staunchly defend their policy of allowing proven false information to be included in political ads, with Zuckerberg defending that stance, “The ability to speak freely has been central in the fight for democracy world-wide”.  Nice soundbite Mark, but allowing absolute bullshit “news” articles to circulate on Facebook under the guise of fact, is actually harmful to democracy.  I cannot stress enough how dangerous this is to the very fabric of our society.

Zuckerberg justifies the lack of editorial oversight, “We think our users can make up their own minds”.  But then he pays researchers to see if he can make up their minds for them.  In 2012, FB conducted an ethically dodgy study in which they manipulated their user’s feeds to see what effect that would have on their moods – without ever asking their explicit permission to do so.  Some people’s feeds showed them happy, positive words, photos and news stories for a week, and at the end of that time FB’s researchers would assess whether that person was posting noticeably more positive things themselves (they usually were).  But you know what else Facebook did?  Some users’ feeds were showered with content that was sad, or angry or negative in order to gauge if that also had the same knock-on effect.  And it did, resulting in those users generally posting downbeat status updates.  And that’s fucked up.  They didn’t ask any of the users their permission to take part in the study.  They didn’t ask anyone if they were interested in having their moods manhandled, in such a creepy way.  They just went ahead and did it.  To 689,003 people.  Were you one of them?  You will never know. 

It’s FB’s ability to manipulate and control its users that makes them so powerful.  It’s the almost total lack of oversight that makes them scary.  They’ve already demonstrated that they can (and will) control their user’s emotions and moods through deceptive means.  Their privacy terms and conditions allow for it, so it’s not illegal.  But try telling me it’s not wrong. 

When I joined FB thirteen years ago, I did so because I thought it was a cool way to connect with my friends.  By 2016, I had started becoming fairly disillusioned with the platform, but still felt that, being an expat, it was the best way to keep in touch with my loved ones back home.  I stayed, despite FB’s insane growth and metamorphosis into something other than it was pretending to be.  I can no longer ignore what it has become, and because of that, I can no longer continue to use it.  It is my view that Facebook has become nothing less than a deadly weapon.  I honestly don’t think it’s an exaggeration to suggest that it has transformed from an ivy league rich kid’s club into an insidious monster of mind-control on a mass scale.  Am I impervious to the tactics employed?  Are you?  How do we know?  Maybe we are smart enough to stay neutral and unaffected.  But what about the other 2.4 billion monthly users?  That’s almost a third of the earth’s population, and you can bet that a huge chunk of them are easy targets, particularly in third world countries where Facebook isn’t just an online application, but the internet itself. 

And it’s not just FB manipulating its own users.  Other times it’s third party actors.  Governments.  Usually with nefarious intentions.  For instance, in 2018 it was discovered that a coordinated social media attack designed to incite violence and hatred against Myanmar’s Muslim Rohingya minority group had been perpetrated by that country’s own military.  The United Nations found that the five year campaign of false propaganda saw the Myanmar government use Facebook as a tool for genocide and ethnic cleansing.  And because of Facebook’s manifesto that “free speech” is the cornerstone of democracy, they felt justified in allowing that to happen.  That is not OK.  Really, it’s not OK.  It’s fucking awful and I can no longer allow myself to passively be part of it.  I am a little nervous about completely deleting my account, but I’m still going to do it, and I know I’ll find a way to live without it.  In fact, a Stanford study found that: “The downsides are real. The negative effects of Facebook are large enough to be of real concerns. Four weeks without Facebook improves subjective well-being.”

I think I’m going to be just fine.

 

Some more reading…
The New York Times – As Facebook Raised a Privacy Wall, It Carved an Opening for Tech Giants
The GuardianWhite Nationalists are Openly Operating on Facebook. The Company Won’t Act
Popular InformationFacebook Allows Prominent Right-Wing Website to Break the Rules
Popular InformationThe Republican Political Operatives Who Call the Shots at Facebook
The New York TimesA Genocide Incited on Facebook, With Posts From Myanmar’s Military
SalonA “Gold Standard” Study Finds Deleting Facebook is Great for Your Mental Health

Ejo #119 – The Extraordinary People I Know: Natasha Jones

I remember the day I met Natasha like it was this morning. I was waiting for her, and our mutual friend Kayte, to pick me up from St. Kilda Road during peak hour so we could go and look at a share house we were considering moving into.  The famous Market Street.  At the first set of traffic lights she turned around from the driver’s seat to smile at me and properly introduce herself.  To say I was completely dazzled is an understatement.  I was instantly enchanted, and my infatuation with her has only grown stronger over the last 20 years.  Being in her gaze felt like being washed in a beautiful, warm wave of sunshine.  I never stopped being in awe of her, this golden girl.  I never stopped marvelling at how lucky I was to be friends with such a remarkable human being.

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Our golden girl.

In August of last year I wrote an ejo about Love.  I spoke of Natasha and the battle she was facing with cancer.  A few days after I published that ejo, we chatted about the idea of me interviewing her for a series I write called The Extraordinary People I Know.  She was delighted and told me she’d be honoured to do it, but we decided to wait until she was better, as it might be a bit intense.  I think we both truly believed that she would get better.  Or maybe we just hoped she would.  We continued to make plans, including a pact to travel to Iceland together, to see the Northern Lights.  We made plans for a future that, sadly, Natasha will never see.  Four days ago my beautiful friend passed away.  She tragically leaves behind an adoring husband, Riley, and their three incredible children, Xander, Ellie and Declan.  We have all lost a great friend, but they have lost their devoted wife and mother.  My heart breaks for them.

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Riley & Natasha. ♥

Living in Dubai, I wasn’t there to witness her decline in health the last few months, and even though she looked thin and drawn in some photos, and even though I knew she was in pain and not doing so great, it still doesn’t make sense to me that Natasha is actually gone.  I am still struggling to accept that she isn’t just a text away. That the cancer actually beat her. Put simply, I just can’t comprehend that she is no longer alive. Even writing the words doesn’t make sense.  As most of you know, I am still grieving my Mum’s sudden death in March, and then, the loss of my grandmother in June.  To have lost one of my dearest friends as well just feels like too fucking much.  Especially as Tasha was instrumental in helping me see some light during my darkest hours earlier this year.  Even while she was going through horrible chemotherapy she was always there for me when I wasn’t sure I’d be able to get through the day.  She even came to my Mum’s funeral, despite being in obvious pain.  That is true friendship.

Even though I’ve lived abroad for the last eleven years, Natasha and I always stayed in touch.  The last fifteen months, however, brought us closer than we’ve ever been.  We would joke around and say, “Thanks cancer, your work here is done. You can fuck off now!”.  I kind of always felt like I had a special relationship with this golden girl.  That our friendship was different, and unique.  But what I’ve realised, since she died, is that all her friends felt the exact same way.  And that was her gift to us all.  That is what made her so extraordinary.  She and I never got the chance to do that interview.  Instead, I have asked a few of her friends to write tributes to our beloved Tash.  But first, please let me share some words of wisdom from her that comforted me after my Mum died.  I hope they comfort you too.

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I stopped everything today having received the news of Natasha’s passing, in honour of who she was and always be for me. Natasha and I have been friends for many years and I’m so happy that our Mums became great friends because of our friendship. Life took us down different roads but our friendship was unwavering and she knew my love for her. Natasha is an ever constant SHINING LIGHT. She smiled in all circumstances and cared about others first and foremost. Her cheerful energy was infectious and one of my latest & fondest memories was having her, Riley, Xander, Declan and Ellie spend time with Daniel and me while they were here in New York for NYE in 2016. I remember how wonderful it was seeing her beautiful face at the 2nd Avenue tram stop when we met up, and then sharing a little of our lives with them. I love you Natasha as I now create a new kind of relationship/communication with you. I’m sure your gorgeous Dad has you by his side now as you both watch over Riley, Xander, Ellie, Declan & your beautiful Mum, Matilda.
Chiara S.

Chiara

Natasha & Chiara


Dear Natasha, we met in 1994. Our mutual friend Brendan said “you must meet Natasha you’d love her!”. And love you I did. Within a month we were living together in St Kilda. You, me, Myshell and Chryss. We had some of the greatest times in that little house in Market Street. You are the kindest and most generous soul I ever met. You radiated energy. Always thinking of others, giving us strength, reassurance, laughter, joy, happiness. You always had time for me. And I always had time for you. I came over to see you in February, and I held your hand by the pool. We spoke no words but we knew we were saying goodbye – for now. I will never, ever forget you. I will miss you every day. Love you so much Natasha.

Kayte A.


Dear Tash, when we first arrived in Melbourne, fate had it that you were my neighbour. Our first conversation with “our neighbour across the road” revealed you to be warm, extroverted, interested and so friendly. You eased the angst of settling in to a new landscape by always greeting us with joy, enthusiasm and gems of information that we would need to know in order to ensure that we settled in well. Both you and I frequently commented on how much we loved our Elwood village and the community that we were forming.

As I got to know you our conversations deepened. We explored the books we were reading, the subjects that fascinated us, and the ones that enraged us. We spoke of what it meant to parent and shared advice on what was currently working for us or what was troubling us. We spoke about what it meant to be a woman at this time. I felt such ease in your authentic company and always walked away from time spent with you energised and inspired.

Your diagnosis had me reeling and affected me profoundly. You were my age. A mother. A wife. A person who truly LIVED their life and the situation that you were facing was unfathomable to me. Nevertheless, you persisted. I know that you were scared, because so much was at stake. But you were optimistic and determined and we all marvelled at your ability to show strength through such unbelievably challenging times. With each new update from Riley my heart sunk a little further. Despite your conviction, this illness was taking hold. And yet you persisted.

You persisted until the very end and then last night you exhaled, and you are now at peace. This is our only consolation. This morning I woke to a world without your physical presence. Already you are so dearly missed. I know this because your friends are speaking and grieving together, and this is just one of the ways you will live on in us. This morning I woke and felt your presence amidst your absence. Because of you, each day of mine will count. Because of you I will not take a conversation, an encounter, a hug, the opportunity to kiss my girls goodnight for granted. You will live on in us all through our memories of the wonderful human being that you were, through the connections you have forged between people, through the special places we shared time together. You will live on. How loved you were. And how lucky I was to get to know you.
Much love,
Bronwyn I.

Bronwyn

Bronwyn & Natasha


One of my fondest memories of Natasha is her ability to be truly honest in almost any given situation – it wasn’t brutal, it was often just her observational and self-deprecating honesty that cut through. She was funny, would often put her foot in her mouth by saying things that were maybe a little too honest. She would say kind of awkward, often deep, but always honest, things – I loved this about her. I loved that she never held back. 
This short moment is about her honesty. A large group of us went to a rave at the Docklands. I was dancing next to her, and she had her eyes closed, smiling from ear to ear, bopping away to the tune that was being pumped out. I leaned over and said, “Natasha, you look like you’re having fun – how are you going!?” She opened her eyes, turned to me, smiled even bigger, and said, “Chris, I’ve just had about 17 orgasms in the last two hours, I’m having a very good night – this is great!” With my jaw on the ground, and not expecting that response, she kind of left me speechless. It just makes me smile thinking about her at that moment – eyes closed, smile on her face, not a care in the world. Honesty was her super power.
Chris D.


I first met Tash days after the Jones family moved into their house, only a week or so after we had moved in right next door! I popped in to say “Hi” and ended up staying for about a half hour, in which time she managed to tell me nearly the whole Natasha Jones history, which as you all know is quite a long and convoluted one. I honestly do not know another soul who could pull this off and get it right. Basically what I got from it was:

“Hi I am Natasha Jones. I am putting myself out there and I am telling you all of this crazy stuff because I want you to know that I am a genuine, caring soul who will be here for you even though I don’t even know you but you have intersected with my life and that is, right now, the most important thing in the world”.

I was sold!!! (It helped that it was actually very interesting too!!)  Our lives had nearly connected in the past many times – she and I both grew up in Geelong, came to Melbourne to go to uni, married and lived in Fairfield/Alphington with our three small children before moving to Elwood!! We felt it was destiny that we finally met living side by side. In Elwood, Tash and I had parallel lives with traveling husbands, busy kids etc. so having each other next door was the perfect scenario. As well as brave, Natasha was generous. She would give everything she had, if she thought it would help. She gave all of herself to her family and her friends and that is why she is so missed and has broken all our hearts. It is also why we are all better people for knowing her and certainly why her children are the wonderful people that they are.
Andrea J.


I am struggling to put words together that can adequately capture what Tash meant to me. I don’t think I can do her or the depth of our friendship justice! Tash told me the first time we met in our daughter’s prep class that we were going to be friends, she decided! And she certainly meant it. How lucky was I?! We bonded as ‘wog mamas’, Slovenian and Greek/Arab raised in Geelong and Frankston. We were wog bogans at heart, raising our kids in middle class ‘burbs of Bayside. We got each other, our roots so familiar, we held hands tight and marched into the primary school years together, laughing, sometimes crying, and loving life together. I have never met anyone who invested so much of her energy and love in the people she cared about, and in the extended community around her. I would tell her off, “Tash you give too much to people!” And she would always say no, she got so much from everyone, a raison d’être, loving and supporting others was what she lived for, it lifted her spirits to be a part of her wider community. I feel so privileged to have been her friend, a bestie and soul sister. My children were treated as her own, her kindness, generosity and thoughtfulness were unsurpassed. She loved and supported me through thick and thin, and always had words of praise and encouragement, admiration and gratitude for me, my kids and our friendship. She was an angel, cheeky, fun, funny, full of love and empathy, and knew what was important in life – family, friends, supporting each other and living life to the fullest. She loved fiercely and fully. Even in her passing, her words of encouragement and love ring strong in my mind, as if she is here now speaking them. I hope I can always hear her like this, it is unfathomable to imagine life without her.

Alex P-R.


Tash and I met in Grade 4. We were ten years old. It was a bond that has never broken. We would spend weekends together playing in her parents driveway on roller skates and stilts made by her dad. In Year 8 we went to our first gig together. It was Hoodoo Gurus and Boom Crash Opera in Geelong. We had boozy nights at Bec’s place at 15, our first loves and heartbreaks. Tash and I grew up together. From kids, to teenagers, to adults and although our face to face catch ups became fewer than what we would have liked, when we did see one another it was like no time had passed at all. My memories of Tash expand over 30 years! 
So many wonderful times to cherish and draw on for comfort but out of all of those memories, my most favourite thing about her was her smile. She would smile with her whole being. She would make you feel safe, loved and important with one beautiful smile, the smile that would light up the room. I am going to miss that smile for the rest of my days.
Jade K.


This is classic Tash. Writing a thank you note to me whilst going through chemo. I wish I had written to her to say thank you for being apart of our lives. Tash was a ray of sunshine that made everyone feel special. I own the local Bakers Delight in Elwood and not only was I devastated to hear of her passing, it’s been tough to tell my staff who have been devastated by the loss of the beautiful Natasha. I cannot begin to imagine the devastation that Riley and their beautiful babies must be feeling at this time. She was the best and will be missed.

Denise C.

Denise

Natasha’s thank you note, to Denise.


Tash would always be my Wonder Woman, as I called her, during the brief four years that I got to know her through our daughters at school. Her energy, enthusiasm, warmth and big heart will always live in our memories. She was one in a million.

Chialing C.


Natasha and I went to Clonard College together. Her kindness and inclusive nature meant that this kid that just rocked up fresh off the plane was befriended along with the rest of the girls like Myshell, Jade, Bryanna and Rebecca. I spent my formative years with a super cool girl who I will always remember as having an amazing singing voice, who loved and worried about her brother in Slovenia and was always up for having fun. 
About ten years ago we re-connected via Facebook. I had an amazing time hanging out with Tash and Riley when they opened their home to me in 2013. We spent a day shopping, catching up and it was like we were back in high school again. I will miss her so much but her big smile, so very infectious, will always stay with me when I think of her.
Melissa H.


Riley’s mum Vonetta is my Godmother, I’ve known the Jones’ my entire life and met Tash via Riley. We’ve gone through phases in our lives, from seeing each other a lot, to not at all for years, but our connection with them has never changed. I’ve shared a lot of gigs with them, mainly at The Prince in St Kilda and when I think of Tash, I always think of The Pixies and Regurgitator. What I loved about Tash was how genuinely interested she was in everything, how she asked questions and really listened whenever you told her something. She made you feel really important and that you mattered and that whatever you were talking about was the most interesting thing she’d ever heard. We shared a common dislike of reading electronically and she understood how it’s vital to hold a book, smell it, feel it, crease it’s pages and wear it down to fully enjoy it. She cared and she was a lover, that’s how I’ll remember her.

Emma R.


Tash, thanks for being YOU! Back in 2003, Tash offered to care for my new rescue puppy, Mocha, as I was going away for the weekend. At the time, Tash & Riles lived in their second storey flat in St. Kilda. I explained that this was a challenging location to care for a newly house-trained puppy who still needed regular visits outside, even throughout the night. Also, at the time, Mocs still had those razor-sharp puppy teeth and was teething so she constantly wished to chew on something soft, like your fingers! 
Despite the level of care needed for such a young pup, Tash still offered to care for Mocs while I was away. She even made out as if I was doing her a favour by helping “prime Riley for parenthood!” Mocha lived on for another 14 years and she always got excited whenever she saw Tash. I know Mocs was a great judge of character!
Lisa C.


Our friend Riley introduced us to a gorgeous girl at ‘The Nott’ pub one night many years ago! She was stunning and funny and immediately shone into our lives! It was obvious Tash and Riles were soul mates from the beginning.. They were so in love and thus produced the most gorgeous offspring! We spoke only occasionally but it was always with that connection mamas have! It was a privilege to know Tash (and Riley!). RIP BEAUTIFUL GIRL!

Kaz P.


When I first met Tash, I felt instantly connected to her. She was so easy to chat to, like an old friend you had known for years. Tash made you feel instantly at ease when you were around her. She was vivacious and so effortlessly herself. It was easy to develop a strong bond and friendship. Tash was so big-hearted and generous. She would always offer to help you out in anyway and would help with the kids whenever she could. Tash embraced everyone around her with gusto. She didn’t judge. She always saw the good in people and that amazed me how she did that sometimes. She would always make time for people. She sensed when you were having a crappy day and would listen intently with compassion and empathy. She knew when to give you a beautiful embracing hug when you needed it most. In her presence she made you feel special and important. She supported me with so much love and kindness through a challenging time and I will be forever grateful to Tash for that.

Tash was also a lot of fun to be around. I loved her sense of humour and shared lots of laughs and sometimes also tears. I will so miss her laugh and her beautiful smile. We had some fun nights out and she did great Halloween parties. I remember the first one I went to, her greeting me at the door as Bat girl! Tash loved music. I remember how she organised a group of friends to go and see the Dior exhibition. But we were too busy chatting and catching up that we didn’t get much time to see everything. We rushed through the exhibition so we could get time to see the live band performing and have a dance!!

Kids were also drawn to her warm presence. I loved how she would embrace her friend’s kids. She would always make gorgeous compliments about your kids and to them. You would see their faces light up when she did that. This last year has been so difficult to see Tash endure this awful disease but she has done so with such incredible grace and strength. It seems so unfair that she has been taken from our lives way too soon but I am so grateful to have known her. She was such a special friend. This world won’t be the same without our gorgeous Tash, but she has certainly left this world a better place because she was in it! RIP my beautiful friend
Lisa D.


I met Tash in London in the early 2000s. I honestly don’t know what my life would look like had I never met her. I live in the flat she and Riley had on Beaconsfield Parade, numerous jobs came my way either directly or indirectly through her. She was pure delight and kindness. I have been thinking of how best to describe Tash to friends of mine who hadn’t met her and the best I have come up with is this. Outside of being an outstanding example of how to live life, Tash was like a mirror that only reflected the best of yourself back to you. She will be sorely missed.

Tori F.


I first met Tash through Riley when he was at uni, and was immediately drawn in by her Amazonian beauty, beautiful heart and caring nature. Those two were made for each other. She has always been there for me in my time of need, whether it be text messages every year on the anniversary of my mum’s death to stretching herself to make an appearance at gatherings when she had so many other things on that day. I honestly don’t know how she kept her energy up (even before she got sick) to be able to be there for so many people as well as her beautiful family. Our ‘Ladies Lunches’ will be a memory I will cherish forever – just kicking back with the girls, drinking a few wines and shit talking about anything and everything. I will miss her terribly, I feel like there is an actual hole in the world that can never be filled. You didn’t deserve to go so soon – you had so much more to give and life to live. Love you forever Tash. xx

Carolyn G.


I met Natasha in our shared linguistics tutorial at Monash Clayton. Tash shone more than anyone with warmth, beauty, confidence, and happiness. Her spirit was so light and free. I was blessed to get to know and love Tash really through my friendship with Riley when she became the love of his life, and I could see she was perfect for him from day one! Everyone loved Tash and she loved everyone! What a gift! This picture and the comments and hearts drawn here were from Tash for our engagement party & they show her big loving spirit. An angel and inspiration of how to fully live and love for us all always

Cate S.

Cate

Natasha & Cate


The first time I met Tash she asked for my mobile number so she could make sure I got home safely. Of course, a few minutes after I got in the door she rang to make sure all was well. Tash was great fun to be around, laughing and always thinking of others. Some favourite memories include Meredith Music Festival and Golden Plains, hanging out at their shopping container and our ladies lunch series, held at different houses with different themes. The overwhelming similarities was all the laughs, hugs, wines and catching up on everyone’s news. I will miss Tash greatly but am very thankful for the incredible memories I have. She was a great friend.

Meredith Williams


I met Natasha on her 21st birthday when her parents took her on a cruise on the Fairstar for her birthday. I don`t know why they chose the Fairstar given it`s reputation. I was on there with a group of friends and she started to hang with us much to the chagrin of her parents. I stayed in contact with her after the trip and we used to catch up a couple of times a year. Tash was one of the kindest and most beautiful people I have known and I feel that she made me a better person just for knowing her. She believed in me even when I did not believe in myself. She was always there whenever I needed a shoulder to cry on and she was one of my oldest friends (even her parents liked me after first thinking I was a bad influence). The world has lost one of it`s most exceptional people and she will never be forgotten by all that knew her.

Gareth Price


Tash was the sort of person that had a real energy to her; always smiling and fun. The last time I saw Tash, before she was diagnosed, she and I spent hours sipping wine, sharing our stories, laughing and solving the problems of the world! The thing that really stands out about her was that she always made me feel good about myself. She had a way about her that was positive and empowering. 
Since she was diagnosed we spent time messaging each other and I couldn’t believe how she managed to still devote time writing such beautiful messages when she had so much to deal with. I can tell from reading all the wonderful tributes about her she made everyone feel this way – special and important. What an incredible way to have lived her life. Some of the wise and insightful things she said to me will replay in my mind and make me think of her long after she has left this world. Her memory will be forever in our hearts. My heart goes out to her beautiful family and devoted husband that she loved so much. I can’t imagine the pain and loss they must be feeling.
Sarah E.


The first time I connected with Tash we sat on the bus together on the way to swimming class. She was a shy girl of migrant parents but with a sweetness and curiosity that was magnetic. We soon discovered we had lived in the same street growing up but that a major road had separated us. We’d always known each other as “that girl that lives across the street”.  A few months later, when I was just 12, my mother died of cancer.
At the funeral Natasha stuck by my side the whole time. That pretty much became the pattern for most of our lives. She was my champion.

Before emails and iPhone we shared a journal we would write in nightly and swap at school. In those messages we poured our hearts out, gave each other advice. In some ways we raised each other, both having an older sibling not living at home.  I have so many stories of Tash I could share. I hope to write them all down one day for her children to read. But the greatest stories involve them and their dad. There is Tash before Riley and then Tash after. She found her purpose in love.

If you were her friend at the end, a part of the Tash Tribe, let me tell you this: She loved you. She saw your light. She chose you. Not just because you knew her but because she believed in you and your goodness.
Shell M.

Myshell & Natasha

Myshell & Natasha