Love like Jo loved

For the last two weeks I have not been able to bring myself to write this blog. Today I have chosen to break the silence but not with a recipe (they will come back soon) but with an ode to my dear friend, Jo Cox, who was taken away from us on the 16th June.

I first met Jo Leadbeater, as those of us in Brussels knew her as, back in 2000 when she was working at the European Parliament for Glenys Kinnock MEP. At the time I was working for SOLIDAR - a trade union linked human rights organisation. Our paths crossed for work and never became uncrossed again.

A fellow girl from the north of England, who had so much passion for justice and human rights but so much fun and smiles and laughter that was so infectious.

She managed to talk me into starting to run (me - who had always come last in school cross-country running) and our journey started there. Together with Julia Speht we became 'the northern lasses on the run' - made our t-shirts and got out there for the Brussels 20k in 2001.

It didn't stop there... mad ideas of running a marathon together started to unfold and we decided to go for it in no other place than New York. Crazy fund raising events followed and we managed to complete the marathon is some form or other in November 2001 - just after the events of Sept 11th. It was an incredible experience to share and one that deeply touched us all.

When Jo got the job as Head of Advocacy for Oxfam International in Brussels I was over excited! Especially as we had a free office space in our offices and therefore Jo and her colleague moved in - some of the happiest working memories I have.

Jo went on to leave Brussels to continue with Oxfam and then to work for different organisations in and around London. Her passion for women's rights, for justice for people less fortunate than herself, to care for civilians who are victims of war shone out in all she did.

In 2009 I went to Jo's hen weekend... she was going to marry Brendan Cox - a man that truly shares her passions and supported her on her journey. A hen weekend that consisted of a walk to Top Withins (Wuthering Heights) in beautiful Bronte countryside in Yorkshire, followed by a karaoke night in Leeds, followed by a women's 5km run for breast cancer awareness in Bradford... that was Jo!

We were about 14 'best women' at her wedding - all in the suffragette colours and all there to send our wonderful friend into her new chapter of her life... she soon became a wonderful mum, an MP for her home town of Batley and so many people have felt the warmth and love that Jo gave to the world.

Jo has been taken away from us. Taken away because of her beliefs, because of her humanity to all people, because of her love beyond borders.

These last two weeks have been a tough mix of anger and sadness and determination not to let Jo's death be in vain. Her husband and children, her parents and sister are the in my thoughts all the time and I send them so much love.

I thought that Jo's death would wake people up. I thought that things would change, that there would be no more hate crime, that people would start to respect each other, that the UK would come together to be a positive voice in Europe and the world.... this is clearly going to take much longer than I and all Jo's friends and supporters hoped it would - but we must not give up.

Last week in Brussels we organised an event on Jo's 42nd birthday to honour our friend and to spread her message that we all have far more in common than that which divides us. It was lovely to be there surrounded by so many wonderful people who knew Jo or had been touched by her life. Thank you to all the people who offered their music and words to the event - you are all amazing.

#moreincommon and #lovelikejo are becoming the symbols to bring together the commitments of people around the world to what we can all do, every day in our lives, to bring more peace, more love and more joy to our families, communities, countries and the world.


Jo - I love you and miss you so much. I would love to have the coffee we were due to have in London next week and rant about the state of British politics and what to do next... I'm sure you would have had a plan...

As my life continues it will be with some of you Jo always in my heart. You will continue to inspire me to keep going, to motivate me when I don't think I have the energy left, to run beside me as I crawl along the canal banks of Anderlecht.

I will endeavour to help empower women in themselves and in their bodies to not play small but to live their real potential...

I will let the people around me know how much a care about them and how much I love them - not only through words but through deeds...

I will see look at my community in what we have in common - to build on it and to stand up as best I can to the injustice I see...

Dorothy Oger, a poet from Brussels lost a dear friend in the events of 22nd March in Brussels. She wrote a poem the next day which is becoming far more than a poem for many people, including myself... it's a mantra for choosing peace. I carry it around with me in my bag...

For Love

For love
I shall stand for love,
Even with a broken soul,
Even with a heavy heart.

I shall stand for love,
For the world is wounded.
Not just my little piece of land,
Where I am mostly safe,
Where I am mostly well,
But our world, everywhere
Every day.

I shall stand for love,
Because we need more light,
Not more deaths,
Not more power,
Not more bombs.

I shall stand for love,
So that our children are safe
So that our friends are sheltered
So that our borders are open.

I shall stand for love,
Even with a broken soul,
Even with a heavy heart.

Dorothy Oger
Brussels, 23rd of March 2016