“I have fought the good fight, I have won the race, I have kept the faith.” 2 Timothy 4:7
John passed at 2:47. His wife and boys looked up what verse corresponded with that time and this verse popped up. This in and of itself is a sign that John is home because there is no better way to describe his journey.
John had struggled with multiple brain and spinal cord disorders for several years, yet after every surgery and through every complication he maintained his sense of humor, love of life and he remained faithful.
We have been so honored to spend time with John, Lindsay, Blake and Dylan. Their courage, strength, love and faith have shaped our lives and relationships in deep and meaningful ways. They have taught us many lessons and have been a big influence in helping us grow in our own faith.
As we entered his visitation, what we already knew was right there to greet us: John was truly and deeply loved by so many people. The lines were long and the license plates in the parking lot were from all over. As I looked into the eyes of those around me, I could tell that John had made each of them feel as special and as loved as he had made me feel. The love he gave and showed had no limits.
His service shed light on the truth of John’s legacy. He left a legacy of faith. No matter how bad he felt or how much he struggled, he still showed up for Mass. He prayed consistently and was always talking about and sharing his faith. You could feel the love and impact he made in that room. It was described as a bright light. That’s what John was.
Something I loved about John was his competitive and “all in” spirit. We were soulmates that way 😉 Let’s win all the games and eat all the ice cream, and we will never do anything halfway. I remember as he was facing a particularly risky surgery, we had an “all in” conversation about life, death and everything in between. I will hold that forever in my heart. I will also hold the jokes that he always made in the midst of the heavy moments. His mom told me today that even at the end of his life on earth, he was cracking jokes and making people crazy. That’s our beloved JB!
As I reflect on my interactions with John and on his life, maybe what I admire most is the complexity of who he was. Some would call him a contradiction…and in that way, I see him as I see Jesus. Hard to understand at times, never able to predict, always challenging you and forever humble. John fought hard through his 33 brain and spinal cord surgeries which is an unreal physical feat. He did it with grace, compassion, wit, humor and love. Just as, I imagine, Jesus would’ve done. Endured pain that is simply unimaginable, for love. He taught us so many lessons and here are just a few more:
John and his family model for us a strong, interdependent family unit who loves unconditionally.
Their family has been through so much, some of the toughest situations imaginable. Yet they put in the work and stick together through it all. They lean into difficult conversations and do their work to process what is happening rather than avoiding the pain and struggle. We watched each of them set aside their own agendas and sacrifice many of their own desires for the good of the family. We watched them courageously ask for and accept help. They were always honest about what was happening and how they were feeling. We continue to be impressed by their ability to fully love themselves, each other and God through it all.
John and his family display what true faith despite any circumstance looks like.
Whether it was leading into an extremely difficult, high risk surgery or losing his ability to do things on his own, John, Lindsay and the boys maintained their faith. They chose to believe that it was in God’s hands. We watched them surrender control over and over and over. We watched them pray over and over and over. Of course there were moments of anger and frustration, but they refused to get stuck in it. They chose everyday to continue down a path of acceptance instead of resistance, and one of hope and gratitude instead of hopelessness and resentment. Even today at the visitation, Lindsay got up in front of everyone and shared John’s story with a courage and compassion that is only found in faith. They are so incredibly inspiring.
John and his family exhibit humor and love in even the toughest circumstances.
Every time we would visit John in the hospital, he would make jokes about what he now could not do as a result of his surgery. Although I’m sure it was very difficult to endure, he always had guests and the nurses laughing. He always wanted hugs and I will cherish our knee to knee conversations about life and deeply meaningful things. John and his family did not allow their trials to shut them down, but instead to open them wider to love and compassion…and jokes…so many jokes!
John is an incredibly special human being. He lived fully and deeply. Reflecting on his life has me thinking about my own. How many days have I wasted or wished away? What have I taken for granted? How have I allowed my own challenges to shut me down in some way? What really is most important? John has inspired me through his life to face and sit with these questions, and now he is doing that even more powerfully in his death. He will remain with us for the rest of our days on earth and we will look forward to seeing him again in heaven.
I know this because even tonight on my walk, for the first time this summer, I saw several dragonflies. Dragonfly symbolism is associated with change and transformation. A dragonfly carries with it the wisdom of transformation and adaptability. Although John’s physical presence has transformed, I know he is still very much with us. I feel it. I know it. And I am grateful.