|M, R, Me and John|
One week ago marked four years since the untimely death of our great family friend, John! Everyone has a story with someone they care about. This is my story with John.
I first met John in the summer of 2011. He flew R, M and me to New Orleans for a much needed long weekend.
This was the second time in about 10 years that I had taken over and TOLD R that he needed a break, and I planned a trip and just told him he was going. Work was extremely stressful, and I could tell that his long hours at work were taking a toll. New Orleans sounded like a great getaway.
R had been coming home for quite a while talking about John. John was a new engineer he had hired. Young, smart, fun to be with- were all words he used to describe him. John’s mother had passed away years before and he was recently divorced trying to find his new normal. When he found out we were going to NOLA, he insisted on flying us! I talked to R one night about being a little nervous to fly in his small plane, and he assured me that he completely trusted John. There was nothing to worry about!
I fell in love with John that weekend. He was so much fun. He doted on me and Molly and wanted to show us what he knew of the city. Even though he stayed with friends, he came with us several times on tours, meals etc.
I didn’t see much of John over the next few months, but R still came home almost every day telling me how he was doing. John was staying busy flying on the weekends to visit friends and family. We had plans to have him out for dinner.
|M, me and John on a swamp tour|
And then- The unthinkable happened. April 29, 2012. R collapsed and I heard the words that no one wants to hear, “We did all we could, but he didn’t make it.” R was gone. I know I talked to John on the phone soon after, but I don’t remember anything about it. There is so much about that first week that I can’t remember.
I do remember a packed funeral home for the family visitation the night before R’s memorial service. And I remember looking across the room and seeing John. He was there at the very beginning. He made his way to the front and sat with my mom and sister as I talked to all those who came to give us comfort. He stayed there the whole time. He told me that he just couldn’t leave. He wanted to be there with us. He talked to my mom and sister, and of course, they fell in love with him too. That was John. He had that special knack for making everyone feel like they were the most important friend in the world to him. He told me one time that he loved remembering friends birthdays. He loved making people feel special!
Life moved on whether I wanted it to or not. I spent several late nights over the next few months talking to John. He even called me one afternoon saying, “My mom is gone. R is gone. I’m calling you because you are the closest thing that I’ve got to the both of them, and I need some advice.” We talked about his issue, and I told him what I thought. It was during one of those late-night phone calls that I told him that I was running the New Orleans Rock and Roll Marathon. He immediately told me that he wanted to fly M there so they could be there when I crossed the finish line. It was only a few months away so we started making plans for how to make it work.
He flew her to NOLA for the February marathon. By then he had a girlfriend who came with him. Unfortunately, I ended up with a stomach virus and felt terrible. I went to dinner with everyone and sat while they ate their charbroiled oysters!! John said several things to me encouraging me about moving forward in life. He always encouraged!!! I didn’t get a chance to tell him how I was really doing. I was too sick and too worried about how I would finish the race. Having him there and knowing that he and my sister would make sure Molly made it back to college was a huge relief!
I was able to finish the full 26.2 miles- a miracle in itself. We made it home, and life was getting back to normal, our new normal. A week went by and a weekend. I was up Monday morning getting ready to go to school, and I saw on the news where a family had been killed in a plane crash leaving a ski resort in New Mexico. Mother, Father, two kids killed during take off. I thought “how sad” and went on with my day.
I had a library full of middle school students coming in all day so I was going to be busy. The phone in my office rang, and I picked up to hear C’s voice. “Did you know that it was John’s plane that crashed in New Mexico?” I asked how he knew for sure and he confirmed that he had checked. At that point, I fell to my knees. Literally fell to my knees which I had never ever done before. I was so devastated that I could not physically stand. So many thoughts went through my mind, but the one that kept creeping back in was that M had been on that plane just the weekend before in NOLA! I couldn’t get past that thought at first. Then other thoughts, memories, emotions came slamming down.
John was our link to R and the work they were doing in the aircraft industry. John was a link to memories. I had plans to follow John’s life and see what directions he took. But plans don’t really mean anything. He was gone. There were no more plans with John. It was less than a year since we lost R, and now we had lost John too.
It has taken me four years to be able to process John’s death. With R’s passing, there was so much to do that I dealt with it on a daily basis. John was different. He wasn’t family, but he had walked into our lives and become like family.
So where does that leave us? M and I have discussed this topic on several occasions. It leaves us where John left us– he left us a great example of how to live our lives. He left a legacy of kindness and friendship that M and I want to emulate: Make others feel special; Remember important dates; Physically be with people whenever you can; Make an effort even when others don’t. It all matters in the end. In fact, these things are really all that matter.