While growing up, my dad talked often of a friend of his, John Kennedy, who had passed away before my sister’s and I could have met him. My dad spoke frequently and fondly of John. They had travelled together to Africa and South America. John grew up in my hometown and he and dad met at summer camp at the lake. My dad was 9 and John was 15 when they met. I do remember visiting his parent’s farm, which was gorgeous. His mom, Anna would host some church gatherings, one of which was a raspberry tea event. She always had some kind of baking to offer us when we visited.
This piece above, I created last week, which was an emotional week. My work friend’s husband passed away, due to Covid. He was a good friend to my brother in law (and therefore, my sister). He had extensive family and many many friends. I made this piece after we learned the news. Josh was 39 and left behind his wife and two very little girls.
I don’t share this to get sympathy or to capitalize on it. I met him at least once, at a mutual friend’s 40th birthday. I wondered if I should write this blog as the story of Josh isn’t my story to tell, but what I wanted to write about was how some people, well known to us or not, can leave such an imprint.
My dad had met Josh a few times. He was a heavy duty mechanic and fixed my dads tractor a couple of times. Dad also got hay from Josh’s farm. A Facebook page had been created for Josh when he became sick and the community of family and friends was really invested in praying for him, sending loving emotion, and cheering him on to overcome his struggle. People shared memories of him, pictures of tractors or trucks he had fixed or would like. People wrote about his infectious laugh and sense of humour.
We were sitting around a campfire at my parents house on the weekend. What I didn’t know, and what dad told us was how much Josh reminded him of his friend John. This gave me a new glimpse of what dad remembered of John. What a hard worker he was and his willingness to help anybody. As people would be looking at a job wondering how it could be done, John was already getting started to just figure it out. John was also a mechanic. I remembered that dad said John had died of cancer. I asked dad how old John was when he passed away. He was 39 also. He passed away the year Josh was born.
I have heard John spoken of so often. I am sure it feels to my dad, like he has been gone for a lifetime. For me, it was a surprising reminder that he was not here for my lifetime. He passed away the spring before I was born. His memory lived on through stories and memories. This makes me feel comfort for Josh. That in 39 years from now, there will still be stories told around campfires. Kids of his best friends will know their parents’ friend Josh through countless stories and jokes and pictures. They will be surprised at the reminder that they may have never met him, since they have heard his name spoken so often – like a friend that just lives a bit too far away to visit.
John still lives on, as will Josh. Campfires are pretty magical for that.