[My cousin Jeff died on March 20 after a battle with brain cancer. He was 44. In the picture I am on the left and he on the right with our great grandmother].
We were the oldest of our generation and because of that there are so many pictures of us together from days that both of us have long forgotten. In some of them we look almost frightened, no doubt unsure of what all this fuss was, and why Gram was trying to hold us so tightly together on her lap.
Our lives just zipped past one another on occasion as we grew older and we never got to know one another well, but I knew you to be a good man, devoted to your girls and a good and honest businessman. We were connected by this odd yet wonderful Johnson bond, at the same time loose and very, very tight.
So I am immensely sad that you are gone, sad most of all for your girls, and for your parents, who are experiencing that awfulness of having one’s child die before you. I suppose I am sad, too, for myself, and the reality of aging and increasing loss.
I am supposedly in the business of coping with loss, and also of proclaiming its ultimate defeat in that thing we call the resurrection, in which I fervently believe. And yet I cannot pretend to understand, much less accept, a death such as yours, a life not lived to its fullness. I wish God could have figured out another way, and I hope someday to be able to ask him why not.
But by then I will have seen you again, if my faith is right, and you will have told me, if I have not yet figured it out myself, that the question doesn’t really matter. You already know that, and probably wish that we could know it too.
I am reminded of a blessing that friends of mine use on occasion. Something like: Life is short, and we do not have much time to make glad the hearts of those who journey with us, so be swift to love and make haste to be kind… I have never used it myself, but perhaps I will begin, because your life and your death have helped me to come closer to its truth.
I know you struggled courageously over the past years and months, and that no one could have been a stronger advocate than your Jamie, and a more faithful companion than your father. You fought the good fight, and so did they, and we are all the better for it. In that very strange paradox of being human, we are all more fully alive because of the way you struggled with death. I trust that now you have seen God’s face and know the love and life that is outside of death. I long to se it with you some day, and perhaps then we will have the time to sit together and become the friends we should have been.