I had the honor of holding the shoulder of our sweet friend John while he took his last breaths here on earth this afternoon.
It was a little over a year ago when we first met John and his wife Wendy at our church’s couples retreat. After exchanging introductions and smiles over Bunco, the next day they reached out to us in our pain and offered us a gift. And from that moment it was as though they determined in their hearts to befriend us and love us well in our heartache.
It was not until over a month later that Drake and I discovered that John and Wendy were on their own challenging journey of hardship. We were amazed and humbled by the selfless support and care the two of them had been offering our family while simultaneously walking their own personal path of pain and tragedy—John was battling melanoma cancer.
Our hearts have since been significantly woven together with this amazingly kind, giving, encouraging, and beautiful couple.
A few weeks ago, knowing John’s battle with this brutal disease was coming to a close, we gave him Judson’s “courage bear”. It had also become clear to us that John would likely be the first “Bud of Jud” to see our precious boy again, so we shamelessly asked him if he would be an ambassador of our love to Judson when he arrived in heaven. Our sweet friend responded by telling us that seeing Jud was one of the things he was looking forward to most; his words were like salve for our broken hearts.
Today, while John’s arm cradled the “courage bear” and one of Jud’s blankets, our dear friend passed from death to true life. I feel so privileged to have been present with some of his family and friends to witness the Lord’s appointed time for John to meet his Savior face-to-face (almost exactly one year after our beloved boy passed).
As tears rolled down my cheeks onto his soft bed while holding his fragile shoulder, I closed my eyes and a vivid picture of incredible beauty filled my mind. I suddenly saw a vast, vibrant green field with bright yellow flowers near the foot of a luminous mountain. Jud was bounding through the field to greet John. John stooped down to embrace our boy as Jud enthusiastically welcomed our friend. Then our little man jumped out of John’s arms, grabbed his hand, and started pulling our friend back through the field of flowers saying, “Come on, I want to show you!” The two of them were embarking on a new and beautiful friendship in paradise, both set free from their broken, suffering bodies. I expect John and Jud will have hearts bound together in eternity, just as our hearts are now bound with John’s family in their grief.
We are so grateful for John and the model of a loving, tender, and faithful husband and father he has been and feel blessed to know him. We are also tremendously grateful for his willingness to be a messenger of love to our boy.
We already miss you JT!
P.S. John’s family reads this blog if you’d like to leave any words for them here.