Dianne St. Jean

This last week I had three people follow me around. Although they weren’t literally following me, they were hard to get rid of.

I’m talking about thoughts and memories – often more difficult to ignore.

While I’m quite sure neither of them knew each other, they had at least one thing in common – in terms of age, they passed from this earth too soon.

It’s strange how we usually don’t think of the people around us while they’re here yet constantly think of them when we hear that they’ve passed away, and it seems that our preoccupation of them or what we know of them is really heightened when their passing is not expected.

Our friend Johnny was one of those people. Although he passed away months ago, recently those who knew him got together to celebrate his life.

Johnny was my age, and so of course in my judgment not old, and therefore should have had a good many years ahead of him. Brain cancer had other ideas.

Johnny fought hard to keep living, and managed to extend his time by at least three years after he had been given the diagnosis that he wasn’t going to last but months.

He not only fought to live – he lived! He was vibrant and active, and a pleasure to be around.

I met Johnny and his wife through my husband Dale. In that way, I was introduced to him before I actually met him through the stories I heard. 

Johnny had a lot of money – but apart from the size of their home, you couldn’t tell. He was one of the most down-to-earth, non-snobbish people I have ever met. He was also very generous and kindhearted.

He was the type of guy who would give down-and-outers jobs, knowing that they might not do the best work, but wanted to help them in any way he could. And, when some did take advantage of him, he knew it and said how much he appreciated genuine friendship. 

Yet, now that Johnny’s passed, it’s not his earthly riches that will be remembered but his eternal ones. He was rich in love, rich in fun, rich in generosity and kindness. Yes at times he swore like a trooper, but at least you knew the words that came out of his mouth were genuine.

Literally hundreds of people, family, friends, and workers, were brought together on the same day to remember him, and they all said the same thing – a man who truly loved his wife, who took time to do things with his kids and helped others’ kids. He always had an ear to listen, and would offer advice to anyone to help get them through their circumstances. In short, he loved helping people. 

Johnny left a legacy. As you drive into Kamloops from the north and see the beautiful ball diamonds to the right of the highway, know that Johnny built that. But the real legacy that counts, how he lived, will go on, continuously reflected in the lives of his wife and kids.

Although he was taken too soon, during the time he did have, he lived life to the full, with a record of giving rather than taking. 

And that, my friends, is the one thing we have control over.

We can post images on facebook and portray ourselves the way we want others to see us. But the ironic truth is, who we really are in life often comes out in our death.

And on that point – we may not have as much time as we think.