It seemed surreal, the whole scenario – a macabre joke that someone had plotted – a turning on the head of the rules had been permitted and nobody had let us in on the plan.
The role reversal was almost too perverse to comprehend as John lay in the ICU bed in Beaumont with monitors bleeping, syringe drivers infusing medications and with others administering the care. Surely the ministration of medical care; well that was his role – his expertise, even to a large degree his very raison d’être in life.
How now could death be stealing this great person from all of us? And yet as Colin and Peter held their brother’s hand in farewell and as his beloved Janet stroked that infamous hair in her last head rub, there was, it appeared to me, one constant that was now present in John’s death, as there always had been in his life, - and that was love – it was the very bridge that transported him from this life to the next, as his tight group of friends from the bike-racing and medical worlds kept vigil in the waiting room and corridors whilst Janet, Auntie Josephine, Uncle Dare, Peter and Colin embraced each other around his bedside, - and having fought hard for life until the end, in his typically unassuming and unaffected fashion John – our flying doc, the bikers’ guardian angel – slipped gently into eternity.
And yet we believe that it is those same bonds of love that will keep John inextricably bound to each of our lives as he lives on in our hearts, until we are all united again in the promised land. It seems fitting too that it was Independence Day when John passed, for independence was one of the particular hallmarks of this brilliant young man who touched in such a positive way the lives of so many. John, together with his eclectic mix of brilliance and understatedness – well he certainly knew his own mind, and it wasn’t a mind easily changed. As Janet herself expressed it to me “John believed it was easier to ask for forgiveness than permission and that is how his achievements leave us in his wake”
And so we remember too in gratitude that it was that brilliant mind together with his skilled medical hands that perpetuated life for so many others, that did so much good, without seeking reward or praise in return.
Whilst it seems in these days of unfathomable grief and anguished hearts that the shadow cast from that cross on the Calvary Hill two thousand years ago looms larger in our lives because of John’s death, we as Christians recall that this shadow only ever arises in the context of that great source of light that is the salvation and eternal life that Christ has achieved for John and for each of us as his sons and daughters. Our redemption – our eternal salvation – it is the promised reward of God’s eternal love for us, which permits us to hope in the face of despair. We have the surety that John’s good deeds go before him, and as Christ alone knows there were many of them, and this surety permits us now in faith to have confidence that John is journeying towards his eternal reward.
The tributes in recent days from family, friends and colleagues; they are too many now to mention but the common consensus speaks of a kind, competent, compassionate and giving gentleman.
However there is one tribute I do wish to mention briefly and that is what Janet herself wrote for me. Of John she explains that in recent days, “there has been much made of his age (those 35 years) but as John himself used to say to me, with his infectious sense of humour, “age doesn’t matter unless you’re a cheese”.
Janet describes John as, ‘“my quiet man” who will own my heart forever. He radiated grace from the heart and peace from the soul’ – what beautiful words, from the one who loved him most – they express the essence of John more than anything the rest of us might ever say.
John we all know was not only a doctor and consultant of eminent medical ability, but also a person of such eminent humanity and care that he was ever ready to share that ability for the betterment and good of others. John’s death is a tragic loss to so many – an unimaginable rupture in so many of our lives – and especially for you his adored and adoring Janet, for you Uncle Dare, Auntie Josephine, Peter and Colin. Speaking for all here today; please know that at this time our heartfelt prayers and all our compassion and love are with you. But all of us must too be conscious that as for recriminations, anger and resentment – the whys, what ifs and wherefores, however normal they would be with this tragic loss , well we all know one gentleman who in his abundant flair for truth would be saying –“catch yourselves on” – for none of these things will bring John back to us – we must all, with all the strength and faith we can muster avoid such shadows now – for John’s memory could never be something of shadow but only and forever something of light in all of our lives.
With the confidence of faith we commend him now to the Lord, asking His compassion and love for any areas of John’s life that may need His healing or solace, and certain that those outstretched arms of our Saviour on the cross will now warmly enfold John in their heavenly embrace.
I finish now with a short quotation from William Wordsworth, which I’m sure echoes true for so many of us gathered here today to wish our fondest Adieu to John:
“I loved the boy with the utmost of love of which my soul is capable, and he is taken from me- yet in the agony of my spirit in surrendering such a treasure I feel a thousand times richer than if I had never possessed that treasure at all. God comfort and save you and all our friends and us all from a repetition of such trials”