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Be Kind. Do Good. Love is a Verb.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Пятница Ponderings: He was an example to me.

Ponder: to consider something deeply and thoroughly; meditate 
Пятница (PYAHT-nee-tsuh): Friday in Russian

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It's December. Wow. This year seems to have just flown by. I appreciated celebrating Thanksgiving last week. I love that there is a day set aside to reflect on gratitude. At least, that is how I look at it. Now, it's December and we are into the Christmas season. The holidays are my favorite time of year. People are a bit softer and more compassionate. After the turmoil of November, I think some compassion is desperately needed.

Aside from the intense, vitriolic mess that the election generated, November was difficult because I lost a dear friend. My mother and I drove to eastern Idaho in mid-November for the graveside service for a man who we had known for probably 25 years. His family moved to our hometown because his father was a CES teacher, which is an LDS term for a seminary teacher. Seminary is a class that LDS high schoolers take. Each year they study a work of scripture: for example, this year The Artist is studying the New Testament in his seminary class. Where I grew up in California, we had early morning seminary, which meant that we were in a class at the church before school started. Here in Idaho, my children have release-time seminary which is a class during their school day.

Jon was serving his LDS mission when his parents moved to California. So, when he returned from that mission, he returned to a new city. As we had come to love his family already, several of my girlfriends and I dressed up as hula girls to welcome him home at the airport. His sister and brother-in-law and little nieces were dressed in funny costumes as well  This was back in the day when you could go directly to the gate and we made a funny scene. When Jon came off the plane, my girlfriends and I started singing "California Girls" and swaying to a hula. I will never forget the look on his face because he knew none of us. It is a fun memory.

Jon became a good friend. He was always quick with a laugh and a joke. He was always smiling and he had a way of making you feel like you were the most important person in the world.

He also struggled with addiction. And had deep cycles of ups and downs. His life was truly one of good, bad and ugly. When it was good, it was amazing. And when it was bad, it could be ugly and difficult.

Jon passed away in November and when we heard the news, it was devastating for so many of us who loved him dearly. My mom and I drove over to Idaho Falls for the graveside service. As with all funerals, it was so bittersweet because while we grieved with his family, we also found joy in being reunited with old friends.

Jon's life at the time of his death wasn't ideal. But, as the service started, his father asked for people to share their thoughts and memories of Jon. And what followed, touched my heart in ways that I am still processing. It was a bitterly cold day and while there was a partially sheltered tent over the gravesite, the wind was bone-chilling. And yet, there were more than 50 people gathered around the gravesite. As people moved to the front to share their thoughts, I was struck by the fact that there was such a diversity to the group.

One by one people stood and spoke. Some shared memories from when we lived in California. Some shared more recent memories: one man said that Jon saved him, because he was so bereft that he was considering suicide. Another person shared how Jon had taught him how to survive on the street. More than one person shared that Jon was quick to quote scripture. To look at many of these people, you could see that they had lived harsh lives under difficult conditions. The years of addiction were visible.

Jon fought demons and wars most of us could never understand. And, as I stood there and listened to the precious thoughts and memories shared by so many, I couldn't help but think that despite his challenges and struggles, despite his hardships, Jon lived the two great commandments better than anyone I know. He loved God and even in the midst of his own despair he was still teaching other people about God. And even in the midst of those struggles, whether it was on the street or in a garage, he loved his fellow man and helped and encouraged every person he met. And for a moment, those people who had lived so hard and seen so much, knew what it was like to be the most important person to someone, because that is how Jon made everyone feel.

As I have reflected about Jon's life, I have also had an opportunity to ponder other people I know. The differences are profound. I have observed people who have an abundance, but instead of being grateful, never seem to have enough. I have observed people who might give to a charity, but like to get take out instead of eating in the restaurant because they don't feel the need to tip. I have seen others with less who will tip more than expected because they understand that the server might be overworked or they just might want to do something nice for someone else. I have seen people with an abundance treat their employees with disrespect and then not understand why they have such a high attrition rate. I have seen business owners who struggle, but who show respect and appreciation to their employees and that instills loyalty beyond compare.

And then I saw Jon and these amazing people who he had helped without expectation. People to whom he had given everything he had in this world, literally.

How many of us would have seen Jon or any number of these amazing people on the street and looked past them? How many of us would look at them and see a life wasted? Christians talk of God and Grace. We talk of commandments and scriptures. We focus on the sin and forget to love the sinner. We serve often, but we judge too much. We give when it's convenient, not when it's needed.

The Good Samaritan, Joseph Brickey
I have reflected these last weeks on the New Testament. I thought about the Prodigal Son. I thought about the rich man who wanted to go to Heaven and Jesus told him to give up all that he had and the man couldn't do it. I thought about The Good Samaritan.

That day at the cemetery, I saw the legacy Jon left behind in the thoughts and tears of those whose lives he touched. I knew that his life wasn't without merit and that God would have welcomed him home, knowing how many lives he changed and how much good he did, despite fighting his own addiction battles.

I have reflected on that day many times over the past couple of weeks. I haven't always liked what I have seen in myself, but I have a fantastic example to look to. The example of a man who never stopped caring, never stopped helping and who gave all he had, literally, to help his fellow man.

I love you, Jon. I expect you'll be among the family and friends who greet me on the other side and I will be looking for that beautiful smile!

3 comments:

  1. Lovely tribute, lots of food for thought.

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  2. Sweet Holly, How can I express my thanks for this. Today I was trying to put the events of the week of Jon's death in my history and I saw this beautiful expression. Yes, I too need to be more caring of those around me. Yes, the Kennedy's are some of the sweetest, caring people I know and I feel blessed to be called one of their friends. Love to All Bill

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    Replies
    1. We love your family and cherish our friendships. I have reflected so much about Jon these past few weeks and this was the result. I don't think any of us will truly know the reach his sphere of influence had. Love to you!

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