Tuesday, November 15, 2016
Eulogy for One of the Good Guys
When my sister asked me to write this, my first thought was, boy… sometimes I hate being a writer. At the same time, it is such an honor to be able to tell people about my amazing little brother. So many of the words that I can come up with sound like empty superlatives, yet they are all true. Words like decent, sincere, caring, kind, generous - a friend of his summed it up perfectly in a note he wrote to me, “John is one of the good guys.” John not only saw the best in people, but he believed in it too.
Fun. There’s another word. Growing up with John was a blast. Whether we were running around the neighborhood playing hide-and-go-seek, swimming at the pool, skating in the back yard, sledding down a neighbor’s hill, or sitting and watching cartoons… he made everything more fun. Most of the time he made everything more fun just by being there. His enthusiasm and ever-present sense of humor, along with that quiet chuckle of his, elevated the fun level every time.
Gusto. There’s another word. John tackled everything with great gusto. And no apologies. His motto, “failure is just another opportunity” was tossed in my direction a few times. The first time we went skiing together is a classic example of his tenacity. I timidly made my way down the bunny slope - a trip that would take any decent skier about 30 seconds, but with my awesome snow-plow technique, took me about 3 minutes. I got to the bottom and fumbled my way over to where our mom was waiting, just in time to see John gracefully zig-zagging down the black diamond slope with all the trees. When he arrived where we stood, I gave him the you-gotta-be-kidding-me look, to which he answered innocently, “What? I thought the trees were cool.”
Love. There’s a big word and it’s at the top of the list. I’ll start with John’s unwavering love for his wife, Linda. They’re one of those high school sweetheart stories that actually played out in profoundly beautiful ways. I was working as a florist when John came to me one day and said, “I need some perfect flowers. I mean, really perfect. I’m going to convince that girl to marry me.” Whether the flowers helped or not, I don’t know, but convince her? He did. I never heard him talk about Linda with anything but absolute love and respect. The same is true of their sons, Garrett and Adam. A few years ago, John was out visiting me. As one does, I asked, “How are the kids?” John teared up before he could even answer me. Finally, he said, “Man, I’m so proud of them both. I don’t know what I ever did to deserve them.” With a rather wobbly smile, I told him, “You get what you give.” And John was definitely a giver.
On my cell phone, I still have a text I received from John a little over a year ago. I had sent him a message and asked how he was doing. His response was, “Doing great. I’m making this tumor my bitch!” Considering the reason we’re here today, some might think that it was the other way around. I don’t. John never once let his illness change who he was - he still spent more time being concerned for everyone else than for himself. “One of the good guys…” it warms my heart to know that so many others saw the same things in him that I always saw. And I’ll tell you this, he was the best little brother a girl could ever ask for.
I love you, John.
John F. Black
March 3, 1964 - November 15, 2016