Today the “Grey Mountain,” also known as my uncle or just simply “John” traveled over to the other side. My dad always called John by his last name. In my head when I heard this, I always translated the German to English. I have no idea if anyone else ever did this or if it is my own unique idiosyncrasy. I actually technically don’t know if the translation is correct.
John came into my life when I was about 11 or 12. He was a high school principal, which is a bit of an intimidating title for a kid. However, upon meeting John, I soon learned that despite the reputation of school principals, John was in it because he loved kids and life in general. He was one of the gold standard educators that understood that if you expect the best from kids, you get the best from kids. And it is clear from the stories that I have heard over the years that both his staff and his students loved and respected him.
I never saw John at work, but I was always impressed that when I did see him, he was never afraid to speak up for his beliefs. He was firm and strong where he stood. He also had an admirable sense of humor. At family dinners (Thanksgiving, Christmas, the Fourth of July) John and my dad always managed to swap stories and crack jokes, sometimes appropriate. Sometimes not so appropriate. My mom and my aunt would roll their eyes and scold them. The rest of us would laugh.
John was also a rabid Broncos fan. Watching a game with both John and my dad in the room could be explosive. Positive excitement if the Broncs won, PG13 ratings on their language if they were losing…or had lost a game they should have won!
I was most impressed by John the day he met my first son. Winston was probably only a week old at the time. He was tiny and fussing. John picked him up in the palm of his hand and cuddled him on his shoulder just like he was meant to be. Winston curled up in the little fetal position newborns love and slept. It was an amazing site to see. Some people say that you can tell a good man (or person) by their appreciation and like for household pets — cats or dogs — I say you can see a heart of gold, a confident and calm soul, when a man can hold and calm a baby the way John did that day.
John has also been a second father figure to my cousins and a best friend to my Aunt. I am so very saddened for their loss, as well as, that of his kids, grandchildren and everyone else he touched. Old age may be inevitable, but illness and death are still terribly sad. And there is always someone for whom it just doesn’t seem fair. John and his family suffered much in the last year as his health deteriorated and this experience is one that certainly doesn’t seem fair. But it is done.
I will certainly miss the sparkle in his blue eyes, his wit, his intelligence, and his calm presence. I will remember him for the good he did. I will honor him, by living my life intentionally and doing what I can to serve others and make the world a better place.