Thursday, July 31, 2008

saying goodbye...

it's the call you never want to get. an invitation to a going-away party, but not for someone who's leaving town. a final goodbye for someone who's dying, a friend who's sick and has run out of time, who wants one last chance to look at his friends and say "goodbye". but, as i stood over my stove stirring a boiling pot of ravioli this evening, that's the call i got.
i first met john when i was a wide-eyed, music-loving teenager. he had joined my friend jeff's band, 90 lb. wuss as their new guitarist. what struck me about john was the difference in his on-stage persona as the sloppy guitarist in a punk-band and his off-stage self...quiet, gentle and incredibly friendly. besides music, john loved to cook. in fact, that became his true passion and career, working in various kitchens and ultimately running one of his own. i only made one trip to his restaurant, seamonster, but i will never forget it. john was so proud of it, of the food, everything. he brought us a special selection of their housemade ice cream and gave us a tour of the kitchen. when we raved about the bread we were served, he whipped out some parchment paper and scribbled down the recipe, all the while explaining the process with huge hand gestures. his excitement about food, about life, was contagious. i've made that bread and it never comes out as well as john's. i have all the right ingredients, i just don't have that overwhelming joy that he brought to everything he cooked, that most important, intangible ingredient he knew just how to add.
and now he's dying. there's cancer all over his body. he's on his 88th round of chemo and his thin body has said 'enough.' next tuesday there will be one last party for all of us who love john to get together & tell him so. i'm not sure how i'm going to make it through. i have a knot in my stomach just thinking about it.
as i was changing gus into his pajamas this evening, i looked down at him happily kicking his legs, making sweet noises at me and i thought about john's mom. i had just seen her a couple weeks ago at greenlake and i'd asked her how he was doing. she gave me a half smile and shrugged her shoulders up a bit and told me he was a fighter. i guess that was her way of saying that even in the end, john isn't giving up. john just finds too much joy in life to let it go without a fight. thinking back on this moment, i looked down at gus again and started to cry. john's mom changed his diapers & kissed his toes & rubbed his tummy; she sang him lullabies and rocked him to sleep and now she's losing him. looking at gus, the weight of her grief hit me hard and i scooped him up and held him close, whispering 'i love you' over and over.
i want john to know that i will remember him for his passion, his sense of humor, his kindness. i want him to know that tuesday night, as hard as it may be, is going to be a celebration, a party. i want him to see me smile, even if i have to fight back the tears that are coming, even as i'm typing this. it's the kind of party i never wanted to be invited to, but it's one i wouldn't miss for the world.

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