My brother is six years older than me. He could be a tease - one year he took a pound of hamburger that he turned green with food coloring and gave it to me for Christmas. But he could also be kind. When I was little and still believed in Santa Claus, he told me one Christmas morning, "I heard Santa's reindeer on the roof last night". I was in awe!
From our father he inherited his work ethic. At age 14, he got his first job as a golf caddy so he could buy the 10-speed bike he wanted. His relationship with our Dad was unfortunately complicated, so it was a huge blessing that before Dad died they reconciled and John got to hear Dad say, "I love you" for the first time.
From our Mom, he inherited her kindness and enormous capicity for love. She and John were close, and he loved taking her and our stepfather Don to restaurants and road trips. John and Don were buddies, enjoying fishing trips and test driving cars.
John was also loved by his sisters. For me, he was my adored "Big Bro" and my best friend. For much of our adult life we were separated by distance, with us sisters in California and John here in Arkansas. We something of his life here, but not everything. We, his family, are delighted and grateful to hear stories about him from his many friends here.
He moved to Arkansas in 1977 at age 22, and in 1978 he began his career at Wal-Mart at store #0001, working there for over 25 years in Shipping and Receiving and the Garden Center. He briefly retired in 2002. It says a lot about the person he was that so many of you are here from Store #0001 in his honor.
At store #5260, he found his true calling as a greeter. His kindness, gentle spirit, natural warmth and love of people made this a perfect fit for him, and he loved his job! His co-workers were his buddies, and customers loved him too. Some customers felt their trip to Wal-Mart wasn't complete if they didn't get a hello and a hug from John. Some tracked down his address in California to send him Get Well cards.
His friend Sharla said it best when she said, "John met people where they were." He connected with people on their level and saw the good in everyone.
After he was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, my sister Barbara said, "Why you?" and John replied, "Why NOT me?" To me he said, "My body may be sick, but I know my soul's in good hands."
His faith was very strong. Every morning began with a cup of coffee and his Daily Devotional. Despite the cancer overwhelming his body, his faith in our Lord never waivered. John began to include me and our sister Donna in his Daily Devotional, reading from the book "Jesus Calling" One of the best gifts he gave us was a legacy of faith.
We knew that there was no cure for his cancer, but we'd hoped he'd have more time. We learned to live for each day, appreciating and savoring each golden moment - and there were many. And not to look to far ahead in the future, because who knows what tomorrow might bring? His cousin Bambi said, "If he wasn't going to given a life-saving miracle, then the miracle was that he got to know how much he was loved by everyone he met."
His missed his home, his family of friends here so much! He said, "In California my life is about cancer; here I can live my life.
When the cancer treatment stopped working and with his cancer progressing, he wanted to come home to live the rest of his life. He was too weak to for a commercial flight, so we chartered a plane to bring him home. He was our "Make-A-Wish" child, and we were willing to move heaven and earth to make his wish come true.
When he was dying, he was in extreme pain and on a lot of morphine. Some of things he said were funny, like "check the chickens" or "Where is my purple penguin?" There were tender moments - when Barbara called and said "I love you beyond all words" and he whispered, "Beyond all words...beyond all words". I was holding his hand when, with his eyes closed, he brought my hand to his lips and kissed it several times.
John was ready to go but his body was still fighting. He got frustrated and said, "How much longer?" Later he said, "Can you feel me going?" His last words were "I'm free".
John is free, safe with Our Lord, where cancer and pain can't touch him.
Cancer may have taken his life but it could never conquer his spirit.
I love you, my brother, always, and I know you are watching over me.
Your loving little sister,