Before you read this, I want everyone to know and understand the intention of this section. It is to not “vent.” It is to share an important part of someone’s life. How something so tragic and unexpected can rock your world so much that you lose your place. John is blessed with a wonderful family that encouraged in every aspect of his life enabling him to find his way home. He did just that taking with him souvenirs of where the tragedy took him and using them to find appreciate the life on his journey home. I encourage you to replace the variables in this part and reflect it upon your life. You will see how John took something so tragic and turn it into something beautiful.
Click here for Story of John Part 1
John was a mail-room clerk, the best job in the world. He was a damn good mail room clerk too. He was happy that he was making a steady pay check that he spent on these credit card bills. It wasn’t until he met the first girl of his dreams. Shortly after, he stopped paying his bills to buy her dinner, flowers, and go on long road trips with her. He was fully aware that he was not paying his dues. He learned that your money goes where your heart goes. He loved her. He had no money. He didn’t care, as long as she was around.He stopped playing those sad songs on guitar and worrying about college so much. He had her! Everything was falling in to place; John had a girlfriend, a home, a job, and that job would pay for college. He figured he would just wait for that six month point to worry about college. She was a great distraction, the best distraction. College, the future, my bills, went to the back of his mind. He figured that since he is happy now, everything will fall in to place. Everything fell apart, rapidly.
“Nothing in this universe, except for the universe itself, is fixed. As frightening as change can be; it’s must happen for us to understand this phenomenon”
“Do not try to hide from this change, you will see why the hard way.”
March 1, 2009 exactly 52 years after John’s mother, Theresa was born; his family celebrated in the usual tradition. In the middle of our festivities his mother received a phone call regarding an endoscopy she had done a week prior. She told the family that the doctor wanted to see her first thing in the morning. Nobody thought anything of it. To his recollection this was John’s first experience with intuition. Clearly, if you read up to this point John did not have any intuitive feeling on anything in his life, he based it out of fear of not becoming “successful.” This feeling was unpleasant. He didn’t say anything to anyone and wanted to see what this gut feeling was.
The next morning when Johns parents came home from the doctor, his mother was sitting at the kitchen table eating her lunch. She seemed normal until she opened her mouth. In a very calm but slightly enthused way she told John that she was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. It was abnormal that she was so calm. She used to get so paranoid when anyone in the family was sick. She never wanted to get sick. She was petrified during “flu season.” As John recalls she developed this mild case of hypochondria after watching both her parents’ lives deteriorate because of cancer. Here she is, with the same disease that killed her parents, calmly telling John she has cancer. He doesn’t remember what his response was. He only remembers wanting to leave the house as soon as possible so that he can get in his car, cry, and drive to his girlfriend’s house. That intuitive feeling was real.
This is how John dealt with it. He ran to his girlfriend, hugged her instead of his mother. His family had no choice but to wait on the test results which took a month. During that month John hid from his family out of fear. He quickly got used to getting rid of this “fear of the future” by being with this girl. He thought that this too would also disappear. He was wrong. In fact, He was proven wrong in the bluntest way possible by the universe. April 26, 2009, John said that he can remember it better than what he had for dinner a few moments ago. His mother met with a handful of doctors that morning. One of which was one of the best oncologist in the area. That day, as John was on his lunch break, He called his father. He asked what the doctor said. John’s mother was considered terminally ill. They found something in her lung and assumed the cancer had spread, but they could not confirm if it spread because procedure to confirm it was impossible without major surgery. There were three possible outcomes. She would die within six months if she chose to not do chemo therapy. That if she did do chemo therapy she could live up to two years, but survival was hopeless. Then, there was John’s favorite possible outcome; the chemo would shrink the tumor small enough for her to undergo surgery and have it removed. Unfortunately, the outcome was not up to John. Just after he hung up the phone, he made a bold move and quit his job on the spot. John could not accept any of this. John could not change this. John did not know how.
John was unemployed for a couple of months after quitting his job, finding out my mother was terminally ill, the relationship with his girlfriend ended. He hid in is room in the basement. He barely spoke to his family because he was too afraid to see how this news was bothering them. John was selfish. It wasn’t long until some friends came over his house and drug him out of his room and made an attempt to get his life together. Still afraid to move, John had no choice. He applied for a job at a restaurant that was opening up nearby. He was hired on the spot, again. John fell in love with this job as a server; too many girls to think about his ex. He took initiative and worked as hard as he could eventually to become the “lead” server. Management saw that he had “drive” and that he was motivated. Really, John was just pissed off at what his mother was dying of. All of his negative energy went to selling hamburgers and talking to other people at work about his mother’s illness. He wasn’t trying to be the lead server it just happened. But he was finally making enough money to get back into financial balance. He began to find some confidence and started talking to his mother more about her life and how she was feeling. He had great support from the people he worked with. They became a second family to him, one that he didn’t need to hide from. Nobody there was dying.
As the weeks went on this became a little easier to digest for John and good news came. His mother’s tumor shrunk and they prepped her for surgery. The whole family was confident with hope and faith she pulls through it and that she can beat the cancer. After many hours, the doctors said that they removed the cancer. That “something” that was in her lung turned out to be a scar from pneumonia a few years before. She was not considered terminally ill anymore. The entire family was overwhelmed with joy. John personally, thanked God for answering his prayer. It was tough for him to understand God until this point. He knew that he existed and can make everything go away, not some girl.
A few weeks after his mother’s surgery, she developed a cough. She began to get weaker. Everyone ignored the cough and her fatigue because they thought it was part of the recovery. A few weeks went by until she was rushed to the ER with a blood clot in her leg. They investigated the cough. Shortly after the whole family including John were called into a private room. “The cancer came back with twice as much force. There is nothing we can do anymore. Chemo would kill her faster than the disease.” The doctor said with remorse pouring from his eyes. The cancer had spread and she developed multiple tumors in her lymphatic system throughout her body. John pulled the doctor aside seeking the prognosis. “Six weeks at best.” She stayed in the hospital for about a week. During this week, John’s dad spent every minute with Theresa. John would only visit for just a few minutes and then go hide again. After work one night he decided to call her. She begged him to come in because she was too scared to fall asleep and that she hasn’t slept in almost three days. This was not an exaggeration. John began making up excuses not to see her. He ended the conversation telling her that he was too tired and had to work early in the morning. After John hung up the phone he noticed a small bible on his desk that was never there. He said he had seen it before, it belonged to his mother. He had no idea why it was on his desk. He opened it up and out came a holy card of St. Christopher and a prayer; “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things that I still can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” Like a megatons of TNT, this prayer demolished a brick wall of fear in his heart. He immediately grabbed his MP3 player and headed to the hospital for a long night. He recited this prayer over and over again speeding to the hospital in tears. The home run for John was “to change the things that I still can.” While his mother is still alive, he could change the fact that he’s be running away and hiding during her entire battle where everyone is in the line of fire, and it’s not over yet. As he walked into the hospital room where his mother was becoming violently ill from the cancer, medication, the anxiety, a sudden wave of comfort and courage hit him. He looked at his father and said “Dad, I got this tonight, get some rest.” His father was relieved and his mother’s bout of vomiting and crying had ceased when she saw him walk in. I personally think she saw the angels standing right beside him.
“When I find myself in times of trouble, Mother Mary comes to me”
That night was a very special and powerful night. John and his mother took a walk to a room with a big window overlooking the town. They began dreaming together. Making plans about what they would do together when she gets out. John was telling her that when she does pull though that he was going to be the most loyal son any mother could ask for. That they would watch old black and white movies together, that she would teach him how to cook. She told John that she loved him and that she forgave him. She said that she is looking forward to a longer life closer to John, teaching him how to make her famous roast. At this point, she was heavily medicated and John was scared to think if she even comprehending his words. He still felt guilty for hiding. After talking for a few hours she began having panic attacks again, some of the medication was wearing off. She became so anxious that she began getting violently ill again. John put his headphones in his ears to distract himself. He quickly learned when he was in a room with his dying mother; nothing on the planet could distract him. He began to think outside of the box. If the music wasn’t working for him he decided to give the music a shot for her. He put the head phones in her ears and played the song “Let It Be” She fell asleep before the end of the song. John learned the power of music at that moment. She slept soundly for the rest of the night. The nurses were very shocked that she was able to sleep because of this music. Since then, John’s mother did not take the music out of her ears. She returned home a day later. There something powerful about music…
Still ridden with the guilt of how he acted, John began putting pieces together. His mother told him calmly that she had cancer the day she was diagnosed. She set the perfect example of strength driven by true unconditional love. It made sense to John at this point, that she as a hypochondriac loved him so much that she would do anything to show them just how fearless she can be. John began to see small qualities in my life that he never saw before. He realized that acceptance wasn’t as easy as he thought back in 1997 when Brittany was born. This was far more complex, he began to see life and the worst part about life first. He began to feel a small connection with God. The serenity prayer is something that he recited often. he loved it so much that he had it tattooed on his ribs.
January 27, 2010 When John walked into work, his boss at the time told him that it was his day off. He asked her if he could work anyway. She looked and him and without breaking eye contact she said “Go be with your mother, right now.” A chill rushed down his spine as if he felt that he was talking to an angel from above instead of his boss. John rushed over to the hospital and just moments before he walked in the room, Theresa had taken her last breath. The doctor followed John in the room to pronounce her dead. Bernadette was holding her hand. He describe to me in gruesome detail of what was in front of his eyes. His father came into the room shortly after. This was the first and only time he saw this dad cry. It was his turn to take his dad’s place once again. John drove to the middle school to tell Brittany, who was only twelve at the time that she no longer had a mother. It was by far the hardest moment for John to this day. The rest of his family gathered at the hospital and they mourned. A few days later they had the service. At the service John was greeted by people he never met before. His friends from work were allowed to leave work that morning to be by his side. Just before him and his family closed the casket, John halted. He pulled out the headphones he gave to his mother. Turned on the mp3 player and played “Let it be” After placing the ear buds in his mother’s ears he said: “Now she can rest peacefully.” The rest of the service was very emotional. But it was not emotional enough for the family. Bernadette had been diagnosed with cancer and news broke at the service. At the very moment, John felt numb and lost all perception of reality. John had felt that we were all doomed. There was nothing to live for and no way out. Most importantly for John, there was no God anymore.
“There is no God”
“The spirit of company has the ability to destroy the devil inside of you.”
John couldn’t say he remembered much after that moment. He reckoned Lucifer was having a ball with his emotions. It only took a few days before he returned to work after the passing of his mother. He did recall a girl coming into his life and out of vulnerability, John fell for her. He was falling over everything. Their friendship rapidly deteriorated after telling her how much he liked her. She made a good move in not starting a relationship with him because it would have ended worse. She truly cared for John. Instead of John working on a friendship he just stopped talking to her. John isolated himself pretty dramatically. He did not want to take any part in this world. He kept his job at the restaurant as the lead server. After work he would go home and rot his mind by “Google-ing” the most grotesque ways to die. He was possessed. He had let his guard down completely. He allowed the Devil inside himself take over his body. John was functioning positively around people at work, somehow. He knew that being around people helped him. He just didn’t know how. The devil wouldn’t let him figure it out. He would continue to bury in the misery within himself deeper. He was walking around like a ghost all of the time. Lucifer was throwing a rave party while his spirit was asleep. He was being obnoxious in the action that he took returning to work a few days after his mother’s death. Well, to one person it was annoying. We’ll call him Steve, because that’s his real name. Steven sat across from John one night while he was eating.
“Yupp, never a bad day for me,ever.” John responded in a rather sour tone.
“You took three days off after your mom died, you are not okay.”
“Dude, are you alright?” He said.
John shrugged his shoulders and continued eating.
“If you want to talk about it, you’re welcome to come over, I have video games.”
Steve left him his number and then walked away.
If there was ever a time where an act of compassion knocked the devil to it’s knees it was now.
John admired this compassion and he called Steve a few hours after he left work. He began to talk to Steve regularly about his emotional turbulence. He began to breathe better thanks to Steve. He began to feel like a part of something. John had a friend. Of course John had many “friends.” But it was difficult to understand what a “friend” was at the time since most of them lied about “being there” for him. But Steven was a friend. I believe that nobody ever really lied to John about being there for him, he just never reached out.
One night in March of 2010, sometime after John’s mother would have celebrated her 53rd birthday he was hanging out with Steven. They went out to a Wendy’s stuffing their faces with greasy burgers and Steve, as always Steve was listening to John bitch about life. John’s little sister texted him and asked him to come home. It was about 1am and she was still awake. When John asked her why, she said “I miss mom and I can’t sleep.” He noticed that he began to feel compassionate and sympathetic for her. After eating John dropped Steven off and drove home. As he walked into his sister’s room, she was sound to sleep with tears still dripping from her eyes on a picture of her and her mother. John was heartbroken, but he began to feel again. He shut her door and walked into his room. He stared at his beautiful black Takamine guitar caked with dust from not playing sad songs on it for a very long time.
“There is no such thing as coincidence; synchronicity is a vital sign of the universe.”
John picked up this guitar and began to compose the saddest sounding verse. It was so comforting for him at the time. It soothed him and his mind began to open. He began writing lyrics and building this song for his little sister. The concept was simple; “I understand how you feel and everything will be okay, somehow.” John experienced the first bit of excitement in a long time. The next day he began making purchases on the gear that he had sold to pay off a few pennies of credit card debt a while back. He didn’t know what he was doing, but it felt good. He began to do what felt good. He began by playing something simple on the guitar. Then recording it, playing it back and then recording a different instrument over top of it. He was fascinated with the experiment of mixing different instruments to compose a piece of music. He noticed that the music he was recording reflected his emotion at that time. He had no prior training in audio recording, He just did what he felt was right and it worked. It was a sure sign that something was finally right in his life. He did not want to lose this and so, he embraced it. He began teaching himself to play other instruments to accomplish a particular sound that he heard in his head. He would spend every waking hour composing and sharing the music with Steven. He continued to encourage John even though this was taking up all of his time and they didn’t hang out as much. He knew it was good or John. But John thought it was a phase that would come and go, but he continued to embrace it.
“We are powerless compared to the natural forces of the universe.”
John was listening to the music that he wrote and began to see a sequence in relation to his process of grief. As he began to enjoy himself more, the music became uplifting. Sarah, his second oldest sister told John that if he was serious enough about his recording and compositions that she would pay for him to go to college. He told her that he wanted to work on this project first and try to use it for a scholarship. The project was to write a concept album based from the five steps of the grieving process. Everybody grieves over a sudden loss of something they admire. They all go through this simple process of denial, where you are stricken with disbelief that there is something terribly wrong. Anger while realizing that you are incapable of changing this terrible situation. Bargaining is where you begin to negotiate with the situation, an intangible experience. Depression hits you when you have digested that this is real, that punching holes in a wall, and negotiation had failed and you begin to hold on to it until you are ready to let it go. Acceptance is the process of letting go, finding the peace, and moving on. The grieving process is the process of learning that we, as humans, we are powerless compared to the natural forces of the universe.
John moved into Sarah’s basement where she let him use the whole space to focus on this project. The first few tracks of the record were easy to write, he already lived them. A few months into the project John celebrated his 21st birthday. He had never been drunk before. His friends were trying to get him wasted for his 21st birthday and John just pretended that he was drunk because he hated the taste of alcohol. He also did not even want to go out either. He pretended that he was having a good time when in reality he was suffering inside, wanting to go home and write what he was feeling. This became a habit for John. Not the alcohol, but the bottling of emotions. He knew that he was bottling them up. John refused to talk to anyone because they thought that he was doing fine because he was writing music. He wanted to hurry up and get to the acceptance part of this album. He began forcing himself to write the next phase in the process. He was beating himself up constantly because he developed writers block. He was ready to give up, now the music wasn’t working. John was scared again; he put myself on this pedestal in front of his friends and said that he was doing well, he wasn’t okay. He didn’t want them to think that he was weak inside. In his eyes at this time, he was not ready to face the reality and continue his life anymore. John shut the studio doors and told himself,” music isn’t for me.” “It’s not my calling.” Here he is, back at square one. He was still looking for a purpose, years after graduation, 21 years old, and he is still looking. He was growing weary of being alive. It was made apparent to him that life is full of pain and discouragement. Why?
“Open up your eyes, everything you need is right in front of you; be patient and you will get there.”
John tried drinking. The taste of beer was terrible to the touch of his tongue. Even trying to get drunk because he had heard that it helps numb the pain; he couldn’t finish a single beer. It was “good” beer too, Blue Moon in fact. After taking a few sips, he gave up on that too. He set it down and crawled into bed where he’d hope to die in his sleep. Of what? Misery. After a few deep breaths he let himself in a deep sleep. At least that’s what he thought it was at the time. After hearing this story I began to speculate if he was really sleeping. His began to “dream.” This dream would change his life over the course of years. In this dream he was visited by somebody whom he loved and missed dearly.
He was walking out of his house one night catching a glimpse of the clock on the way out the door. The clock read 3:00am. As he shut the door behind him he began to walking to his car. He reached into his pocket and realized that he had just locked himself out of his house. This was no mistake when he turned his head to see his mother walking towards him. He ran towards her to give her a hug expecting her to disappear just like any ghost would in the movies. But this is no movie. This is reality. She did not disappear; instead she grabbed and held him tightly asking me what was wrong. “Everything, you’re dead, I miss you, and I do not have any direction in my life anymore. What seemed so exhilarating and possible when I was a kid has vanished with you.” She looked in my eyes and said “Don’t worry John, just open up your eyes, everything you need is right in front of you; be patient and you will get there.” At this moment, he became speechless. The scene around them began to spin but they never broke eye contact. The emotion was so intense; the scene rapidly became a blur. The tears became uncontrollable as she repeated this over and over again. Suddenly waking up in tears John felt a strange but loving presence leaving him. He looked over at the clock and it read 3:15am approximately the length of the dream. I was under the understanding that dreams only last a few seconds. Not 15 minutes. He even told me to this day he remembers each moment as if it was yesterday.
The next day at work, he continued to tell himself it was a dream. He waited on a table where the guest was trying to create small talk. It was a rather interesting dialogue:
The guest asked him “So what time are you getting out of here tonight.”
“John: “Eh, midnight.”
“Wow! You must be tired when you leave here.”
“Not really, I am just getting my day started, I never sleep at night.”
“Why is that?” The guest asked.
“I don’t know, I always have trouble sleeping. So, instead I write music.”
“Interesting, what is your music like?”
“It’s like when you are listening to a great CD, one that you love, and your CD gets ruined by the CD player.”
John responded trying to by symbolic in his answer.
“I don’t understand… grief?”
After John explained the concept of the album and the reasons behind it the guest said: “John, I have been a therapist for many years. In fact I am up here on business for the Karen Foundation. I have never met anyone who brought themselves to such a strong idea for therapeutic reasons. Most people spend more time with friends and family, others seek therapy.”
“So you think I need therapy and friends?”
The therapist said:
“No, continue what you are doing, you have a lot to offer, just keep your eyes open and remember that patience is virtue.”
“Oh look at that, your foods ready sir, enjoy!”
John worked very hard that night trying to forget his dream. In fact, he worked so hard he made twice the amount of money than usual. As things seemed to have been a coincidence, that how he decided to look at it. It was just a coincidence. Later that night after returning home from work he checked his messages to find a message from a friend who he hasn’t seen in years. His friend asked him if he needed help with the music he is writing. John was hesitant at first but eventually he gave in. Over the next couple of weeks John was introduced to new friends of friends of friends. Everyone loved to listen to what I was writing. Not because they like the music but because of the burning desire to see what it would lead to. John still has trouble comprehending the couple of events that unfolded in his life. His sister, Sarah showed her support by writing an article about the album for her college newspaper. Soon after it was published, the chairman of the Relay For Life reached out and asked John to perform at the event. This was huge news, yet a bigger problem. John couldn’t sing. He learned to play multiple instruments, recorded them, mix them together thus composing a musical track. John had lyrics written, just couldn’t put them into the songs. With a burning desire to play at this event John began looking for a suitable singer. He went to an open mic night at a music venue not too far from home. The place was called “Chaplin’s” At one time it was a silent film/ vaudeville theater. It was named after Charlie Chaplin who had performed there before. With the naturally beautiful acoustics, the warm elegant feel, this was a perfect spot to meet musicians. When I walked in the door I was greeted by the owner.
“Hi, I’m Bob, can you run a sound board???”
“Yes” John confidently replied. He didn’t know what he was talking about. He never used a live sound board. He intuitively figured it out within minutes. The owner asked John if he could host open mic nights and be the sound man for them every Wednesday. I wasn’t even looking for a job and here he is, hired on the spot, again! He was excited to be a part of a musical community. Slowly but surely this was the mark of an answered prayer. Something he had prayed for to something he lost faith in.
To be continued … – SjC