RIP Jean

As a child, I would complain about having to go to funerals. It was uncomfortable. I never knew the person that passed, but had to make an appearance. My dad used to say “we’re not going for the dead, we’re going to support the living”. Today I got news that someone I had the privilege of making acquaintance with passed away. Suddenly. And I’m broken. This is a man I was with for 3hrs maybe 5times a year. I don’t know this man. Not really. And yet, I am shattered. It is a sadness I have never felt for a person I barely knew. I don’t really know his family. I definitely don’t know his friends. I only knew him and the impact he had on me. Writing has always been a coping mechanism for me, so that’s what I’m doing.

We used to volunteer together for the Montreal Gospel Choir. I loved him. I loved his smile. I loved his enthusiasm. I loved the way his face lit up when he would see his wife. I loved his heart. I loved his welcoming spirit. I loved that he would dance with me. I loved that he was willing to make a fool of himself with me. I loved that he would laugh at my jokes. I loved how comfortable he made me feel. I loved his quiet assurance. I loved how kind he was to strangers. I loved that he always went the extra mile. I honestly just loved being in his presence.

This week a friend told me there are 5 people in her life she cares about. She could call them at 3am and know they would pick up and that’s all she needs. I get that. But life isn’t a series of 3am calls. It is mundane, for the most part. We don’t necessarily spend all our time with the people we most want to. We’re stuck with randos at work, on the subway, at church, etc. We navigate an ocean of people and try to make the best of it. So here’s what I learned from Jean – be a wave in the ocean.

He was not just another face in the crowd, not for me anyway. I didn’t have to “make the best of it” when he was around. He made it the best. For the brief moment someone was with him, he greeted them with a smile, a handshake, respect, kindness and dignity… And I miss him. So very much. I am broken for the people who will never know the depth of his gentleness. I hope that when I go, I am remembered by someone I barely knew the way I remember him. I want people to feel his kindness through me. I probably won’t be your 3am call. But I’d like to be your “Jean”. To be his legacy. I’d like for whatever brief moment I spend with a stranger, or someone I see 5times a year for 3hrs, to mean something. I’d like to be a wave.

RIP Jean

The world lost a great man. Heaven gained a great treasure.

On the death of a friend, we should consider that the fates through confidence have devolved on us the task of a double living, that we have henceforth to fulfill the promise of our friend’s life also, in our own, to the world.Henry David Thoreau

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