I had the rare opportunity of reviewing John's book in advanced form when he gave it to me at a family wedding in Idaho a few months ago. When I reflected on the story, the circumstances of his despair, and the path to hope that is his tale, I wondered why I knew so little of it. Wasn't I a close relative? Didn't I have the same upbringing and experiences to claim some present knowledge of his condition? No, was the blunt answer, although I did visit that apartment once, downing a Diet Pepsi in the heat.
I further pondered, then, whether I even deserved the thank you notes that had come hand-addressed to our suburban mailbox over the last year. They were beautifully drafted, upbeat and truly thankful. One could tell that John had spent time formulating his words.
What became so discomforting about those thank you notes, after reading the story, was that I had left them unanswered. Then there were the notes, the many notes, that I should have sent him -- words he truly deserved. John was and is a guidepost and counselor for my journey as a father, family member and fellow lawyer. Good grief, I thought. Where were you when he was going through all of this? He was there for you, countless times. He was reaching out and you didn't respond. I guess we all have our work cut out for us. I was just a silent chapter waiting to be written. Realizing what we have, the value of the people around us and our mission to be part of their lives is a resolution we can all work on in the new year.
When you read this book, especially if you've ever tried to write a short story or essay, you are immediately struck by how able John is at maneuvering his thoughts and observations to paint a picture of his feelings. His writing is just a pleasure to read, complete with a touch of humor when all else seems lost. It's a page turner, comfort food, cream cheese on a bagel. Of course, that's no consolation for those who love and admire John and his achievements and wished we could have been there when he truly needed us, not just when he celebrated his triumphs. Finding his way back to hope certainly wasn't because I or many others close by John were there for him. It was because he found the spirit, when walking in the hills, to reach out to everyone that was present in his life. His thank yous were an invitation, sometimes answered, sometimes not, to join in the fabric of his life and its struggles. They were openers to conversations, emails, visits, chats on the phone -- rays of hope. Will all 365 shine brightly on the path? I guess John concluded that enough of them might. We'll all have to do our part to keep the others lit.
I am amazed by how timely this book is. There are so many folks today without jobs, unprepared for retirement, in need of a lifeline in their illness or misfortune. When one like this is thrown our way, we need to hang on and pull.
Congratulations, John. This is a great read. -- Gipper