Thursday, February 27, 2014

A Vapor

14 Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.
                                                                                                                                          James 4:14

In the immediate aftermath of Jonathan's death, although he was absent from us physically his presence was all around us -- like a heavy mist.  It came in the form of expressions of love and disbelief from his friends, and from ours.  His presence was felt in the many cards and flowers that arrived at our door, and in the words and expressions of the many people who came to visit us.  He lived on the pages of Facebook, in the conversations of so many people who loved him and in the testimonials from his friends and family at the funeral service itself.

But, early on in this hellish journey it occurred to me that most people would soon forget about my son, and I grieved at the thought that Jonathan would never have a legacy.  Most of us will only be remembered for two generations -- by our children and our grandchildren.  But when someone so young passes away who will be there to remember?  For whatever reason, I found that thought to be particularly painful.

The hole that has been left by Jonathan's passing is not just a hole in our hearts, but in the physical reality of this world.  It is a physical hole left by the wedding that will never happen and the grandchildren who will never come.  It is the heartbreak that will inevitably be felt at every major event in the life of our family.  And even more it is, at least right now, his absence from the routine of life -- the moments that we shared as a family day to day, and that we must now continue to share without him.

We have a small shuffleboard table in a game room at the house, and Christian, Dani and I were playing several nights ago.  It was one of the first times we tried to be "normal" again.  There was nothing unusual about three of us playing, as on any given night one of the kids might be away doing their own thing.  But it was always better with four.  It was always better when Dani and I -- who were always the underdogs -- beat Jonathan and Christian, or at least gave them a good run for their money.

It was a good distraction from the burden of life, and for the moment the three of us even experienced a little joy again.  And then, somewhere along the way, I caught a glimpse of myself in a mirror, and for whatever reason the feeling of despair came rushing back.

I don't know why seeing myself triggered that response.  Perhaps it was seeing the sadness in my own eyes -- a sadness of which I had for a brief moment become unconscious.  Or maybe it was just because anything, anytime and anywhere can be a reminder of how radically, terribly and permanently our lives have changed.   Or maybe it was because I realized in that moment that a part of me had died with my son on that terrible Sunday -- that my legacy too had been altered forever. 

But, in the days since God has given me a better perspective about life and about legacy.  A major theme in the Book of James, and indeed a major theme of the entire Bible, is that few things we do in this life actually matter.  We are so often motivated by vain ambition, and we brag about what we have accomplished.  But in the end, the "accomplishments" that the world celebrates rarely have any real significance.  Instead, all that really matters is our acts of kindness -- our love for other people.

A little over a year ago Jonathan got the opportunity to interview for a job at a health care company called "Concentra."  He was excited beyond belief.  He had graduated from Baylor University several years earlier during an extremely bad point in the economy and in an extremely difficult job market.  Pam and I were so impressed at how hard Jonathan, in the face of that adversity, worked to make a living and to find a career.

Despite his Baylor degree, Jonathan started waiting tables after graduation, later went into retail and had worked his way into managing a shoe department in a major department store.  It was not what he hoped to be doing with his life, but he never complained, was rarely discouraged, and worked like crazy to earn his way into something better.  So, when the opportunity to work at Concentra came along -- the opportunity to do something he would be proud of and passionate about -- it was huge for him.

When Jonathan returned from his interview he had mixed feelings about how it went.  He told me that he thought most of the interview went extremely well.  But he confided that there was one part he thought he had blown, and was concerned that it might have been a deal breaker.

I don't recall exactly how it came up, but I believe someone asked Jonathan about the most difficult thing he had to deal with at his job at the department store.  Jonathan told the folks conducting the interview that there had been a little old man from Pakistan who worked under him selling men's shoes.  He told them what a hard worker this man had been, and how dependable and trustworthy he was.  The problem was that he was not a very effective salesman, and the department store had a very strict policy -- meet your quota or find another job.

Jonathan described his efforts to coach the man on sales, and explained how he himself had made numerous sales which he credited to the man's numbers in an effort to help him reach that quota.  But still, the man just could not manage to hit the necessary target. 

Knowing the inevitability of the man being fired, Jonathan appealed to upper management to save the man's job.  He pleaded with them to find the man a non-sales position -- maybe even working the loading dock.  But policy was policy, and it broke Jonathan's heart to see the man let go.

During the interview with Concentra, as Jonathan recounted the story, as he recalled the heartbreak of his friend losing his job, Jonathan's emotions got the best of him and a few tears escaped from his eyes.  He was embarrassed -- actually mortified.  He was interviewing for a management position, and he felt that his inability to contain his emotions in that moment might have cost him the job that he so desperately wanted.  He was concerned the interviewers would deem him too soft to make the hard decisions that managers of people must sometimes make.

I told my son that he shouldn't worry about it, and that if the folks at Concentra were good people, far from being a deal breaker, that expression of compassion for others would have been the highlight of his interview.  And, even now I like to think that moment helped him get his dream job.

The night of Jonathan's viewing a large group of people who worked for my son at Concentra were among the first to come and pretty much the last to leave.  Jonathan had an excellent year working there.  The numbers for the location he managed greatly exceeded those from the year before he arrived, and I am confident that was due largely to his hard work.

But his fellow employees were not there at the end to honor Jonathan because of numbers and operational results.  They were there because our son had made an impression on them that Pam and I continue to marvel at.

I have mentioned before that one of the young men who worked for Jonathan told me that he had planned to ask Jonathan to be the godfather to his son.  A woman who worked for Jonathan, and whose husband also worked for my son, told me that prior to hearing of Jonathan's passing she had never seen her husband cry.  But that night -- the night they heard the terrible news -- her husband wept uncontrollably.

It is already easy to see how quickly the vapor that was Jonathan's life is dissipating.  Those who knew him only in passing have returned to the routine of their lives, and even those who continue to support Pam, Christian, Dani and I, although they will still see our pain, they will likely give little thought to who Jonathan was.  Indeed, despite my best efforts to keep him alive through this blog, the number of people who read about him diminishes with each new writing -- barely a trickle compared to the interest people had when the tragedy was still fresh in their minds.

My son may not leave a legacy in the form of children or grandchildren.  It may be that fifty years from now only a few people will continue to keep him in their thoughts -- and then only occasionally and for a passing moment when they see a particular picture, or hear a particular song, or visit a particular place -- or when some other little thing reminds them of their brother or friend.

But Jonathan will always have a legacy.  It is a legacy that will endure for eternity.  It continues in the form of treasures in heaven built through acts of kindness toward the people he loved while he was with us.

I don't know whether any of Jonathan's friends from Concentra read or even know of this blog.  But if you are there, if you are reading this, I want to leave you with one last word:


13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. 14 But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15 Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.

17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. 18 Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.

                                                                                                        James 3:13-17



Anonymous said...

Psalm 139 says that before we were even born, God wrote a book about our life! That alone blows me away! When we get before the judgement seat of Christ, the one thing He will ask is: "Did you learn to love?" All our small acts of love are recorded and never forgotten by Jesus! In Jonathan's short life, he learned how to love! Those small acts of kindness and love are his legacy and what a legacy! You can be so proud of him, John!

osvaldo martinez said...

Every day at work since that awful sunday has been so difficult for us at Concentra we miss John our "JEFE" every single minute that passes by, I miss him asking me Osvaldo is everything alright could I be doing something to help you out. These past weeks I've been telling my coworker Edgar when I hear foot steps from the hall coming close to us if it were only John, throughout the day as we are seeing patients every single day I look to his office to see if I could just see him there like I would see him just by looking back and there he was smiling at his office with his Bluetooth on his ear. John to me was not only a boss he was much more than a friend he made me feel like a brother every day I get home asking my wife why? Why John he was a perfect man he didn't do no harm just beautiful things to the people that were around him. At night I still think alot about John hoping I could just see him the next morning at work so happy to be there and enjoying the day. John made work not be work if I could say it like that. I would get up with excitement and eager every morning to go to work he made work be fun John was not those type of bosses that just because they have a big title they wouldn't help there employees on work, he would check in patients take vitals do drug screens I remember John telling me one day Osvaldo if i don't draw blood on patients is because I'm not aloud to if not i would of done so already. I wish and dream John could still be here to talk to him, to laugh with him, joke with him, eat with him at work. Miss you so so much like u won't imagine John you will always be in my heart.

Anonymous said...

What beautiful words spoken by the other two comments above. I never met your son, but I think about him every day and I know that if he was anything like you, then he was an amazing young man.
My mother's sister was killed suddenly in a tragic automobile accident when she was only 16.
I never met her, in fact don't think I had been born yet, but I have heard about her my while life and seen many pictures of her. Both of my children even know about her and have seen pictures.
My mother had 3 brothers and all of their children also know about her.
Her name was Laura. She had just graduated from high school.
Even though she ever married or had children, she had a legacy. Many of the grandchildren have named their daughters after her. She continues to live in the hearts and lives of all of us.
I have Jonathan's picture on my mantel and look at it everyday. I try to imagine what he was like and it reminds me to pray for you and Pam and your other children.
I know in my heart that Jonathan will be remembered for many many years and possibly generations.. My mother's sister, Laura Mae Waskey, still lives on in the hearts of our family. Blessings, Joyce W

Paula said...

Life is indeed a vapor but often I think that those who die young may have the greater impact, the greater legacy than the rest of us. Our 16 year old son died 12 years ago. I believe many teen-agers' eternal destinies were affected by his untimely (in our eyes) death.
At least 2 babies have bern named "Aaron" after him, and still I run into people who remember and were impacted by his life...and his death. I still find evidence people have visited his grave.

Your son, Jonathan, sounds like a compassionate, "people person," much like our Aaron. Those kind of people will not be forgotten. Their legacy WILL live on.

john crews said...

Thank you Paula. My wife just finished reading "Walking Through The Valley of BACA" and literally handed it to me seconds before I saw your comment. Guess I need to read it!

Paula said...

Well, hope it helps in some small way. I'm quite certain my book is not the most well-written on the subject. Your own writing, for example, is much more eloquent than mine! However, it is our story, and I believe the Lord directed me to write it. Praying for y'all~~

Anonymous said...

My name is Tina and I am a peer of your son.  I am the Center Operations Director for the Las Colinas clinic and have been given the opportunity to oversee Jon's Garland center in the interim.  My interactions with your son were very minimal.  We, the CODs, met once a month for our market meetings.  He was very quiet during our meetings but always hanging on every word that was spoken.  I often sat next to him and watched him diligently write down every everything that was communicated. 

He and I sparked a few conversations, but nothing more than small talk.  I do remember an instance when in between breaks at our meeting, he was trying to learn Lebanese because it was his girlfriend's native language and thought, "wow…best boyfriend ever". 

I also reached out to Jon on a few occasions to either ask for staffing help or to see if he could make special accommodations for patients that would be going to his center.  He ALWAYS went the extra mile for me and I know he did the same for all the other CODs.  Even if it compromised the staffing levels in Garland, he would never say no.
These past few weeks working at the Garland location, I have gotten to know Jon more than I ever did through the stories his staff has shared with me.  I can't tell you how much of an impact your son made on his staff.  They have repeatedly expressed why Jon was so important and special to them.  It wasn't necessarily grand gestures, but all the little things that he did.  One of the girls has a sick father right now and Jon always made an effort to text or call her to find out how she and her family are doing on the days she was off to accompany her father on his doctor visits.  It made her feel really special to know that he truly cared about her and her family's well being. 

Another girl shared how Jon helped her cope through a really tough breakup.  And one of the guys told me that Jon always asked about his family every time he would go back to Mexico to visit them. He said Jon would always ask to see pictures on his return.  They even talked about taking a trip together. 

The staff often jokes that surely they are going to lose weight now that Jon will no longer be bringing donuts, kolaches, and Mexican Cokes on a reoccurring basis.  This is not general behavior of a boss or manager, but rather reflects the behavior of a compassionate friend. 

There is not a single day that goes by that a story of Jon isn't told or remembered amongst them.  It truly made me feel that the "professional and stoic" Jon we saw at the meetings was not the Jon that the staff knew. He has really inspired me to be better at what I do. 

I wanted to do something special for the team to keep the memory of their Jon alive, so I had a plaque made for them which hangs on the wall outside his office.  I know you've had the opportunity to meet his staff and I'm sure they shared with you the same stories they did with me, but I wanted to make sure you knew how much he impacted the Concentra family, both his immediate and extended. 

Paul said...

Yes John, Our thoughts & prayers are with you. - Paul

Blog Archive