It's strange that there he sat in my kitchen chair with glasses, with a gentle air, with a giggle or two when the banjo clucked like a pained chicken. He gripped his guitar during his solos, attacking the new runs, participating in a singular joy of musical expression. He, in fact, was a professional trombonist, but his lungs refused to answer to the mouthpiece after awhile. I never heard him play, but he used to for a local group, going into bars perhaps, perhaps inhaling the smoke of others, never from a habit of his own.
All I knew of him was that he liked jazz, the Em chord, his friend James; he had a sweet wife; he sat unknown in front of me in church for a couple of years; he showed up at the same bluegrass class; then, he made a way into my kitchen on Tuesday afternoons. The cancer was already there, they say. Yet he seemed quite healthy five weeks ago as we played at his family reunion. Three weeks ago, he occupied his normal spot at our practice. Yesterday, he died; the lungs refusing any more breathful musical progressions whatsoever.
The last time, he came over, I tried out a new song learned from a Laurie Lewis c.d. called "When I Get Home"; it's a peppy tune which talks about going to heaven, finally being satisfied, about making music with a million angels, "gonna play me a harp of gold that's just like David's", etc. John heard it and smiled and commented that he really liked it.
I hope heaven is not a myth. I hope it has harps and mimosa-flower-smells and God's crushing love and reunion. I hope John is basking in its music right now, upheld, reunited, regarded as chosen, swaying, tapping, sliding his trombone once more, smiling.
I must trust that John is there. I must be thankful that for awhile, my kitchen reflected a small bit of its grace and light and welcome to him.
Thank you, God, for John's life here on earth.