September 29, 2021


This photo of John and Kay with their sons Josh (far left), Jesse and Matthew (far right) was taken at Kay’s request for her Mother’s Day gift in 2003. Their friend Mark took a whole series of wonderful family photos for them one afternoon on Love Circle near their Nashville home.

One reason Kay was so eager to have this photo was that John had been diagnosed a few months earlier with advanced colon cancer.  He did not live until the next year’s Mother’s Day.

During the course of his illness, John made every effort to “finish well” as he wrote email updates to his many friends around the world, preached sermons, got all his business affairs in order and loved those dearest to him even more.  Of course, he longed to be able to have much more time with his wife and sons. Yet if that were not to be, he wanted to share as much joy with them as possible.

For his 50th birthday on this date in 2003, he wanted a big party!  It was almost to be like attending his own wake or funeral, practicing joy as resistance. His family organized all the details just as he wanted—with hundreds of friends and relatives coming to celebrate with him.  He chose a menu from the local Calypso Café.  Friends who had a huge barn near Franklin offered it as the party scene.  There were framed photos of John from childhood on, grouped on all the tables as well as a slide show.  There were flowers, balloons, banners and a DJ.  

John was thrilled to see everyone who came, and made his rounds to chat with them.  He made a speech about how he wanted to celebrate his life, and promised a great evening of laughter and dancing.  After the delicious meal of some of his favorite foods, there was much dancing and conversation.

My favorite scene was when John and his three sons danced wildly together in the center of the dance floor, laughing, perspiring and embracing.  For that moment, they were alive and together. Joy as resistance.

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