Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Happy Birthday, John!

Last Tuesday, I celebrated my 39th birthday. People who work, live and Facebook with me, know that I stretched that day into a whole week of celebration. I got gifts, lots of cards and well wishes, and was reminded of just how blessed I was to have such a great bunch of family and friends.

Today, just one week later, I'm reminded once again of how blessed I am. Unfortunately a great tragedy serves as the reminder. While I thought I'd be sending birthday wishes to my high school classmate, John Detouche, today, I've been sending e-mails and posting information on John's funeral, which will be on Thursday.

John was in a fiery car crash on Friday afternoon -- a beautiful, first day of Spring forever marred by this loss.

John was one of the funniest people I have ever met. So today, I'm trying not to mourn his passing, but to celebrate all the great times we shared in middle school, high school and afterwards.

I will forever remember those days riding the bus to football away games. Once, the bus broke down on the way back from some really small town beside a corn field that looked like scenery from Children of the Corn. (Jokes weren't that funny on that night. I wanted to be at home.)

If John wasn't joking with his boys, The Four Horsemen, he was singing or doing some of the best impressions of Riley Jackson, one of our defensive coaches, that's ever been done.

John was also a great dancer, something you wouldn't expect from a big, burly defensive lineman. (The Four Horsemen all thought they could rap, dance and entertain.)

I'll also never forget the pride and joy he felt when his true love was elected Homecoming Queen. We really should have made him a crown, too -- 20 years later he was still reminding Arlette that she won because of him.

After high school we all went our separate ways, but several years later, John and I ended up working at Blue Cross and Blue Shield together. He was still that funny guy, but the jokes were now about his wife and kids. He was all grown up. Around the same time I was obsessed with all things Jackie O and JFK Jr. and I started calling him, "John John" -- he hated it -- which only made me call him that even more.

It's been years since I've seen John, but thanks to the ever popular emergence of social networking sites, we traded e-mails and posts most of last year. I was even "lucky" enough to be one of his responses in his profile on our high school's site -- even if it wasn't true! I acted like I was mad about it, but the truth is, as a writer, I can't get enough of seeing my name in "print" regardless of what it's for.

John leaves behind two sons, his Mom and many family members and friends who I know are still trying to understand his leaving us so suddenly, way too soon. I hope that they see all the wonderful memories and thoughts people are sharing on various websites. I also pray that God brings them comfort and peace during this difficult time.

Today I pulled out the yearbook from our senior year. It was in my computer desk because of planning and stuff I've been doing with our class website since our 20-year reunion last summer. Flipping through the pages, I found these words from John scribbled beside his picture for Most Wittiest ... "I wish you all the luck in the world (because I can't think of another person who needs it more! just kidding!)." Once again he was wrong. I was already the luckiest person in the world because I was blessed to have him as a friend.

Happy Birthday, John John! We love and miss you.