|LIVE LIKE JOHN GERWITZ!!!|
After John went 'Home' to God on July 11th, my dear friend Julie and I (John's wife) were sitting in the kitchen when I said to her, "From here on out, I'm going to live like John Gerwitz! John lived what he Loved, talked about what he believed and used every breath of his Life to the fullest. Not one breath was wasted. So from here on out, I'm going to live like John Gerwitz!!!"
John Gerwitz told the best stories that always started with, “We asked ourselves what could possibly go wrong?” and ended with, “And then we ran.” And he did, John ran all on four cylinders, his heart was always racing.
Here in our sorrow it is easy to stand here and know what could possibly go wrong --- words like cancer and death quickly come to mind. But because John was who he was, we are able to embrace everything else that comes before those words, such as the surprise, loudness and passion of a bold and juicy life. A life, which days after his death is still so joyous and bursting at the seams, that many of us may find ourselves smiling and laughing, even as the tears roll down our face. This is one of those times in life where it may be difficult to be somber, because this celebration is not at all about dying, it’s ALL about living.
It's about celebrating a life so well lived that we can walk away today wanting to embrace life just the way John Gerwitz did. He led the kind of life that carves you out so deeply with the absence of him, yet simultaneously fills you up with the sheer love and joy of knowing him – until you are just overflowing in your heart, mind and soul.
John had a relationship with God that extended far beyond church pews. John was very spiritual. He loved God and prayed every single day. He did this even though attending Mass proved to be a challenge. Although I can tell you this, he did attend service in his heart every single day. He distilled his spirituality into passionate practicality by living out his shortest sermon.
“Do Good and avoid evil.”
One day John and I were reflecting on why all of this was happening to him. I said, “John you must be an incredibly special person.” He said, “Why?” I said, “I just wonder if God was thinking, ‘hmmmmm, I have a message to deliver and I need someone who knows a lot of people and who will affect a lot of people. This person will teach people how to live and how to die. He will teach people how to reconcile their differences. He will love life and be thankful. I know, I’ll create a John Francis Gerwitz and he’ll know a lot of people. He will do this for Me. He will take up his cross and carry it with strength, dignity and courage. And he will show people that I AM here, that do I exist and not to be afraid.” Tears were streaming down John’s face and he said, “Yes, I will. I will do it. Thy will be done. Thy will be done.” I told him that God truly blessed him for a job well done and gave him a wife like Julie to love and care for him and two incredibly intelligent, loving and gifted boys. With quivering lips, he said, “That’s true.” I went on to tell him, “John, nothing happens to you for your lowest bad, that doesn't even make sense; it’s all for your Highest Good.” He smiled, cried and then we just sat there silently, reflecting, praying.
Grace and courage in every moment, turns even dying, into living. Friends, the party isn’t over, it just moved to the other side. His message to us goes without saying, “Yes, I’m dying but I’m living now. I’m going to love, laugh, and live to the end.” Even in those last few months he still wanted to be the last one to leave the party. John was the one who set the tone. One rooted in living.
John knew that openness, love and connections were worth the price of having to say goodbye. John was dying but he continued to make new friends. He continued to welcome new people into his fold. Even his hospice team; Madonna, Elizabeth and Robin became family too. Even more amazing he and Julie continued to fall deeper in love with each other. It was evident the way they held each others hands and laughed together as she laid next to him on his hospice bed. They courageously allowed themselves to let their hearts go deeper despite knowing they would very soon have to say goodbye. John said, “I asked myself what could possibly go wrong?” He added, “It turns out having to leave my best friend and the love of my life before I’m really ready to say goodbye.” With a tear John continued, “I’ll tell you this, the adventure and the memories made what could possibly go wrong, all right.”
John Gerwitz loved no matter what. He learned this from his parents and through his relationship with Hans and Kurt. He loved his sons fiercely. He acknowledged that he made some mistakes and allowed himself to grow and change along with those mistakes. He humbly asked God for guidance in the hard times and for the strength to truly accept what is.
Hans, Kurt, your dad still loves you boys very much and wants you to know that he is still very proud of you both.
Julie, when you feel the deep emotions of John swelling over you, John wanted you to know that he is sitting beside you, stroking your hair, reminding you that he still loves you.
A life well lived always comes with a long list of great of words. John was all action and all flair. His name is synonymous with gregarious, outgoing, funny, a little crazy, a great friend, courageous, inspirational, generous, spiritual, and a non-stop talker. John’s name will be forever linked with Wine and Stag Beer, exaggerated stories, his love for New Orleans (oh, excuse me . . . Nawlins), the sounds, smells and singed eyebrows of home fireworks, potato guns, Germany, Civil War, Sons of Confederate Veterans, Powder Valley, Mardi Gras Beads, 4th of July, urban bike rides, and of course, his birthday.
John Gerwitz taught us how to live and he also taught us how to die. Its obvious John did run on all four cylinders. His heart was always racing. Last Monday, on July 11th, John’s heart-rate doubled and his breathing became shallow. At his bedside were – his wife Julie, his sons Hans and Kurt, his mother-in-law Sandy and brother-in-law Tom, his friends Jim and Debbie Faughn, Christine Baudin and myself.
John certainly had a lot of important and exciting adventures in his life. I can personally tell you it was a privilege and honor to be with John during the most moving and valuable moment of his life. He was leaving us, leaving Julie and leaving Hans and Kurt to be with Jesus. He knew this. I brought communion to John every day and I can tell you that there was nothing more important to John than receiving communion. John Gerwitz did not take communion, he received communion. With his hands together and raised high from his hospice bed, he received communion with an eloquent, moving and reverent, “Amen.”
During the final hour and a half of John’s life, we gathered around him as Julie cradled his head against her body and Hans, Kurt and John gripped one another’s hand, one on top of the other. The rest of us, we bowed our heads in prayer. She held him, she kissed him, and she wiped the sweat from his brow, stroked his face, softly scratched his head and told him, “Its okay baby, you can go to Jesus. Hans and Kurt are here. We’re all here. Your work is done. You did a good job.” Julie was so calm, gentle and incredibly loving as she continued walking John Home and said, “What do you see? There’s Jesus. He has his arms open. He’s waiting for you. Don’t be afraid. Go to Him. It’s okay, honey. It’s all Good.” She continued, “You’ll see people you know. It’s beautiful! We’re all going to be fine. I’m going to be fine. I’ll take care of the boys and Jane.” Then Julie took Holy Water from Our Lady of Fatima and crossed John. As John took his last breath, she whispered to him, “You can go in now. I love you. Bye-baby.”
And we watched his last breath leave his body and his spirit fade away. We all sat, waited, we were motionless. After which I said, “It’s been 4 minutes, he’s with Jesus now.” We let our emotions roll as we cried, moaned, sobbed and hugged one another. Shortly thereafter, Julie took charge and instructed us on what John wanted us to do. We popped a bottle of champagne, toasted John and celebrated his new life and we knew there were people ‘on the other side’ celebrating his arrival as well. The party didn’t end, it just doubled in size. John may be ‘gone from our sight,’ but now he lives for eternity.
God saw he was getting tired
And a cure was not to be;
So he put his arms around him
And whispered, “John, Come to me.”
With tearful hearts we watched him
Although we loved him dearly,
We could not make him stay.
A golden heart stopped beating,
Hard working hands to rest
God broke our hearts to prove to us
He only takes the best.
John did leave you a message,
you’ll find it on the other side of your program.
“Amen . . . Amen”
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