My brother-in-law John didn’t smoke, drink, or indulge in drugs. (I’ve done some of those.) He was unexpectedly struck with cancer two years ago, which should give pause to prohibitionists everywhere. If what they say is true, I know many who should have gone before John, including myself.
John was the person I dreaded meeting when I was dating Susan. I was divorced, and had three kids plus a load of debt from a rotten marriage. Susan told me, “John will probably give you a hard time, because I’m his only sister.”
John was generous; although when I say that, I’m selling him short. “Ah, we’ve all made mistakes,” he told me. This is what John said on my wedding day to his sister: “If you’re not ready for this, I can take you anyplace you want to go. Nobody has to know where.” When I acted and sang in my first stage appearance since high school, John and his wife Karen were in the audience – that simple gesture sustained my ego for years.
I’m not sure how many mistakes John made. He went to college for two years, then went to work for CME Associates, a civil engineering firm, which stayed loyal to him after he was afflicted with illness and couldn’t maintain his schedule. I don’t know many companies in 21st century America that would have done the same, certainly not any I’ve worked for.
And John was happy at his work. From a family that valued education and credentials, John was a black sheep. Still, I haven’t met anyone as satisfied with his career choice, or the daily requirements of his job. Every Thanksgiving and Christmas, we’d trade work stories – John tried to make his sound as pain-in-the-ass as the rest of us, but I knew he was faking. He loved being out in the mud, solving problems. Most of us hate our jobs as much as John seemed to love his.
John had a wife and three kids he loved – no mistaking that. Although Susan remembers a wiseacre older brother she once stabbed with a fork, that’s not the guy I knew. John carved my Thanksgiving turkeys every year, and I’m pretty fucking pissed he won’t be doing it this year. Dinner will be at least 30 minutes late from now on, if I can even bring myself to turn on the oven.
Don’t say this was part of God’s plan, or that John is in a better place. I’m not buying, and I don’t think he’d be, either. This is nothing but absolutely hard knocks on Karen, Billy, Katie, and Anna. On Susan and her parents. Because when it comes down to it, this is way too soon. Graduations, weddings, babies and retirements all missed, by someone I know would have been there for all of them, twinkle of a tear in the corner of his eye.
John’s family gathered around and insisted they’d be part of his death. It’s a model for life and love we should all learn from. Susan and Sarah were there yesterday, and marveled about how patient Karen was, and how Katie was able to calm him down. When I visited, I joked that I wanted the recliners they’d placed around his bed in the living room; mostly because they’re comfortable, but also because they’re what I sat in when I last saw John.
He wanted his body donated to science, because doctors were mystified by the progression of the shitty illness in his body. He wanted his ashes placed in a Bios Urn with a maple seed. (I would have thought oak, but John probably knew what would grow.) If any good can come out of this garbage situation, those are good ways to start.
So I’m in awe. I’m crying again (my tears wait until nobody is watching) and I’m using the word I refuse to use except when it’s true. John’s awesome.
Rest in peace, my brother. You’ve earned it. Respect.
John P. Wight, 52, of West Monroe, passed away at home from colon cancer, on Wednesday, with his loving family by his side.
John built a beautiful foundation and provided a comfortable happy life for his family. He was a devoted husband and father and worked just as hard with his involvement in family activities as he did with his career. John dedicated his weeknights and weekends to his children at winterguard, field band, and drumline. His family never asked a question he wasn’t able to answer. He was a Managing Engineer employed by CME Associates for over 30 years and always volunteered for the most challenging and technically complex assignments. He loved his job and everyone at CME loved and recognized John as a key man who helped shape and grow the firm. His kindness and generosity will never be forgotten from the lives that he has touched.
John is survived by his loving wife of 27 years, the former Karen Smith; children William, Katie, and Anna Wight; parents William and Anna Wight; brother David Wight; and sister Susan (Chris) Bord.
A Celebration of Life will be held Sunday, 4;00 pm at Traub Funeral Home, 684 N. Main Street, Central Square. Calling Hours: Sunday, 1:00 to 4:00 pm at the funeral home. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to Central Square Music Boosters, PO Box 801, Central Square, NY 13036.