Letter 7: To John

7 February 2012

Dear John

‘Dear John’ – that phrase in the world of cliché means the beginning of a ‘good bye’.  Yet this time, for me, this is the beginning of a hello, a getting in touch, a getting to know you, to connect with you and so to deepen the connection with myself and to understand the role you have played in my life.

Do you know me John, your sister, the one that came after you?  You had so little time in this living realm, a tiny baby born early, who breathed this side of the womb for 2 days only.

Your passing was a pain, a grief, a darkness that reached into my time, born as I was, 5 years later.  I always knew about you – and our mother told me that not one day went by when she did not think of you.   And in tears and arguments, your memory would surface and be tossed around by our parents, a turmoil unresolved, unforgiven, never forgotten.

It’s a dark place John, to think of the pain and torment of your passing, so let me pass back to the realms of love and dreams and consequence …

We have a living brother of course, two years older still than you; and in my dreams I have seen you, another version of my family … familiar and yet separate.

So you were a fascination to me, part of my puzzle, a missing strand of DNA.  And as a child I often imagined how you would be, if you walked in this world.

And I have realised over time that had you stayed in this world, then I probably would not be here, as I am, in this form, in this living plane of being.  So I thank you John and it’s a complicated thank you, for your part in who I am.  And because of your passing and my safe and happy arrival; my parents were so over-joyed to welcome me when my time came to enter this world.  And separately they have both told me that I was their saviour, angel child, which feels like a beautiful privilege sometimes and at other darker times, an expectation I have felt I simply couldn’t live up to.

You were named John for our grandfather – our mother’s father.  Another John gone before I was born, another John not known by me.  Though for this John I have photographs, stories and a history …  This John stands in line in our parent’s wedding photos and his physical features sometimes reveal themselves in the living descendants that are my familiars.  This John is part of our Scottish heritage and so Grandpa John was known as ‘Jock’.  And I can only guess at what other inheritances we have all got from him.  I would love to explore that part of my past puzzle one day if I can …

And one of the many legends of Grandpa John is that he had another family, one that came after my mother; the fact of which was scandal at the time.  So my mother would say that she is an only child and so she was in fact until her mid 20s.  In recent years she has sought to know her later siblings – a half brother and sister and so I have traced the pieces of paper that would link us to them.

But what comes next?  Do they know of us?  Do they know they have a sister, niece and nephew?  And here’s the thing too, my (half) uncle out there, some where, is also John, named for Grandpa John too – and takes his first name AND his surname.

Another John not known to me, now old enough to be retired … is he still alive, does he have his own family, what did he do with his life?  Could he be a piece of the puzzle that fits, or could he care less?  I stopped the search because my mother, his half sister, became ill and needed our attention and now, further down that line, for many reasons, I’m not sure whether to pick it up again.

What ever the case, I am trusting that this John lives and loves and laughs.  And of my three Johns – brother, grand father and uncle; it is Uncle John who comes into my mind most of all, now I’m at this time in my life.  My father gave us an uncle and two aunts who have all left this world now, so it’s good to know that there is more family out there and maybe, at the end of this letter, that’s all I need to know about them.

We all have our legacies, our legends and live with the consequences of love – our own loves and the love that was created by those who went before us.  In the final analysis I want to connect to the love, live and breath it in every form and on that note I will bid all my Johns, for now, a very fond farewell.

    With love from Sandra xxx

PS: Thanks go to my brother and mother who agreed to let this letter be seen and for reminding me that when I was in my pram, we used to visit my brother John’s tiny grave.  A connection unremembered … and one for which I am grateful.   S x

[PPS: Dear Reader, this letter and more are now published in book form, you can buy your copy by following this link…]

Grandpa John, a face known and unknown …