My name is Chris Leon, and I am a long-time friend of John’s.
Simon and I meet John together one afternoon at the beginning of grade 6. John had suddenly appeared in our class a few days prior, so we were curious about who this new kid was.
Simon and I often walked home together, and for the previous few days, we had noticed John walking home behind us, we later found out he lives on the same street as Simon. On one fateful day, we stopped him and introduced ourselves, and from that moment, the three of us became close friends.
When I think of John, I remember endless hours playing with puppets, Lego, swimming and making movies. To me, I can’t think of that period of my life without the image of, Simon riding his scooter and me riding a bike toeing John on his skateboard.
I remember weekend adventures to the movies where our parents would give us 20 dollars each. That was enough for a bus into the city, a movie, popcorn, drink, Jaffars, and ice-cream. I have fond memories of watching Star Wars, six times and seeing Greece for the first time with John, and the second time, and the third time. John had a massive crush on Oliver Newton-John. I think that is why he married you, Irene.
I always wished I could be John. John was everything I wanted to be. He was confident and smart and more fun than me. John was more comfortable with other people, and he made people around him feel relaxed. John was unfailingly loyal. Always there. I always knew if things got too crazy, John was there to protect us. He made me feel safe to do something outside my comfort zone, he gave me courage.
The courage which, by the way, John was more than comfortable exploiting. John would often talk us into doing things which were, in hindsight, stupid. Like diving into swollen stormwater drains or riding pushbikes down long flights of stairs. I remember pulling my face out of a garden bed at the bottom of one particularly long flight of stairs with John’s infectious laugh ringing in my ears.
I think Simon, John and I needed each other. The bond we had between us gave us stability and safety during a period of our lives when we needed it. A period when our own home lives were unstable and chaotic.
As we grew, our lives took different paths. Simon went to private school for a period before joining John and me at Cavendish Road High School. Still, we remained good friends and continued to spend time together through the school years.
After school and over the years since. I would regularly get a call from John, and we would catch up. John also kept in contact regularly with my parents. Sometimes visiting them more frequently than me. I watched as John settled down with his beautiful wife Irene and started his own family.
John helped to shape my life in many ways. But one of the most significant impacts was something John did, that I never got the opportunity until now, to thank him for.
I am gay, and I struggled to accept myself and feel that I belonged. I had purposely put distance between myself and anyone I loved just to avoid the possibility of being rejected.
Until one day I got a phone call from John. “Hey mate, I heard something about you today. I heard you’re gay.”
At that moment, my heart sank, and I braced for what was about to come. But to my surprise and without any judgement or hesitation, John said to me “it doesn’t bother me that you’re gay. You know I love you”. And just like that, like water off a duck back, everything changed for me. It made me remember my connection to everyone I cared about. John, at that moment, gave me back my life.
I never had the opportunity to tell him what he did for me that day. I always thought that we had all the time in the world. And that in the years ahead as our families grew and we had more free time we would have an opportunity to reconnect and spend more time together.
The bond that Simon, John and I formed in those years ago has remained with us our entire lives. Although our lives have taken several paths, and our contact has waxed and waned, our bond never diminished.
The three of us influenced each other’s lives and shaped the core of who we became as adults, and I will be, forever thankful, that John and Simon have been part of my life.
I will miss you John, and I grieve for the time that has been taken from us, and I thank you, John, for the final lesson you have taught me. Cherish every moment we have with each other and not to fall into the trap of thinking, we will always have more time.