John Dee….that’s what I called him. John Dee let the dogs out. John Dee how are you? John Dee I love you…..I don’t know when I started referring to him in full name fashion but it was a long time ago and it just rolled off the tongue so it stuck.
Over the years John created this magical space for snow lovers of all kinds. And in doing that, he formed a family. Some members of this family, had never met John or other members. Yet, each week and with most each day, you all kept coming back. The journals, the forecast, the cameras but I also know it was because of the family. Checking in to see what’s new with each other or where each of your adventures had lead you. We’ve lost members of this family, watched people get married, have babies, recover from accidents, celebrate victories. We are family.
John and I drove to Rochester on Sunday, November 12th. Before we left we were sitting with my cousin Amy in the living room. John appeared in the living room and I said, “how are you John Dee”? He replied, “great”! I was a little surprised by this response as he had a tough week. Lots of anxiety over his upcoming trip to the Mayo clinic. I went over the week with him, trying to pump him up that this would be a breeze. No big procedures, just lots of appts, blood work and what we jokingly called the “45 second” treadmill test. Knowing that he’d never make it longer than that. So to hear, “I’m great”….was exactly what I needed to hear. We could do this! Amy is here to take care of Gracie and we will be home in no time.
We had started to listen to audio books during our long drives back and forth to the clinic. Our choice for the trip to Rochester that Sunday was Matthew Perry. At one point in the book Matthew speaks of being in hospital alone. No family. No visitors. I reached over and touched John’s hand and apologized for all the times he was in hospital alone. See this was our agreement. As long as he was stable, I was to stay home with Gracie. Keep things as “normal” as possible for her. I know there were times when he needed me or just wanted me there, but we stuck to the plan almost always. I’m thankful for that moment on Sunday to tell him I was sorry he was alone all those times.
On Monday we were to be at the clinic at 6:20 am – 4 pm. First stop, the lab. John was having problems doing any sort of physical activity so I offered to push him in the wheelchair since we were going from one end of the mayo to the other. I offered this in the past and he always declined. Not this time. We arrived at the lab and John went back to get his blood drawn and came back to the wheelchair. When a man appeared and said, “Are you THE John Dee”? John looked up and said, “I guess I am”. The gentleman shook his hand and said he had been following the website for years. Kevin wished John well and went on his way. Things like this would happen often when we traveled to MN and WI. Strangers stopping him to shake his hand, take a picture with “John Dee” and ask about what the winter would be like. One of the the things I loved most about John is he never got a big head. He was so humble and kind.
Monday proved to be a long day. But, we made the best of it. We shared funny videos and laughed. Sometimes people would give us a look like how can these two be laughing at such a time. One of our appointments was to meet the transplant coordinator and watch a movie on what to expect when you get a new heart. After watching the clips John said to me, “usually I can see myself in these but this time I can’t”. That sent me right into a panic….”John Dee what do you mean? Like you think you won’t make it to get a new heart”? John replied, “No….I’m a tough SOB. I just won’t need it for a long time”. I’m not able to share all the events but there were many comments or things that came up the 24 hrs before his passing that still shake me a bit and make me feel like he must have known his health was failing quickly.
There was one dr’s office that we were in and out of throughout that day. As I pushed John in the wheelchair and joked about being pooped from pushing him around all day, we approached the counter where the receptionist was. I had leaned down and kissed the top of John’s head and said, “let’s blow this joint”. We smiled and the receptionist commented on how nice it was to see people smiling.
Our plan was to grab a bite to eat, hit the grocery store and then turn in. We had a nice dinner but John wasn’t hungry. He hadn’t been hungry since being in the hospital 3 1/2 weeks before hand. Nothing tasted good and his appetite was almost non existent. Over dinner I checked the results of his 45 second stress test and blood work. We were surprised to see some of his bloodwork had actually come into a better range. Some that hadn’t been in a normal range for many many months. Finally, maybe things would turn around. Like they always did. He always beat everything that came his way. So we celebrated and went to the car wash where we had a discussion about the weather. Talking about what my prediction was and if he was still sticking to his ideas for this winter. I told him, “it’ll be mild and the lake will stay open and it’s going to snow buckets. We’ll have lots of snow days and stay in cozied up around the fire place in our new home”. He smiled and said, “the only thing I agree with you on is the mild part”.
We finished up at the grocery store where I busted him in the bulk food candy aisle and he talked me into ironically enough, “Johnny pop” popsicles. Popsicles were a staple in our house the last month of his life.
I was sitting on the couch working and he was in the other room directly across from me. I could feel someone staring at me. I look up and there’s my John Dee looking at me. I said, “what”? His reply, “can’t a guy just look at his wife”? Can’t a guy just look at his wife. One of the last sentences he ever spoke to me. Can’t a guy just look at his wife.
By morning John was gone. God’s last gift to John on this earth was no more suffering and a peaceful exit. How could he be gone? My mind just couldn’t grasp how my husband…..my best friend…..our daughters “popsio”……how could he be gone. Just like that.
Remember now we are all family right?
As I was surrounded by police, medics, etc. I realized I was all alone. All alone in a town 7 1/2 hours away from my daughter….my support systems….everything. I didn’t know what to do. But, I knew I needed to leave Rochester and get home as soon as I could. I’d soon learn there is so much of dealing with losing a spouse, that you just don’t know what to do. Uncharted territory.
I was having a bit of a hard time thinking, yet I remembered that Dave and Rosanne B from the website lived in Rochester. My first gentle nudge from what I believe is John. I reached out to Dave and Rosanne and Rosanne was there with me within 10 minutes. I was so relieved to see her….not my best friend….not my sister…..but, a part of this community…this family. Dave and Rosanne had a plan and Dave would drive me home. Mostly in tears and silence. I’m so thankful for both Dave and Rosanne.
Hardly anyone knew that John had passed. I was fearful that word would get out and that Gracie would hear. I had asked my coworker, friend and social worker at school to meet me at the house. Gracie knows her well and really likes her. As I got closer to home, what I was about to tell our daughter was sitting so heavy on my heart. I was about to change her whole entire life. Forever….her life was going to change in one sentence. I’ll never forget those next few hours. How I wish they never would have needed to happen and that her dad was here with us. But, that wasn’t to be.
I’m not sure how you feel when you are 14 and lose your dad. The best dad there is! Not a slouch, not a drunk, not a selfish dad…but, a loving, supportive, fun, best dad. Since John’s passing which is just 2 days shy of 4 weeks, I’ve lost count of the people who I know or have met who lost their father at a young age. It started first at the hotel that morning. Another sign to show us she will be ok. All these folks miss their dads, wish life would have been different but they are ok. Hope……there’s hope that we will be ok.
Once word was out on Thursday, I could not believe all the messages, emails, and social media posts. I knew John had touched alot of lives but I had no idea the amount. No idea. It was a mild week weather wise, so I sat on the front porch reading posts for what seemed like hours. I always felt John never really got the recognition he deserved for what he did for the tourism and snowmobile community in general. I hope that John was able to see or feel all the love that was sent his way.
I wish our last 5 years together wouldn’t have been filled with so much sickness. Ever since 2018 we had been on this sickness cycle. Things would be good for a few months then something would happen. A unnoticed 99 percent blocked artery, a tree to the head, afib, and the list goes on. I was so grateful that people were sharing pictures of John healthy! I had forgotten….how could we have forgotten all the good years of a healthy life? But, we had. The sickness consumed us. Every day was hard for John. Yet he never complained. Never. Blood work, drs appts, meds, hospital stays…..Looking at in now, I can see that we were in a very critical space. I don’t know how we were managing but we were. Now I can see it wasn’t pretty. We weren’t able to do the things together that we loved. John wasn’t able to snowmobile or hike. But, most importantly John was fighting for his life. He had told me not to long ago, “I do this only for you and Grace”.
John Dee was not afraid to die. Don’t get me wrong he wanted to live desperately. But, he wasn’t afraid. He was only afraid to leave us behind. He worried about us. His girls being alone.
So many good things have happened in the last few weeks. Things that show us we are loved….we are watched over…..we will have the help we need. My family for starters…..my brothers couldn’t get here fast enough to help me. They stay with me, made sure I was set for winter, skated with Gracie….I have the best family who has just really been by my side through all this.
People are telling me “I felt compelled to help”……”I can’t explain it but I needed to reach out”…….this is John Dee…..he is nudging. He is making sure his girls are taken care of. Bill from Route 12 and the go fund me was the first of many people to do amazing things to help us. Keith….poor Keith…..he called me right away when he heard. So many tears. Listening to me cry and try to figure out how John could be gone. Skylar….Scottiking….all reaching out. What can I do? What do you need? Family……all these friendships started right here from JohnDee.com.
I was driving down the road the other day, decided to take the long way as I was listening to John’s playlist. When suddenly my low tire light came on. Nooo! Normally, I’d call John. So I quickly called my neighbor who is a mechanic. He said, “turn around and come here”. I was losing pressure SO fast and almost 15 miles from town. So I asked him at what pressure level should I stop driving. So off I was….praying….please please let me get to Rob’s. I knew I wouldn’t make it so my prayers turned into please please let me make it to Mikes. I pulled into Mike’s driveway just in time. What was in my tire was a rock that looked like a tiny shark tooth. It was about 1/4 inch in length. Long story short Rob got the tire off, in the truck, I got the tire to the shop and repaired. The next day I was thinking about how thankful I was for my neighbors. But, wondered why that had to happen when I’m already feeling a bit like there is no space for anything extra. When it hit me. That happened to show me I am supported. I can do hard things. It’s going to be ok.
Many have asked, “how are you and Gracie doing”? The straight answer is every day is different. Gracie is sad and missing her dad terribly. She wears his watch and his sweatshirts. Anything to feel close to him. Those two were so so close. The typical daddy daughter relationship. As a mother, it breaks my heart that I can’t fix this for her. I can’t take away her pain.
The other day I only cried twice….once being in Ace hardware. So I just don’t know when it will hit. Sometimes all it takes is a smile from a friend or a simple, “how are you”? And the tears of sadness just don’t stop. This house is so empty feeling. I’ve had lots and lots of company and people always staying with me so that helps. Yet, it still feels so empty. The void that John left is incredibly huge. There are memories of him everywhere…..a picture, something he built, his clothes. Every turn a memory. When I feel really sad I try to remember that he is great right now! No longer suffering with that old tired sick heart. He’s whole and new. You know we always believed he’d beat this. I bet some think well he was sick….this shouldn’t be a surprise. Well, he was sick but we always had hope…..faith…..that God would heal him. Someone reminded me the other day that God did heal him. He’s healed now.
On our anniversary in October I had put on facebook that the road has not always been easy but I’d choose John over again. No truer words. This pain……all this is worth it to have been loved by him. We had such an amazing, fairy tale life for so many years. Not everyone has this and I’m so grateful.
I’m going to try my best to live like John Dee……every moment was a gift to him. He took nothing for granted. He was kind. Gentle. Forgiving. Loving. Generous. Do what brings you joy. Be kind.
I was thinking about this journal alot this week and went back and forth about what I wanted to write. How many of you remember ALL the times he wrote cloths instead of clothes?! hahaha…..that always made me laugh.
Before I close I wanted to express my thanks to you all. Thank you for the gifts, the emails, the cards, the support.
Also, Gary filled you all in a bit on what’s next. Gary has been a huge help! The show must go on. John worked way to hard and for too long to not keep John Dee up and running.
I have a few current issues that I’m hoping will get resolved quickly…..one being the AL cam was up and running yesterday but today is back out of commision. My neighbor and friend Tim is helping me with this. And I need to figure out how to place banner ads on the webpages. I have an email into a local guy who has worked with John in the past. We missed each other last Thursday but I’m hopeful maybe tomorrow we will be able to figure a few things out. He said he’s willing to help so hopefully soon.
Also, if you ordered John Dee com stickers……I see you! I just can’t find the stickers! But, I’m working on that too.
My friend Lisa is helping me with the facebook page and lots of other behind the scenes things. It’s going to take a village for a bit but once things get squared away we’ll be great.
I forgot to talk about the weather! Oh my gosh John would be so cranky right now if he were here! So cranky! It’ll come. It always does. I think it was 2016 we had green grass the first few days of December and then we were slammed. I was chuckling at a few posts where people were saying, “now you are in heaven John bring on the snow”……I secretly think he’s determined to have his final seasonal outlook pan out 🙂
Good night from John Dee’s snow country!