A tribute to my brother Johnny

For those of you who do not know me I am Tio Geoff of the Williams family, Johnny’s brother in spirit. I want to thank my family for allowing me the honor and priviledge of remembering my brother Johnny. You will have to forgive me.  This is hard and if I seem a little groggy its because I was up all last night in a a Copa airlines seat designed by the Marquis de Sade flying here from San Diego  and trying to write this speech. Me lo siento that I can not give this speech in Spanish but my Spanish isn’t good enough and I simply didn’t have enough time to memorize it. I will try to say words that will  do Johnny justice but I know I am doomed to failure. No one could say enough to describe how much Johnny has meant to so many. Some ask aren’t you sad that he is gone yes but he lives on as a part of me and what would have been really sad is if I had never had him in my life.

We met 25 years ago when Johnny and Michi rode up to our house in pavones on horse back. This was before electricity, before cell phones and Pavones was like the wild west with squatter American shoot outs and lawlessness. Johnny rode up and announced he had heard there was a new dentist in town. It sounded like a line out of a grade b western movie.

From that day forward we were friends, more than friends brothers, yes we shared the brother hood of dentistry but it was more than that. In spite of being opposites we shared a cosmic connection a /bond like twin bothers. we were like Danny Devito and Anorld Schwarzenegger in the movie twins. I knew I was not Arnold. Johnny was a dreamer he believed in believing, always exploring, thinking beyond the box asking why not. I was the skeptic, the practical one, always questioning and asking why. The Williams family joke is that I live in a box. Johnny pushed me to expand and get outside my box. Over the years Johnny and I shared our deepest emotions and thoughts from the joys and pains of raising our children, to our hopes and dreams. My cosmic closeness to johnny challenged all my practical beliefs. It was like Star Wars, we could feel a movement in the force whenever a significant event occurred to each other. How could he know how I felt from thousands of miles away? How could I know when he needed me to call?

That cosmic connection happened again two nights ago when I awoke at midnight . My wife asked why I was awake but I had no explanation just a sadness. Early the next morning while making coffee my wife’s phone rang in her purse. Everyone knows I hate cell phones I rarely answer my own phone let alone my wife’s. Still I felt an urgency to pick up her phone found myself scrumbling through my wife’s purse. I had no idea how well a woman can hide a cell phone even in a small purse. But I persisted and when I answered Roberto, Johnny’s son in law told me Johnny had passed at midnight the time that I woke up that night.  I knew then that Johnny woke me up to say good by and let me know he would always be with me. To me it was Johnny’s way of encouraging me to believe in things I do not understand and to reach and touch the ones I love. That is what johnny did for all of us: He encouraged us to expand ourselves to look outside ourselves, and care for others. We are all here because johnny cared about us. By example he showed us to care about each other; to be better human beings. We come here to show our respect and to show we cared about him in return. Johnny gave of himself without expectation of return or even a thank you, .Johnny cared about his family, his friends and his patients because that was who he was not for personal gratification..

Actually he cared about everyone, and everything, the whole world. He was always trying to inform me and get me to join his crusades to save the world whether it was no gmos or fighting the new world order. I tried to explain in my most practical terms that I was just too selfish to care about the whole world, I was just trying to control my own little world. Johnny never gave up on me. He believed in the good of everyone even those who were difficult to change or just plain difficult. Johnny was not selfish he cared deeply about each of you and everyone else. A wonderful lesson in life for each of us to carry forward in life. Johnny will live on in each act of kindness we perform.

No one will ever forget Johnny’s smile, that childish enthusiastic smile, like he had just discovered a wonderful secret and he was going to share it with you or may he had just done something mischievous. His enthusiasm for life infected all those around him whether it was surfing and snowboarding or the latest technology in dentistry. Always on the cutting edge of fun or dentistry he lived life to the fullest and was good at everything he did. One of the first surfers in Costa Rica he shared his passion for the ocean with a true pura vida spirit. Last winter we went skiing /snowboarding together in Mammoth. Johnny had not been snowboarding in over 15 years so where did he go.. to the top, to the Cornice. He managed to fall all the way down laughing the whole way. We spent that night going to different snowboard shops looking for padding for all his bruised body parts. We couldn’t find enough. He had so many bruises we had to go to the pharmacy and make up our own special pads. His enthusiasm unfazed within a day he was ripping from top to bottom. Sharing those wonderful moments of laughter, chaos,and excitement with his family will remain one of my life’s fondest memories.

I am a simple dentist but Johnny as with the rest of his life was an explorer, an innovator who could barely contain himself when describing how he had accomplished the impossible for a patient or discovered a new technique. He was more than a dental mechanic he was a healer who treated patients as whole human beings not just a set of teeth. As a dentist I can tell you he was an amazing dentist but more important an amazing human being who cared for others.

Finally I am not a spiritual person. Johnny was the spiritual twin, a spiritual searcher who explored deeply inwardly and outwardly the meaning of life and god. I do not pretend to understand what happens after life so I offer this poem and its background story as my best `explanation.

Twenty two years ago when my son Brandon was 12 and we were camping in Cabo San Lucas watching shooting stars and satellites, the awesome beauty inspired Brandon to ask me, “Dad, what happens when we die?”

A difficult question from a 12 year old for which I did not have the words to answer directly; instead I related a personal story involving his life.

When Brandon was 2 years old, after getting out of the shower he was bouncing with his sister on her bed next to the window on the second floor of our house. Brandon in his zealousness jumped, bounced, blew through the screen, flew out the window and fell to the rocks below. JP you know how high that is having stayed in our house. I know kids who have fallen off the kitchen table and broken their leg. By all rights he should have been brain dead or crippled. Instead he walked away with a small scratch on his bottom. I know in my heart what happened and I explained it to Brandon: My father who died when I was 18 watches over our family from heaven since his passing and protects us always, caught Brandon on the way down and gently put him on the ground. Brandon claims he remembers floating to the ground but he has heard the story before. I do know he has no fear of heights. Brandon accepted my explanation without further question

The next day I began to read a new Tom Clancy novel. I never read the forward to novels, I am too impatient to begin but for some reason this time I did. In this most unusual place, the forward to a shoot ‘em up spy novel I found this poem. It puts into words my thoughts and feelings regarding what happens after death. I shared the poem with Brandon explaining to him this was a better description than I could give. I believe my father turned the pages for me guiding me so that I could share it with my son as I share it with you. I hope it helps knowing that Johnny is never far away, always smiling and encouraging us to live life to the fullest.

The poem’s title is: Ascension

And if I go

while you’re still here…

Know that I live on,

vibrating to a different measure

…behind a thin veil you cannot see through,

You will not see me

so you must have faith

I wait for the time when we can soar together again,

both aware of each other.

Until then, live your life to its fullest.

And when you need me,

Just whisper my name in your heart,

. ..I will be there

Hernan Sierra provided this Spanish ending La amistad no se trata de quién vino primero o quién te conoce más. Se trata de quién llegó y nunca se fue.