A very good childhood friend passed away this past week. That makes 5 friends and former classmates who are no longer with us.
Gone way too soon. They all are.
But this death hit close to home.
His name was John Dawkins. But the neighborhood called him John-John. Mainly because his dad’s name is John as well. But it also helped because there was another John (Lee) that grew up two doors down from him. And we all grew up together on the same block. We played basketball on the Dawkins’ driveway all the time.
I recall spending hours at John-John’s house playing ball. The core group was Brian, John Lee, me, and John-John, and sometimes my best friend Andre. We were a surprisingly diverse group of kids in a mostly white area of a north Philly suburb.
Totally different backgrounds, but we had one thing in common – we all loved basketball.
It didn’t matter that I was horrible, I was still encouraged to keep playing. It motivated me to practice and keep getting better. I played almost everyday all throughout middle school. I never made it past the 9th grade team, but I still love the game to this day. Thing is, they never treated me any differently because I couldn’t play – I was just one of the guys.
Playing at John-John’s house introduced me to the NBA in the 80’s and the sheer brilliance of Michael Jordan. The best ever. No debate.
The guys opened my eyes to March Madness as well. We filled our own brackets before it was the cool thing to do. We lived and breathed basketball. On that neighborhood court, John Dawkins was our Michael Jordan.
As we got older, each of us moved on to different interests, universities, and life happened. John stayed in the Philly area to build up the family business. He worked tirelessly. He was very well connected to the area and continued to stay in touch with many of our high school friends.
One high school friend in particular is Nicole. Nicole is one of those friends that everyone loves and feels close to, but she and John were especially close, so I know this affected her in a way most won’t know.
Nicole shared a brief note with me when I messaged her:
“He was there for me every step of the way when my dad died. He carried me down my apartment steps when I herniated my back, he even threw me a surprise party for no reason on my 36th birthday… He was just… a special person. This is so tragic. He had his whole life in front of him.”
So much love and loss in one short message.
Oh, what a stark reminder of how brief life can be.
And while I missed my chance to thank John-John for his positive influence in my life, his life and legacy have provoked me. How often do I go out of my way to help someone else? Who can I bless with an unexpected surprise? Do I serve without expecting anything in return?
I hugged my wife and kids.
I called my dad and sister to tell them that I loved them.
I’ve reached out to old friends to let them know I care about them. In the past few days, I’ve let little things go that would normally bother me.Don't assume they'll be there tomorrow. Don't presume you'll be here either. Be present today. Click To Tweet
Never wait too long to tell someone you love them.
Be fully present wherever you are today.
“In the end… we only regret the chances we didn’t take, the relationships we were afraid to have, and the decisions we waited too long to make.” ~ Lewis Carroll