|Robert and Jonathan--on of the last photos of the two of them taken shortly before we moved to Wisconsin|
Jonathan Wilmore, a dear family friend, died yesterday. He was one of the oldest living people in the United States with Gaucher's Disease of his type and he died peacefully in his sleep three days after his 30th birthday. I am so glad that he got to celebrate a milestone like 30 on what would be his last birthday and it fell on such a great date--12/12/12.
Our family first became acquainted with Jonathan, or "Johnny B" as he was commonly known, when my husband, Robert, was serving as a youth minister at Parkview Baptist Church in Baton Rouge, LA. Jonathan had recently completed a laity leadership course at another local church. When it came time for the award ceremony, Jonathan was told that they would just give him his certificate---no need to walk across the stage and be acknowledged. Why? Who knows? But it hurt Jonathan, he came to our church, and a mutual friend asked Robert if there was a place for Jonathan to serve in the youth ministry.
|Johnny B working with Hurricane Katrina refugees|
|Youth ministry games|
|It is rare to find a photo in which Jonathan isn't flexing or...|
|...arm wrestling. He was always in awe of his own muscles and strength. He would drop and do push-ups on his knuckles and arm wrestle anyone, anytime.|
So here's what you need to know about Jonathan. Because of the Gaucher's Disease, he was short. Actually he had long legs, but he had some skeletal problems and severe spine curvature which significantly diminished his overall height. He wore bilateral hearing aids and had some significant vision problems which resulted in several eyes surgeries and coke-bottle glasses. Jonathan talked...a lot! And loudly. Oftentimes, the filter from his brain to his mouth didn't function very well and he would say whatever popped into his head. He was impulsive. He didn't always think about consequences. He had some fears and anxieties, especially a fear of heights. And did I mention that he was loud?
But here's the thing...
Jonathan was loving. He was innocent. He adored people and fed off of the energy of crowds and human interactions. He was winsome. He had a great sense of humor and was a big fan of practical jokes, particularly when he wasn't on the receiving end. Jonathan was joy personified. As I have seen people post of Facebook and Twitter about him, as well as personal messages and calls we have received, everyone...EVERYONE...in Jonathan's circle of influence has mentioned how much Jonathan taught them about Jesus. Jonathan loved each and everyone of us. And he taught us how to love, even when it was inconvenient and uncomfortable. I'm sure that Jonathan had days when he was in pain--bone pain, pain from infusions and transfusions, pain from surgeries and procedures. However, I can't think of one single time when I ever heard him complain. Ever.
So, Robert created a job for Jonathan--The Minister of Belonging. This wasn't merely a title. Although Jonathan wasn't getting paid, this was a hardcore volunteer position. Robert created a job description and (flexible) hours. Jonathan's biggest responsibility was welcoming all of the youth on Wednesday night and at other events. He also helped plan and set up. He even went on hospital visitation. Yeah, Jonathan really liked the ladies and was a big hugger. Because of his height, his face was usually chest level with the teenage girls, so Robert had to talk to him a time or two about side hugs and verbal greetings, but that was Jonathan. All of the youth loved Jonathan. He attended most events, was their biggest cheerleader, and loved to be in the midst of all youth activities.
|Robert and Jonathan about to go on hospital visitation. Johnny B thought it was hilarious that they accidentally wore matching shirts|