My cousin John Lambie, died on Wednesday night after dealing with a disease that should have cut short his life over 12 years ago. He was like a cat with nine lives, breaking his back at the Nestle/Carnation plant he had worked at for years. He had numerous surgeries over the years and continued to have treatments until the end.
Even with metal rods in his back, he insisted on living a normal life and tried to trim his trees after a bad storm about five years ago. He fell off the ladder, onto a fire hydrant, breaking his collar bone, multiple ribs and other bones, something like over 30 breaks. But, like the “Ever Ready Bunny,” after he was out of the body cast that kept him from moving for months, he was ready to go fishing or shovel snow.
Those aren’t the things that almost killed him, but should have. He was diagnosed with an extremely rare type of cancer hiding deep in the lining of his intestines, that had grown undiscovered for some time. Following a surgery that removed many feet of his intestines, he had that famous “John” grin on his face, ready to face whatever life threw at him. His prognosis was not good, on the outside maybe five years, but that didn’t stop him one bit. He saw the specialists each year, took a few pills, gave himself special injections and kept going. Like a Timex watch, he kept “took a lickin’ and kept on tickin’.”
John and his wife Sharon had four kids, which seemed like way too many, with me being an only child. They asked my parents to be the god parents of their kids, which scared me to death. I could all of a sudden have four siblings. As it turns out, it would have been an amazing life for me, even though I am very grateful nothing ever happened to John and Sharon.
Their four kids had 15 kids who had another 11 kids. Yes, that one couple who married so long ago and were commited to each other for almost 60 years, created 30 lives out of their love and devotion to each other.
I see their smiling pictures on Facebook, the adults and the babies smiling at gymnastic meets or fishing with their Paw Paw. The pain they are suffering through right now is unbearable, but the wonderful memories of Papa John will be with them until they join him in Heaven. Of that, I am sure. John is with my dad right now, a man who was 10 years older but died 22 years sooner than John. He’s with his mom and dad, grandma and grandpa and a brother, many of whom also died from cancer. As a friend just told me who has appendix cancer, so rare it only affects 1,000 people per year in the US, “it’s not if you get cancer, it’s when you get cancer.”
John was a wonderful man with a special soul, never saying anything bad about anyone, no matter how they treated him. He always had a big grin on his face and had a special nickname for each of his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. He did not let the travesty of his injuries and illnesses end his life. He never gave up the good fight, he just laid down to rest and now he is without the pain and suffering he had to endure during the last half of his life.
It may be time to say goodbye to John, but all of our lives were changed the minute he walked into them. He and Sharon have left a legacy of wonderful children that bear his smiling personality and special soul.