It was a little over a week ago when I decided to pick up a few bagels for a morning meeting with the City of Kingsport.

As I walked into The Bagel Exchange, my good friend Greg Taylor saw me hurry in the door. We waved and he asked when I came close, “Did you get my text?”

I did recall a text, but the first thing that came to mind was to respond, “Don’t tell me somebody died.”

There was this strange feeling. The way he looked – it just seemed like bad news was coming next. After all, the name Kent Stapelton was the sad topic earlier in the week. Kent was another friend in what seems like a roulette game of bad news. Evidently, as you arrive in your mid-fifties, this is a recurring conversation for those who are fortunate enough to wake up each day.

Sure enough, Jon Thompson had passed away.

Jon was not the name I had expected. After all, the last time we spoke, his mother Ann had passed and he asked for help writing an obituary. Shortly before that, his father Wayne had died. Jon was 51.

Jon’s brother Steve is one of my best friends. We have so many stories between us from high school to the present. I remember Steve’s wife died of brain cancer at 51. This was devasting enough. However, Steve returns home this weekend to stand as the last surviving member of his immediate family.

As I drove into East Lawn cemetery on an early Saturday, a black rental car ushered me to turn left. I had seen a small group of cars in the cemetery that seemed to be gathering for the memorial and I made my way down the small winding road to the top of the hill. Jon was to be honored at his mother and father’s gravesite with his ashes sprinkled on their graves.

When the black car parked behind me, my good friend Steve, and his girlfriend Claudia from Nicaragua were the first people to greet me.

It was good to see Steve. After his wife died, we spent many hours playing music and running around from event to even – just to pass the time I suppose. The only healing he found was to move away. Since then, he’s been traveling the world as a contractor and we don’t talk much anymore. I suppose those years have been good ones too as Claudia seems to be a delightful woman.

Unfortunately, during that time away, Steve lost his mother, father and now brother. As we walked toward the small crowd gathered around a foldout table with a poster filled with snapshots of Jon’s life and friends, we both agreed – there are no words for situations like this.

Among the friends in the crowd, Greg Taylor, one of my closest and respected friends and Tom Beckner was there too. Tom is a larger-than-life personality with a radiant and mischevious smile and an amazing storyteller. Becky Henderson, one of the family and Jon’s closest relation was there too along with Scott Treadway and several other relatives and friends of Steve.

It was a warm late Summer day and as the bluebirds and the breeze seemed to fill the silence in the air, Becky began the intimate exchange of stories about the life of Jon Thompson.

As people shared their moments with Jon, some from childhood and others at work, one of the recurring adjectives was “kindness.” In fact, one of Jon’s co-workers repeatedly talked about the fact Jon was “too nice.” He said, “When people were inconsiderate with him, his response was always to treat them with more respect and kindness.”

That is certainly true. My own memory of Jon was a patient, kind and listening soul. I am certain he has been rewarded for a virtuous soul while among us.

It was good to see my friends and share our stories. As you get older, moments like these – in a cemetery come all too often. Even though we always agree to spend more time with each other, life gets busy. We always find something else to do and before you know, we’re standing under the sun, questioning life and counting the moments we have together – while we still can.

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