Thursday, September 29, 2011

John Newman Williams

About three days after my last blog post, my father-in-law died.  He had been on hospice for only 11 days.  When we originally heard that he had made the decision to go into hospice care, we thought that he had about 4-6 weeks left.  Let me rephrase that, we thought that we had 4-6 weeks left with him.  As each day progressed and each time we saw him, we realized that we had less time.  Hospice came to the house the first time on a Wednesday afternoon.  The next time I saw John, which was the following Friday and Saturday, I thought that we'd be lucky to have 2 weeks with him.

The following weekend, Jared and I visited on a Friday afternoon, September 16th.  We had been bowling that afternoon and were planning to stay for dinner with my in-laws.  John wasn't really up for eating and spent most of the time we were there sleeping or talking with Jared.  He looked pretty bad.  He was kind of jaundiced and breathing very heavily.  So, Jared, Marie, and I ate dinner, had a nice time, and watched the Boise State football game.

The next day was Jared's brother's birthday.  The whole family gathered for lunch, presents, and cake.  John had been resting during lunch/cake and about half of the presents.  He gathered the energy to come into the living room when James opened the gift from his mom and dad.  It was an LSU cooler; something they had seen at Home Depot weeks before.  James was pleasantly surprised.  We all sang "Happy Birthday."  And then slowly, everyone started doing their own thing.  A few left the room to clean up; a few left the room because there were just too many of us in the room; and a few left the room for another birthday party at someone else's house.

I was sitting with James' wife, Beth, outside on the porch.  We were chatting about life and all the craziness it brings.  I noticed that John, who was sitting in his chair by the back window, was trying very hard-by himself- to get out of his chair to go back to the bedroom to lie down.  This was becoming a near-impossible task for him to do on his own.  I quickly walked inside and asked Jared's uncle for some help.  We assisted John out of the chair and back to the bedroom.

He settled himself in his bed and started talking with James.  At this point, I realized that we didn't have have as much time as we thought we did.  There were a lot of tears that day, not just mine.  I really did think that we had a few days left with John, at best.  I began advising our friends and family who had been planning to visit John the following week and weekend that they should just wait... wait until the funeral service.

On Sunday evening, I called Jared's mom to see how the previous night had been.  After speaking with Jared's other uncle, my worst fears were confirmed.  A doctor and the hospice nurse had been by on Sunday afternoon.  They both suspected that John had just a few days left to live. 

Jared hadn't heard this latest news, yet, when I arrived home from youth group.  I was waiting for a better time to tell him, not that there's ever a "good" time to tell someone that their dad is going to die soon.  Finally, a phone call from Jared's best friend allowed for a pause in the TV show that we had been watching.  Chris was asking when would be a good time to come and see John.  I knew that I needed to intervene in the conversation at that moment and tell Jared the news.

After Jared hung up with Chris, I told him what I had heard from his uncle.  We both sat, kind of stunned, kind of crying, kind of helpless for a few minutes.  Eventually, Jared called Chris back and told him that he and his wife, Skye, should just wait until there were plans for services.

We went to bed quite solemnly that night.  And just as I was drifting off to sleep, right after Jared had put his phone down, it rang.  At 10:40pm on September 18th, Jared's dad died.  Marie called to give us the news.

As much as I love you all, the rest of the details of that night are reserved for family and for those who were present.  What I will tell you is that it was one of the saddest things I've ever witnessed and experienced, while also being one of the most peaceful things I've ever been a part of.  John had been in so much pain and had been so ready not to be in pain anymore, that he died peacefully in his bed.  We were all so reluctant to let him go when he was alive, but once he died, we knew that it was exactly the right thing.

At his funeral service, the service of resurrection, a dear friend of the family, Carole, had this to say about John: "John had cancer, but the cancer never had John."  And the night that he died, he didn't have cancer anymore. 

John Newman Williams is someone who I will always strive to be more like.  He lived an amazingly joyful life, even when he was in pain.  He raised a wonderful family that cares deeply for their God, their church, and their family.  I pray that John's love and spirit would live on in Jared and I and our family.


  1. What a great post about Rev. Williams! I have been praying for you all since I also heard from Chris.

  2. Beautiful, sweet friend. Thank you for sharing. We had a lot of similar moments - crying, disbelief, etc. We are so thankful for you and know that John will live on in the incredible Williams family.

  3. Leanne, I decided to write this for two reasons. The first because I hadn't written anything since before John died, and the second because of Jarrod's post on your blog.

    Love y'all!