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(Weird) Uncle Jon

My Mother's Brother Jon passed away in November 2021 after contracting mesothelioma, a form of cancer that was caused from him being exposed to asbestos back in the 1970's.

He lived with his wife Mary and children Keigan and Christine in British Columbia. In June 2022 we had a memorial for him in Orillia, Ontario. Where he grew up.

My Mother asked me to say a few words and then play a video of Uncle Jon, my sister Anne and I singing a song together when he came to visit us in 2019.

Below is the photo I projected onto the screen during my turn to speak.

"I finished writing this at around 2 a.m. last night while knee-deep in some whiskey, so I haven't read it out loud yet and hope it makes sense."

This is going to sound a little self-indulgent, because I’m going to talk about Jons a lot.

I’m not a religious person, but I do have beliefs. One of my strongest beliefs is the rippling effect of actions. Toss a stone in a pond and you can see the waves go off in every direction for what feels like forever, moving every ounce of water as it passes by.

From my earliest memories Uncle Jon had always had a strong effect on me. We shared a namesake, and we took a weird amount of pride in it because OUR Jay Oh En lacked that completely unnecessary H. But when I think back to how I saw him, through my lens or perspective or whatever, even at a young age I could see someone who was particularly expressive, eccentric, audacious, and in his own words, Weird.

During our last conversation together I took the opportunity to tell Uncle Jon a couple of things that I felt I had kept to myself, which is a lesson I learned from the regret of wishing I had told Grandpa Aubrey (his Father) how much I truly respected him. One of the things I told Jon was that when I was a kid I thought I would grow up to be just like him; the motorcycle, the theater, the hair. But even though I see us as fairly different people in adulthood, I could see that we shared a similar spirit. He agreed with me, and we then talked at length about our mutual respect for Aubrey Mcmillan.

These days, at 35, when I pull up my current vision of Uncle Jon, I see a person who treated life like an adventure to be lived, and Uncle Jon did so with enough passion and enthusiasm for everyone in the room. That passion had pure evidence in the way he described the movies he loved, the music he loved, the art he loved, and mostly about the people he loved.

I made my New Year’s resolution for 2022 in the middle of November, 2021. It felt good to have it firmly decided almost two months in advance because I would usually make up some B.S. on the 31st of December just to keep conversations going at parties. After a devastating phone call from my Mom letting me know that we had lost Jon that morning, I vowed to imbue the spirit that I saw in Uncle Jon into my own lust for life. To frequently ask myself the question “What would Jon do?”. I would live a life he would be proud to have been an influence of.

I had the first fruition of this vow back home in Collingwood one month later. A live radio-play of A Christmas Carol was starting at the local First Presbyterian Church in a matter of hours and they had just lost their Tiny Tim to COVID. I was home for Christmas when my sister Anne, who was producing the play, asked if I could fill in. I couldn’t imagine something I wanted to do less in that moment, but the question immediately crept in; “what would Jon do?”.

Well, what Jon would do is go up in front of around 90 70-year-olds and play the shit out of Tiny Tim (and 3 other characters). Which I did. And it made for an incredibly memorable Christmas. One that I get to forever associate with Uncle Jon and his memory.

I think Uncle Jon could always see that I was capable of putting myself out there. During our last conversation together we talked about this photo (the cake photo), and he said “You knew that there was no way you were going to eat the whole thing, but you went for it.”

That’s the ripple effect, that’s the stone in the pond, and that is what I believe. I can actually feel Uncle Jon living through the ripples of his kindness, love, actions, and adventures. And that’s how I will always remember my Weird Uncle Jon

During that final conversation after we had said goodnight I said to him somewhat abruptly “I will tell you that I love you again.”

I’m not a religious person, but I do have beliefs.


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