Jon, five weeks shy of his 32nd birthday, died from complications from muscular dystrophy.
To quote the rabbi who conducted the service, Jon was a true Renaissance man. While he was still in high school, Jon had a 30-minute face-to-face meeting (thanks to the Make-A-Wish Foundation) with President Bill Clinton in which they discussed the concerns of people with disabilities. He also helped to create a play performed at Lincoln Center on these concerns.
At NYU, Jon was a student senator-at-large and a devotee of the women’s basketball team, notably in 1997 when they won the NCAA Division III Championship. He even managed the pep band that played at the games. (I sat next to one of the pep band members today before the funeral service, which was standing-room only.)
By the time I met John in the mid-1990s, he had already spent years confined to a wheelchair. But, that never stopped him. Jon rarely, if ever, skipped a group outing to one of the restaurants or bars around NYU. One year, a group of us from NYU’s Inter-Residence Hall Council that included Jon and his personal-care aide even traveled to Oklahoma for a NACURH conference.
I regret that I lost touch with Jon in the years after I moved back to Pittsburgh. Today I learned that, since we had last spoken, he had added cooking and TV cooking shows to his passions that already included film and computers.
Jon was a brave and good man. Our world is less for his passing.
At Jon's funeral service, the rabbi read (in both Hebrew and English) the 23rd Psalm:
The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.
In verdant pastures He gives me repose;
Before restful waters He leads me; He refreshes my soul.
He guides me in right paths for His name's sake.
Even though I walk in the dark valley I fear no evil;
For you are at my side, with your rod and your staff that give me courage.
You spread a table for me in the sight of my foes;
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Only goodness and kindness shall follow me all the days of my life;
And I shall dwell in the house of the Lord for years to come.
Jon’s death is one of three in my world in the past few days.
On Thanksgiving Day, my second cousin once removed, Joshua Vincenti, died suddenly and unexpectedly. Josh was only 24.
And, sometime between Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning, the mother of a good friend from Pittsburgh died at the age of 78. Her death was discovered after she missed the morning Mass at her parish.
I pray that these three souls are now in the warm embrace of God. And, I pray that the Holy Spirit may sustain all those who loved them and mourn their passing.
From the words at the end of the Funeral Mass:
May the angels lead you into paradise,
may the martyrs come to welcome you,
and take you to the holy city,
the new and eternal Jerusalem.