Saying Goodbye to One of the Good Guys

John Snyder bbqJohn Snyder: Grill Master and friend extraordinaire

This week I said goodbye to my dear friend John Snyder, quietly in my heart, unconvincingly in my mind and not surprisingly in the presence of  tears.

My last visit with him was more about proximity and presence than words. The man I grew to love as a brother over the last decade was slipping away, his towering vitality seized by cancer, and now he was confined to a bed provided by hospice.

John Beth and GrannyGranny (97 years young), John and Beth on their first visit to my new home  on Vashon Island.

John’s beloved Beth left us to our visit in his upstairs room of their fine Victorian, a house blessed with happy times and enviable views of my favorite Seattle park. Century-old fir trees flanked the north side of the house and the oldest one provided a verdant stage outside John’s window. On a nearby branch perpendicular to the weathered trunk, perched a Great Blue Heron — its silhouette abstract, its color as deep and rich as the weeping boughs determined to conceal it. Beth said the heron had been there off and on all week. I wasn’t quite sure if the tall lanky bird was keeping an eye on John or vice versa.

At first, I began to chatter about random things–nervous small talk at best.  John, with his eyes fixed out the window, and his voice just above a whisper, awaited my next pause, and said, “I bet the ferry ride was beautiful today.”

Grateful that John had saved me from myself, I calmed down and started over and spoke slowly, “John, it was exceptional. The Olympics had a fresh coat of snow. The Sound was churned up by wind, rough with whitecaps, and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. Even Mount Baker was out.”  John turned to me, with the slightest of smiles, and nodded with approval. Even when bedridden, John was a generous soul. He knew he could not feel better, so he made sure I did.

John Beth Armadillo

John had many gifts, and focusing on what truly mattered was one. Others may go through life searching for the better “party,” but for John, the best place was where he was and who he was with. He reveled in the moment, in the people before him, and in what was genuine and sincere.

What John pursued, lived, and loved was not about bravado, bragging rights, or bucket lists, but rather the shared experience, the exchange of ideas, the delight in discovery, the power of music, the beauty and impact of the written word, and the easy fellowship of a crowded table and a noisy room, even better if under he and Beth’s roof.

John left us this week, the heron now gone, but you don’t forget a man like John, you don’t abandon his friendship merely due to his absence. John, we’ll smoke some ribs just for you, read some lightweight novels so you can mock us. We’ll curse armadillos and squirrels, and we’ll listen closely to the conversation so you know you taught us well.

And John, I know all this sentimentality would have rankled you to no end, so I’ll try to make it up to you with a judicious quote from one of your favorite (no-nonsense) poets, Robert Frost:

“In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life. It goes on.”

Yes John, it may go on without you, but we don’t have to like it one bit, dear friend.



41 thoughts on “Saying Goodbye to One of the Good Guys”

  • What a sweet tribute to your friend, Tom. I am so very sorry for your loss. It’s clear from your words and photos that John was a gem. I like his taste in t-shirts for one thing. 😉

    Big hugs to you,
    Shirley

  • Thanks Tom,

    While there is no good way to hear about a friends passing, I’m glad that it was through your kind words.

  • What a beautiful tribute … so sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing this heartfelt post … the friendship you shared with John is an inspiration

  • Like The Buddha said, “All created things must pass. Strive on, diligently”. I know that you and John’s family will continue to strive on and John will always be in your hearts.

    Take care, friend.

  • What a beautiful tribute. I think you have touched us all with this terrible loss. Life does go on. Thank you for sharing this lovely site. . .

  • What a lovely tribute to a lovely soul. I am so sorry you have lost such a dear friend and am glad to have known him briefly.

  • Thank you, friend Tom. I’m going to share this and he’s going to be PISSED!! At least he won’t ever have to learn to tweet, right?

  • Dear Tom – said so beautifully there is little to add. Above all we will miss his lovely quiet unobtrusive wit. Thank you.

  • Tom, thank you, thank you, thank you, you speak Truth to Death with majestic eloquence, and your words have brought comfort to me. My tears are not done, my best friend is gone forever, never to be replaced. Life will go on, but the mountains have moved, the seas have slipped. And now here come the tears again…

  • Tom, your words, like your heart, touch the deepest of thought and love. Through John, you have brought us to where he most lived “…the shared experience…” What a beautiful gift. I love you my friend, so very much and am sending you love and much warmth to embrace the memories.

  • Your quiet words have brought tears to my eyes, both for your loss, and for the memories it has brought me for my own. It is all very well to know the spirit lives on and ‘we’ll always have the memories’ but dang it, we miss the person. What a wonderful tribute to a friend and a friendship. I appreciate your sharing your last moments with him. At that place, what counts is the being with. You got it, he got it, and now we all will keep that vision of the snowy mountains, the wind-tossed waves, and the faithful heron waiting in the tree outside. I am so sad for you. Take care, sir.

  • Tom-
    I feel like a jerk now after messaging you about your site – but I like to know if things aren’t as they should be and I appreciate it when people tell me. xxoo

  • Thanks for this Tom. It’s a beautiful tribute to a wonderful person.

    I was lucky enough to know John for the last 8 years. He was one of a kind… always generous, thoughful, caring, and the best friend you could possibly have. It was always an absolute pleasure to be in his
    company.

    I’m going to miss you brother.

  • Tom

    My condolences to you.
    My thoughts and prayers are with you, good friends that go the distance are hard to come by , but the awesome memories you have are dearer than any money.
    A great tribute to what sounds like an awesome friend and he will always be in your heart.
    x

  • I loved your tribute to my cousin, John. Thank you for the wonderful photos! You definitely captured the way I think of him. He was lucky to have you as a good friend. I will miss John, too.

  • Tom,
    I did not know John but your powerful words made me wish that I had known him. I’m sorry for your loss. Seldom do I read something about a total stranger that brings a tear to my eye, that is usually reserved for children and dogs.

    Regards,

    BJ

  • I’m so very sorry for your loss. The world needs all its Good Guys – your tribute made me feel sad I didn’t know your John. XO

  • I have to say, It takes a proud man to wear his nemesis on a shirt…
    Many virtual-hugs to you two, Tom and Beth. John sounded like a wonderful friend.
    I’m not an entirely spiritual person, but I’d like to think that the heron was there watch over him until his soul ‘left’ and took it with him. It’s beautiful, really.

  • Wow, this was a powerful thing to read as I gear up to lose a significant man in my life, my Father-in-law. This is a beautiful piece of writing and so heartfelt. Thank you for letting us all in so closely. Sending my very best wishes. Bonnie

  • OOh Tom, I am so sorry for your the lost of your dear good friend John.What a beautiful ode to him! May he rest in peace but he will be clearly deeply mist.

  • Hard to believe it’s been over 20 years since I first received a call from John about an investor relations questions back when he was at Aldus. Over the years he turned out to be a knowledgeable mentor, always willing to give his time and share his experience. I served with John on the local board of the investor relations society and he was always the first to step forward to make things happen, always giving credit where due, and keeping things light with his sense of humor.

  • Jon and I were classmates and crew mates at Mount Hermon (Now Northfield-Mount Hermon) School. We lost touch after that: he went to George Wash. Univ. and I to Harvard. Jon encouraged me to stay with rowing after I had a severe falling out with our coach my senior year. When I was accepted to Dartmouth and Harvard, my faculty advisor was pushing me to choose Dartmouth. Jon, however, urged me to choose Harvard.

    “You’d be a fool to pass up an opportunity to row for Harry Parker,” he told me as we rode back on the bus from a race which the varsity lost. I was bumped to 2nd boat before our final race. When I told him my technique wasn’t very good, he said, “Don’t worry. Harry could teach a dinosaur to row.”

    I took Jon’s advice and went on to row at seven in the 1974 championship crew, which went undefeated and beat Univ. of Wash., setting a course record. I wish Jon was here so we could share those memories.

    • Steve, thank you so much for sharing this wonderful memory of John. I used to joke with him, suggesting he was our moral compass. And while he hated the thought, he would smile when I’d pose my finger to my chin and query WWJSD…What Would John Snyder Do? His quick wit and fine character will be remembered in stories like yours, thank for keeping the spirit of our friend, alive and loved.

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