So today was the memorial service for my friend Jon, who died almost two weeks ago in a freak gymnastics accident (more on that later). The service was held at Jonas Gymnastics, where he worked and where the accident took place. It's hard to have to keep saying good bye to someone - first when he actually left, then at his funeral and then again at his memorial. A part of me wanted to chuck it all and just party and have a good time and celebrate Jon's life with laughter and... well, life. But there were a lot of people there that had not yet had a chance to properly say goodbye like I have and others have, so for them this was good. I think it was also good for those who have had to say goodbye other times because I believe it gets a little easier each time, at least I hope it does for those having trouble letting go.
The service was much more than I expected and very nicely done. We stared with an opening speech from one of the gym owners, Jeff Jonas, followed by a playing of What Hurts the Most by Rascal Flatts. Then there was a reading of Psalm 23, followed by some more words and a Eulogy by my good friend Sasha, who did an upstanding job - I will get a copy of what he wrote and post it here for sure, because it was amazing. Jon's girlfriend, Kris, also said some words about the man she loved. She told me it took her 5 days to write, and I said that was good, because you certainly don't want to say you can write something like that in two hours. I will also try to obtain a copy of that, for the words she wrote down would convince anyone that she did indeed take 5 days to write them. Melanie Jonas then joined with her husband Jeff and together they dedicated a weeping cheery tree in Jon's name, everyone lit a candle and we played Hurt by Christina Aguilera. Then Jon's room mate Korey (Dizzle) threw on a huge fro wig of Jon's, a nice bit of levity, and read a poem Jon had penned before his death. It reads:
I will be right here when times get tough,
I will be right here when the road ahead looks rough,
I'm staying and waiting till the day you come home,
I'll be here no matter how far you may come.
If there's trouble ahead and you can't cope,
Just remember I'm here, it'll give you some hope.
If you're tired and hurt and your head is a mess,
And you can't handle all of the stress,
Just remember I'm waiting with a smile on my face,
Sitting here patiently in our special place.
You have your journey and now you must face it,
And I have my path, I coldy embrace it.
Yet, soon enough, our day will come,
Our paths rejoined will be as one,
Everything from now until then,
Will be spilled from within this pen.
So just remember I am here,
Go with confidence and have no fear,
For I support whatever you do,
Through all of this our dreams will come true.
Final words by Melanie wrapped up the ceremony:
"It is said that the purpose of life is to matter, to be productive, to have it make some difference that you lived at all. John mattered; he was productive; he made a difference in all of our lives"
- Jonas Gymnastics
After that everyone who had roses placed them before the tree. Food, refreshments and counselors were then provided inside the gym. I forgot my damn camera so I had to use my camera phone:
(I would like to mention that the signature board was full-up by the end of the service)
After the service while getting food I caught sight of Kris sitting all alone on the far side of the gym. Well that wouldn't do. I knew she was still having a hard time so I went and sat with her for a while until some more people started to drift over to her and keep her company. After that I partook in the food and company and had a good time.
Now then. I had originally posted a journal entry about Jon's death the day after it happened. Due to the detail of the entry and the proximity of the post to Jon's death, I heard from the Jonas' through Sash that there was concern over it being online. I respected other people's feelings and just deleted the entry, but it's not something that should remain buried, so here it is again in full. If you feel you need to know exactly what happened that fateful night, then please read on. It does become graphic, tho these sections are blanked out. If you feel the need to highlight and read on, you have been warned.
Wednesday, Nov 8
So I went to the gym last nite like I always do on Tuesdays to hang out with the crew. Got there around 10:40 and ppl were already well into working out and stuff as usual. Around 11:30 my friend Jon walked up to me and my best bud Sasha and said "Hey Sash you're gonna wanna see this. Or maybe not." When we asked what he was about to do he said he was doing a quad-front off mini-tramp into the foam pit.
Let me pause here to explain a few things. First, obviously, a quad-front is four front flips. A mini-tramp is a small trampoline set at a 45-degree angle to help "block" you and translate your forward running momentum upwards. A foam pit is (in this case) a 7-foot deep open pit with foam mats on the bottom and hundreds of 6x6in foam blocks filling it up - think of a kid's ballroom.
Now, four front flips is severely pushing anyone's limits, even mine and my friend Sasha. But it was a foam pit so theoretically should he not make it the foam would catch him. Although the level of the foam was about 2 feet lower than the floor (it should be level with the floor but over time the foam blocks compact and need to be "fluffed") he had piled a good amount a blocks on his intended landing zone. There were about a dozen people at the gym but only a few of us stood witness by the pit as he made his attempt. He ran forth and took off from the mini-tramp, executing three flips before hitting the foam and was still flipping as he entered the pit, missing his fluffed pile of blocks. We heard an audible thunk a mere second after he disappeared under the foam and feared the worst.
After hearing the noise Sash told me to jump in and check on him, which I was already doing. I jumped into the pit and looked to see if he was moving. He wasn't so I dug down further (digging into a pit is like digging into loose sand - if you don't fling the blocks far enough away they roll back down into the hole) to try to expose his head, because the foam blocks muffle sound very well, so if he was just in a position where he couldn't move but was conscious, I wanted to hear him. When I couldn't hear anything I checked for a pulse, it was rapid but there. His back was sticking up, hunched over, and it looked like his head was ducked underneath still in the tucked flipping position, so I checked to make sure he was still breathing and not suffocating on the foam. I couldn't hear any respiration when I put my ear against his back, so I called in more people - two more guys who had had first-aid/EMS training in the past jumped in and we talked about getting him out of there so we could start CPR. Wary of his neck we decided to roll him over. In the process of stabilizing his head one of the guys felt wetness - we figured he threw up. We immediately rolled him over to work on clearing his airway.
It gets grisly from here out. To protect those with weak stomachs or who just don't wanna know I've colored the text the same as the background - highlight to read.
As soon as we pulled his head out we realized with horror that all our expectations about the severity of his injury were infinitesimal compared to what actually happened. He didn't throw up - he was hemorrhaging on his own blood, probably from biting his tongue, but also probably from simple massive head trauma. His cheeks were so swollen with blood and his jaw was definetly broken. His eyes were swollen shut but looked like they wanted to pop out of his sockets. his left brow ridge was clearly fractured. His entire face was just one huge bruise. The two guys (I know one was Ibrahim but I don't know the other guy's name - actually I know I just can't remember) and I worked to clear his mouth of blood and get the tongue out of the way to begin CPR. We couldn't clear it with our fingers so Ibrahim used chest compression. Lots of blood and something (part of his tongue?) came out as well, but we heard air making it into his lungs. Ibrahim was more recently trained than me and the other guy and even had a capsule on his keychain containing a plastic sheet with a filter we used to place over Jon's face to begin CPR.
The police medical first response team arrived and we were finally able to get him out of the pit (no mean task, Jon was a big guy). I remained in the pit at the edge to keep his head stabilized while the medical team went to work resuscitating him and applying the automatic defib machine.
We still had a weak pulse and were manually resuscitating him when EMS arrived. At this point they completely took over the show, which was fine with me. I wasn't feeling sick or anything but I was a bit shaky, and me and the three guys went to the restroom to wash up and get all the blood off our hands and arms. My lower left pant leg too was soaked and I had more higher up is spots and patches. My shirt had spots as well. Blood was on my shoes and even on my socks and inside my left shoe. I threw all my clothes out when I got home. Screw it.
They worked on Jon for a good 15 minutes before carting him off to the hospital, still manually pumping air into him and getting an irregular heartbeat. We had to stick around for another hour and a half waiting for the police detectives to arrive so we could all give statements. After that Sash and I had to clear people out and lock up the gym and finally head for the hospital.
We got to the hospital and were able to see the doctor, who of course couldn't reveal the status of Jon because we weren't kin, but he and the nurse dropped pretty convincing hints. The doc, after hearing Sasha re-tell what happened, stood up to shake our hands, saying we did a "good job trying to help him". And then after the doctor left the nurse told us he "went quick, he didn't feel any pain". It's pretty easy to read between the lines. His ex-girlfriend and her friend showed up for a while but had to leave because they couldn't stay any longer. His room mate came next with his girl and another of our friends. We got hold of his step-dad around 4am for confirmation that Jon was in fact dead. I finally got back home at close to 5am and hopped straight into the shower.
Today I heard from Sash that the cause of death was a broken neck - his spine had been pushed up into his brain at the moment of impact - coupled with the massive head trauma, the coroner said he had a thin skull. We had theorized, but Sash learned for sure today that when Jon missed his pile he also managed to land in just the right spot to send his head through a seam between two mats at the bottom of the pit and straight down to the concrete. He was dead before I even got to him.
No one should ever have to be witness to a close friend dying before their eyes, and I hope it never happens to any of you reading this. I'm pretty pragmatic about death. It happens, and it's never fair to see someone so young (he was 27) and promising get snuffed out like this. But he was doing something he loved and he didn't feel any pain. In lieu of death by old age what more could we ask for? The images of that night don't haunt me. It was many a valuable life lesson, from being reminded of the risks involved in what I do, to knowing what to do in similar situations in the future, and to knowing (finally, for sure) that I have the ability to jump into such a situation and do all I can to save someone. I didn't cry that nite, nor at all, at first because I knew I had done all I could to help him, and then when I knew he had gone without any pain. The hardest part for me is watching other people deal. Sash is blaming himself, and his room mate, also a close friend of mine, is obviously in bad shape... but I'm happy knowing I can be there for them and anyone else when they need me.
And now, to end this rather dour entry on a happy note, literally - Happy Feet was an AMAZING FREAKING MOVIE!! SEE IT!! SEE IT RIGHT NOW!!! If you do not leave the theater tapping your feet then there is something seriously wrong with you! (You might be... you know... normal *shivers*)
To all my friends who are Jon's friends who read this, you're all in my heart always. Sorry if I made you cry one more time. But be strong and carry on, and he'll be happy up there. You know it.
So long buddy...