John Franklin Kempster, Jr.
February 19, 1979-December 11, 2008
I never thought I would be getting up and speaking at my brother's funeral. I know death happens. I know we will all leave this world at one time or another, but I didn't imagine it would be so soon. John was too young to die.
A great friend of mine, who recently lost his wife, said at her funeral that he learned one thing in his 29 years of being in the military. The military taught him that you should never say goodbye to your friends because goodbyes are forever, and you never know when you will meet back up with them again. At his wife's funeral, he said farewell to her instead of goodbye because he knew he would meet back up again with her someday. Today, we are not here to say goodbye to John. We are saying farewell until our souls meet again.
It's funny how the people we love are always right next to us? Isn't it neat that the ones we are close to are always on our mind? John was like my soul-mate, in a sibling kind of way. He held a special place in my heart that no other person could ever fill. It's why we were so close growing up. We were the best of friends. I feel that is why God prepared me so well for John's death. As close as John and I were, God knew how devestated I would today, so he started preparing me a long time ago. First, God brought me to Capital Hospice where I learned to accept death. I had no desire to ever work in hospice. I was a hardcore EMT who loved every minute of working in the ER and ICU. I loved being an EMT with Search and Rescue. Hospice just did not fit into my plan. I came across the Capital Hospice ad in the Washington Post and applied for it after moving to Maryland. Of course, I fell in love with the unit the day I went for my interview. It was something completely different from I had ever known and a type of nursing foreign to me, but I felt drawn to be there. In September, a crisis care nurse whom I had worked with maybe twice in the HMIC, called me and asked if I would be interested taking care of a friend of her's who had recently been diagnosed with a brain tumor. She had only known me a short while, but liked how I worked and she felt I would be good for the job. At the time, I didn't think that homecare would be a good fit for me, but I said yes and I talked with the husband of the patient over the phone about what his needs were. I felt God had brought that job to me for a reason, even if it were not in my plans. I started working for the family and fell in love with them. I learned so much about death and grieving from the kids, the husband, the friends and extended family. I owe so much to them for me being able to stand up here today. Little did I know how God was preparing me, one of John's closest friends, for his death. I made a promise to John just a few weeks ago that I would always take care of him. Even though business was bad and finances were tight, I would never see him fall. Just as he had always been there for me through my struggles and triumphs, I would be there for him. John, Wes, and I were always there for each other like that. We could rely on each other and see each other through.
Our God is an amazing God. I don't know a better way to say it than that. He really prepared me for this day. Not only did he prepare me for it, he continues to let John be by my side. We have felt him many times. He continues to inspire me.
As soon as I got the phone call about John's death, my mind started working about how I could honor his life. We jumped on a plane out of Washington as soon as possible. As I sat on the plane in the dark, I shed some tears as I began to write the most important speech in my life. I had no question as to whether or not I could handle giving John's eulogy today. I questioned more about whether or not I could reflect the honorable life he lived through a simple speech. Although there is a lot to be said, this is how he spoke to me.
John, my brother, my hero, my shining star…
Having you for a brother means sharing a unique family history together. It means remembering all the crazy stuff we did as kids, all the trouble we got each other into, and all the good times we've had over the years. But most of all, having you for a brother means having a friend who's got my back for life - And I just want to say thanks for always being there.
John, my brother, my hero, my shining star…
John was an amazing person. I don't know any other way to describe him other than amazing. He never seemed to let anyone or anything break his spirit, or his endless love. For as far back as I can remember John had an overwhelming passion for people and animals. As a young child, he liked to play man of the house and take care of my mom and I. My father was his inspiration. He was such a people pleaser, and lived to make other's smile. Of course, I am lying if I were to say this is true all the time, as he did use to compare the chocolate chip cookies at Wendy's and always took the bigger one with more chocolate chips or he would always have to have the top bunk bed when we camped out in his room rather than taking turns with the top bunk, but I do have to give him the benefit of the doubt that he DID need the extra calories the bigger cookie provided since he was and older and taller than me, and I do believe him when he told me it was against the law to sleep on a top bunk before the age of 8. Either way, John did let me sleep over every Christmas Eve while we waited for Santa, so regardless of who got the top bunk, John was still an awesome brother for including me in everything.
John and I were best friends growing up.
I always looked up to him and he always looked out for me. Although we would never admit it, we had a relationship most siblings would envy. I can't think of a time in my life where John was not a big part of it. He used to take me everywhere in his Mustang. Part of that I'm sure was his desire to show off his car, but he mostly did it because he and I enjoyed being with each other so much. How many high school guys would let their younger sister follow them around, even on many dates? Not many I'm sure, but John always included me in all he did. I remember in middle school when John used to pick me up everyday from school. I looked forward to seeing John sitting out back in his awesome Mustang waiting for me to get out of school. I remember John taking me to the REM concert, Brooks and Dunn concert, Black Hawk and David Lee Murphy concerts. John taught me how to play softball. The only reason I ever wanted to play softball was because John played baseball, and I always wanted to be just like him. John would spend endless hours teaching me how to hit a ball at the batting cages. John always included me. What a cool brother I had. There was nothing I did not look up to John for.
John was a sentimental person who loved giving gifts that were meaningful, not just something bought from the store. Growing up, John used to make things for my mom, dad, and I and always had a special presentation when giving them to us. His face would light up with the biggest smile.
When Wes and I moved off to Washington State, I did not take my dog Furby with me because I did not know if I would be able to keep him in military base housing. John took Furby and told me not to worry, he was taken care of. John would occasionally record video of Furby and all the cats. He would make the DVD case into a card and send them to me to watch. He never wanted me to miss Furb, but rather have lots of memories to watch. John loved his cat, Bootsie. Bootsie had to be one of the grouchiest cats I have ever met in my life, and she growled at everyone who petted her, except John. Bootsie knew that John was someone special. John had a special bond with all animals. All of his dogs went everywhere with him. Customers knew Furby and Bucky as well as they knew John. Those dogs followed John like his shadow and never had to be put on a leash. I have always heard that dogs were man's best friend. Dogs love unconditionally, just like God. Dog is God spelled backwards and for a reason. There is no wonder that the dogs were always drawn to John. John was an angel and the animals could sense that.
John was a wonderful person. There was one time in my life that stands above the rest when John was my very best friend. I was in a car accident when I was 15. I had to have my head shaved due to the head injury I had. When I came out of a coma, I felt my head and said, "don't let me be stupid looking." John would not allow me to feel stupid. He went home that night and shaved his head. He came back to the hospital and let me feel his head and showed me that we matched. While I was recovering, John would continue to shave his head to make it look like mine was growing faster. John would come to me every week and show me how short his hair still was. He would say to me, "See Lindsay. Your hair is growing fast." He would take me out to dinner, just the two of us, for beating him in our hair growing contest. John always had ways to show me how special I was to him.
John is now in Heaven taking care of all the animals. He is there with Grandpa Red, Grandma Johnson, Grandpa George, and Troy. He is there, reunited with Furby 1, Bootsie 1, Bojy, Scooter, Yeyyo, and the many other critters he tended to here on earth. If he could speak to us today, I imagine he would say to us:
Do not weep for me when I am gone
For I have friends in the great beyond.
All the little animals I used to feed
Will come to me in my time of need.
They will purr and bark in great delight,
And I will hold and hug them tight.
Oh what a great day that will be
When my furry friends all welcome me.
We never know where life will take us. All that we do know is that our God is an amazing God whom has a plan far greater than any we could come up with on our own. It is not our place to question this plan of His, but rather just trust in it. A friend of mine once told me:
Don't search for the answers which could not be given to you now because you would not be able to live them. Live the questions now - perhaps then someday far into the future you will gradually, without even knowing it, live your way into the answer.
I challenge all of you today to not seek out the answers, but rather live out your lives the way John would. We need to carry out the mission John had here on earth, and that is to love one another and care for one another whole heartedly without judgment. We need to care for the animals, just as John did. John was an angel to every animal on this earth. John did such a good job as an animal angel that God needed him as a full-time angel.
I started this eulogy with the title of:
John, my brother, my hero, my shining star.
John is much more than that today. God has given John a job to watch over all of us and to see that his mission is carried out by everybody, so that John's goodness could be shared by everyone.
John is my brother, my hero, my shining star, and now John is my angel.