For John

My brother, John David Koon, died ten years ago on February 27. Ten long years. Ten short years. It depends on how I look at it. In one way, it seems like yesterday.

Telling him goodbye for the last time on this earth, we held each other and all that would come out of my mouth was, “Oh, my dear!” That being spoken with such emotion. I’ve never called him “my dear” before. Don’t know why it came out like that. But clinging to him, tears flowing, I didn’t want to let go. I suspected I’d never see him again. Yet, I did see him again. He was in a coma that time. I snuggled next to him and cried, patting his frail hand, and telling him that if he needed to go on, it was okay. Yes, as tears flow now with the memory it seems like ten short years ago.

My little brother, John, was not perfect. But he was exceptional. Even as a little kid, his sweetness was evident. From early on he seemed to have a devotion to Christ that I didn’t share back then. No, he was touched by God in a way I wasn’t. One of my sweetest memories of him was playing Roy Rogers and Dale Evans. I’ve always been the loud one, the bossy one, the assertive one. So I insisted on being Roy and made him be Dale. Hahaha. Oh, what a sweet boy he was.

We didn’t become absolute best friends until I was around fifteen years old. I don’t know if that was because that’s when he was suddenly bigger than me, or because that’s when I was saved. But I became a nicer, more loving person then and John and I were joined at the hip. We went to the same school. We had some of the same teachers. We both played trumpet in the band. We had the same friends. We truly enjoyed each other’s company more than other people.

One summer, while we were at band camp, we were both going steady and our “steadies” weren’t there. So John and I hung out a lot that year. We entered a twist contest and if memory serves me right, I think we won. Also, we were write-ins for cutest couple. Haha. That was fun.

Our adult years were often marked by separation. I left home when I went away to college. Then got married. Then he left to move to Texas, then California and back to Texas. Then he moved back home to the Little Rock area. Later, he got married and moved to Cabot, Arkansas—about an hour away.

Through it all, we maintained our relationship. When we were together it was as if no time had passed. We didn’t do “shallow” very well, so our conversations were always at a heart level. But he was also one of the funniest people I ever knew. So we were either laughing or deeply involved in conversation—or sometimes both.

When he was diagnosed with cancer, our relationship was kicked to the next level. We were all heart-broken. His wife and little girls tried to care for him to the best of their ability. My mother was devastated. And me? Well, it was the saddest thing I’ve ever experienced, so far in my life, to watch my dear, smart, funny, adorable brother suffer the indignities of cancer. We all felt so sorry for the toll it took on him.

But he didn’t. No, he rose to the occasion. Always content to be in the shadows, he suddenly thrust himself into the spotlight with a message that inspired and touched everyone he shared it with. The message was about how gracious and good God is—even in adversity, or especially in adversity, perhaps. He spoke before churches, schools, civic groups, in waiting rooms, in restaurants. Whenever the opportunity opened up for him to speak, he was there to joyfully proclaim God’s goodness. He said he’d never known such peace and internal joy as he had through those last years of his life. It certainly showed. Every conversation centered on spiritual things. It was like he existed on a higher spiritual plane; he understood things that had eluded him before; he saw God’s hand in everything. He faced death with courage and anticipation for a better world where he would be united with his Lord and Savior, Who had just become his new best Friend. And then he died. Ten years ago.

When I think of all that has transpired in our lives since then, ten years seems like a long time ago. Since then, I’ve had six books published; we’ve added a new daughter-in-law and four grandchildren. My boys have achieved so much; and John’s daughters have grown into beautiful young women—one in nursing school, and another with two babies of her own. John’s grandchildren. Oh, what joys we’ve had over ten long years without him. And then there have been the sorrows—but the joys have been much more abundant by the grace of God.

Ten long, short years ago my brother died. I promised him once that I’d always love him and never stop missing him. I’m keeping my promise. My dear. This is for you.


  1. Rosie Byrns

    I read every heart felt word . I’m not good with words like you are , but John must have been very special . God gave him such strength as he battled cancer. His testimony must have touched so many lives for eternity . Thank you for sharing !!

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