Tribute to My Stepdad, John M Clark

John Vivian 2 toy

John 16:33 (ESV) I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

This past month has been a roller coaster of emotions. Taylor’s wife remarried, bringing us joy as she married a good friend of Taylor’s, then my step-dad, who was friend, mentor, father and grandfather to us, suddenly turned ill. Bethany and I eagerly made a trip up to be with him when he died, returned home to work for a week, then returned to Washington for his memorial service.  Through all these emotions, I am reminded again that Jesus is always there holding our hand through the ups and downs of life.  A few people have asked me to share my tribute I shared at the memorial. I actually only shared about a third of this as the rest of our family brought out most of these points for me. We all agreed, he is and was a wonderful man, reflecting Jesus.

My Tribute to Jesus in John M Clark

I first met my step dad, John, when Gary and I went with my mom and Matt to the Kent Nazarene Family Camp in 1984 on Whidbey Island. Gary and I were drawn to his infectious humor and obviously hospitable heart. Despite his recent loss of his wife and physical challenges from having polio, his trust in Jesus, his purpose for his life, and joy were evident. We began to see Jesus in him as we spent the whole weekend playing Rook. Eventually, my mom joined us at the Rook table towards the end of the weekend.

On the ferry ride heading back home, John, and his two children, Garren and Candi, were on the same boat. I hate to admit it, as we sailed back to the mainland, I stalked them, following them around the boat finally introducing myself to the the kids. Headed back to our car, I told Gary, “I never thought I’d want my mom to re-marry but if she did, I’d hope it’s someone like John.”

Within two months, they were dating, and they were married the next March. Then began my journey to see Jesus in a deep way in John’s life.

I saw Jesus as …
He loved and cared for my mom, and helped her update her clothing style while he was at it.
He made Carolyn, Matt and I his real kids. Loving us as his own, but still respecting our dad as our dad.
He carefully planned the most meaningful Christmas presents for all of us children, with the most precious being our Christmas village they spent a few years adding to.
He mentored me in teaching with love and logic before Teaching with Love and Logic was ever written.
He modeled perseverance and said, “Anyone can do anything or tolerate anything for 3 days”.
He rarely complained about his health problems until later in life as he longed for Heaven.
Each visit moved through a couple of years of playing Rook, then graduated up to playing Mexican Train Dominoes including the kids as they got older.
It was then I saw Jesus very clearly in our lives as we all forgave John multiple times for cheating and denying it!
He adored each of his grandchildren and let them ride his scooter or wheelchair. It was a sad day when you were too big to ride on the back of his chair.
He kissed his grand kids’ fat baby cheeks and prayed for them and all of us each day.
He and Mom never fail to call all of us on our birthdays and sing Happy Birthday to us.
I saw Jesus in a profound way as
He, my mom, my Dad and his wife, Mary Lou, put God first and us kids next in their lives.

The love of Jesus was most evident and so beautifully lived out as…
He and my dad took my young teen brothers, Garren and Matt, together to Promise Keepers.
He and all my parents and Garren drove in his van together, across the state to Matt’s college graduation.
He drove my mom out to Maryland and joined my dad and Mary Lou living with my sister for a about three weeks to help Carolyn as she delivered her third baby in three and a half years and graduated with her PhD. All the parents lived in the same house and shared the duties and worked with joy to support our sister.
He and all our parents came together for almost all our life events up until two years ago when their health began to decline.
He consistently prayed for my Dad and Mary Lou and visa versa when they developed struggling health problems. As one of my dad’s (I can’t remember which one) said it so well, “We have to get along in Heaven, we just decided to get a head start”.

This honorable behavior doesn’t happen with out the Spirit of Christ’s supernatural love living in families like ours. Dad and Mary Lou are here today. John, Mom, Dad and Mary Lou, we are blessed to have had you all as incredible models of Christ’s forgiveness and love. Thank you for loving all of us and each other so well.

There were many other ways I saw Jesus in Dad Clark’s life, but most clearly I saw Jesus in his last 4 days of his life.
He went beyond his conviction to persevere through anything for three days and chose to live another 4 ½ days awake with a respirator so we could get there to say goodbye. This was an especially precious gift from God as most people on ventilators cannot live outside a coma because of the extreme discomfort.
He still welcomed old friends and family into his ICU unit with an open heart, despite his pain.
He still had his sense of humor and used those amazing eyebrows to let us know what he was thinking even though for the first time in his life his chatty tongue was restricted.
His love and compassion flowed in tears as I asked him to hug Taylor and tell him that I miss him and love him.
He treated his nurses with hospitality, not demanding anything.

As there became less of John Clark physically, Jesus became more evident than I’ve ever seen in a life.
During a prayer time we had with one of the chaplains, he nodded his head with tears and hummed an amen as I prayed for his grandchildren that he loves so much and hated to leave.
My mom prayed without normal speech problems and I saw how her faith has not wavered in all this.
He became agitated and I remembered that when our son, Taylor died, I found Psalms were so comforting to my broken heart. I asked John if he wanted me to read the Psalms, and he quickly nodded.

I began with Psalm 1. As I read him the 23rd Psalm, when I got to the part “He leads me beside still waters”, he sighed a breath of pleasure. He then used hand gestures to have me read it again. I think I must have read that Psalm at least 10 times over the two days I was with him.

The hospital staff saw Jesus too. The doctor and nurse exclaimed over John’s spunk and kind heart and the love that poured into our dad’s room from the many people who visited him. They were also amazed at the love that poured out as we all were unified in the health plans for him because we had no fear. Other rooms were quiet or had fighting. Our room had laughter, singing and scripture mixed with tears. We had confident hope that our dad modeled for us. His hope of Heaven and seeing him again erased all fear from his and our hearts and we knew he would soon be sitting at the feet of Jesus and seeing Taylor and other loved ones he had missed for years. The hospital staff said most families are arguing during this stage of life and death. Garren shared with them that it’s because of our hope and confidence in Jesus that all five of us kids were unified.

In the last couple hours of his life, I was realizing how hard it was for him to live and how hard it was to die even with the most peace-filled medical measures. We experienced a beautiful sacred time that only came from worshipping Jesus as we shared scripture and songs and watched his countenance calm. Especially beautiful was listening to his granddaughters, Kaitlyn and Bethany, hold his hands and read scripture, sharing songs, and speaking peace over their grandpa trusting the Solid Rock of a God Whom their grandpa trusted.

As his last peaceful half hour passed, he opened his eyes and looked at me. I had an incredibly desperate urge to save him and keep him from the labor of dying. However, as there was almost nothing left of the physical John, I knew I couldn’t do anything to help him, only Jesus could, so the only words that could come out of my mouth, were to whisper to God asking him to wrap his arms around this precious man and fill him with peace.

Carolyn began singing, the rest of us joined as we could. This worship laced with sobs became a path to Heaven that our dad peacefully floated on through the veil to his Savior. Through our amazing Creator, we are labored into this world, and through Him we labor out of this world if we trust Him. After all I have gone through in the last two years and now this another sad time with our family, I have become even more convinced that in the end only my faithful Jesus can bring complete real peace.

Dad Clark knew he was an imperfect human living on an imperfect earth who needed his Savior’s sacrifice on the cross. He was confident that this Savior who died for him, was the only thing that would bring him peace and give him a new body in Heaven that could walk and breathe well. We are certain our son, Taylor, was standing behind Jesus and had a snow board and surf board all ready for him after John embraced Jesus.

Before I end, I want to publicly and deeply thank Garren and Katy, Candi and Paul, JP, Kaitlyn, David, Jordyn, and Emily, I have seen Jesus as you have cared for our parents so they could stay in their home and how you are all so lovingly supporting our mom and caring for her now when Matt, Carolyn and I are so far away. With the support of Garren and Candi and Paul, Katy has felt God distinctly call her to be our mom’s caregiver. This loving sacrifice is truly a priceless gift to her and our whole family.

To everyone who has loved and prayed for us, we have all seen Jesus as he has used each of you to show your love and support and hold us up in prayer. Thank you for loving our family so well.

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