Farewell, But Not Goodbye, To My Good Friend, John (JD) Dolan

9 Mar

My dear old friend, John Dolan passed away unexpectedly this week. He was 58, and had a quick onset of complications from Parkinson’s disease that overwhelmed his body, and now he is gone.

I had not seen John for a long time, because he moved to Costa Rico fifteen years ago. He started out going there even longer ago, for a few weeks, and then a few months at a time, to surf, and because he had psoriasis, and he said the sun was good for his skin. He kept going back for longer and longer, going back to his hometown of Darien, Connecticut, in between visits. Eventually John just stayed and made Costa Rica his permanent home. Not too many people do that–uproot and move to another country to live. But John was anything but regular.  He dared to live a life that was outside the go to school, get a career, get a wife, have kids blueprint.  John worked hard though.  He created his own path. Started his own tree cutting service when he hadn’t really had a whole lot of experience with it. He used to scare the heck out of me when he’d share stories about nearly falling out of trees when a job stretched beyond his capabilities, and what his equipment could handle. He was a self-taught carpenter who took great pride in the work he did for homes in southern Connecticut. These skills would come in handy when John took on the biggest endeavor in his life: building a compound of homes in Santa Maria, Costa Rica.  John was taken in and welcomed and looked after by the local residents, and with many hands working together, year after year, John’s vision of Casa Verde, which includes three casitas available for stays, all nestled in the lush green hills overlooking the ocean, became a reality.

( https://www.casaverdesantateresa.com/)

I met John when I was in my early 20’s because he was great friends with an old boyfriend of mine, Jeff.  We became fast friends, and even though Jeff and I didn’t last as a couple, John and my friendship endured. While he described himself as a wild and reckless partier during his college years, John had the maturity to become sober at an early age, and stopped drinking I think by the time we met, or not long after.  He didn’t need substances. He was brilliant, quick-witted, full of energy, and when he was on a roll, he riffed like Robin Williams, and I ended up with my sides hurting from laughter.  John also was honest as hell. He sought out meaning and substance in his life. He wanted to live a worthy life, and though John wasn’t one to judge, he demanded it of those around him, too. While I often wished to live in a bubble of happiness and an “everything’s great” kind of world, John spoke out about what bothered him during our conversations together.  Whether it was something about the government not doing the right thing, the conservation of natural resources, or me not being thoughtful at times about our friendship, John let me know. Sometimes his talks annoyed me. But that was because I wanted to avoid having to deal with the real, with the fact that there are negative things in our lives that we need to think about, care about, act on. John stretched me, helped me grow. And we had so much fun along the way.

John was the first one to tell me about filling a big pot with water to wash dishes instead of running water the whole time. I am guilty of not following this method. My handsome friend with the strong Dolan jaw, and shining blue eyes and I used to go dancing together often in Boston. John encouraged me to be open to dancing to the house music played in some clubs,  to learn how to move my body in different ways, and to not think I needed to be stuck in my mold of only being able to move to the funk music I was used to dancing to. He wanted people to be open to all kinds of experiences that veered from their normal way of seeing and doing things.

When I moved to New York City, John visited often. We danced alongside a colorful cast of edgy characters at The Pyramid Club on Avenue A. He helped me set up my table and sell wearable art at the Christopher Street Fair one year, and was always so encouraging of my work. When I was moving from an uptown apartment to the East Village John slept over my last night there to help me move. The landlord came barging into the apartment the next morning, yelling, “get up, it’s time to get out!” rousing us up out of bed. It was bizarre and a bit scary, as we were prepared to move, just not that early in the morning.  It was fall, and it was cold out. John and I moved all of my belongings down to the sidewalk, and we sat atop boxes for four hours on the corner of 93rd Street and 1st Avenue, waiting for my movers to come.  It sounds miserable, but John made it an adventure. Joke after joke came spilling out of John’s mouth, while we cradled our coffee cups to keep our hands warm. Songs about tyrant landlords followed. John did not complain once. He was always generous, always there to help.

John and I were able to keep in touch through Facebook. He’d message me and tell me how beautiful my daughters were, and how wonderful a job I was doing as a mother, which really helped on those days I felt I failed. He believed in young people, and lavished love on his nephews and nieces. John befriended and became like an “uncle” to Josue, the son of a friend in Costa Rica. John knew Josue since he was an infant, and he talked about him with such love, and spent tons of time with him, reading, playing–boy, could John play–and having Josue help him with his work. From photos I’ve seen of the two of them, I know the feeling was mutual, that Josue loved John, too. John also praised me on my work, my writing. John lifted me up, and made me feel good. He downplayed and kindly brushed off the compliments and awe I felt at not just the physical accomplishment of building Casa Verde over so many years, but of his bravery and courage in living the life he chose for himself. I know that everyone who met John left feeling a bit better about themselves and the world around them because he was always so present when he was with you. You knew that he cared about you, and that moment in time with you. If only I could ditch my phone and spend a few hours with John at Casa Verde, I might be able to relocate that awe for living and appreciating each day, each human connection made.

Today, at my job as an Activities Therapist at a psychiatric hospital, I sat in on our weekly Prayer group that the hospital chaplain leads for patients.  I needed to pray, to grieve, and had to work hard to keep my tears in check, to maintain my professional composure. During the session, she read a little story about a man who needed help building a garden, but either was worried about asking people to help, or didn’t get any help when he asked. So, the man went about his business anyway, and the people in the town, saw what he was doing, and thought it was wonderful, and were interested in the man and his project, and started pitching in, and before you know it, the whole village was working together to create this beautiful garden. This story made me think of John and  how I imagine his graciousness, and his wanting to truly know and connect with people, drew people into his circle, and allowed him to make his vision a reality.

I am going to miss the physical presence of John, but I spoke to his dear sister, Marianne, today, and she reminded me that John will be sending signs, and that in fact, he already has to her, that he is still here, and will always be with us, that his spirit is too magnificent to not stay. I send love and wishes for comfort to Marianne, and John’s other siblings, Peter, Meg, and Chris, and to John’s mother, and all of John’s family and friends. Marianne told me my daughters and I must go to Costa Rica, to Casa Verde, that John would have wanted that. We will go. I will miss the friend that had me and my former husband swim in the local reservoir with him in Darien, CT, right after telling us he’d been caught several times by the police there, and I will remember how lovely it was to swim in that reservoir, and I will remember how John, in his typical fashion, found something to praise me for, which on this day, was my ability to spot the tick crawling up my thigh before it burrowed in, and I will do my best to live like John, with courage, and humor, and love, and truth, so that I might honor him.

Pura vida. Rest in peace, dear friend.







10 Responses to “Farewell, But Not Goodbye, To My Good Friend, John (JD) Dolan”

  1. Sarah Grossman March 9, 2017 at 10:07 am #

    What a lovely tribute to John. I hadn’t realized you and he had stayed in contact through FB. I’m glad he at least got to see photos of the girls, if not meet them. Let’s go to Costa Rica sometime soon!

    • Wendy Jane March 9, 2017 at 11:58 am #

      Thanks, Sarah. Yes, we did, and he always hoped I would come visit some time with the girls. We will all have to go soon! We must.


  2. Deborah Oster Pannell March 9, 2017 at 11:35 am #

    What a beautiful tribute, Wendy… xoxo

    • Wendy Jane March 9, 2017 at 11:59 am #

      Thank you, Deborah. Thanks so much for reading and your kind words.


  3. Vickie March 9, 2017 at 5:22 pm #

    So sorry for your loss, Wendy. He would have been proud of this beautiful tribute.

    • Wendy Jane March 9, 2017 at 6:47 pm #

      Thanks, Vickie. John would have had a blast showing D.C. and you around Case Verde.


  4. Ellen March 11, 2017 at 11:53 pm #

    This is beautiful, Wendy. I’m sorry for the loss of your good friend. Now I feel like I knew him a little bit too. Casa verde sounds like paradise. Maybe I’ll go someday.

    • Wendy Jane March 12, 2017 at 11:09 am #

      Thank you, Ellen..thanks for reading about John. I hope you do go one day.


  5. Sherry Gordon March 13, 2017 at 2:33 pm #

    Dear Wendy Jane,

    Well, hello, there, Wendy Jane, my so, so very For Always dearly awesome and amazingly special soul sisterfriend who you’re For Always so, so very much!!!!! Wow, FINALLY, I’m able to very joyfully write my response to your beautiful, absolutely beautiful, tribute and memorial to your so very dear friend, the late and awesome John Dolan!!!! I’ve been just bursting with such very eager and delightful anticipation to write my thoughts, ideas, and comments to you, my sweet sister, and to this absolutely fantastic blog post article of yours, and as soon as I’m able and at home more often and at my computer more often I’ll write all of the rest of my responses the way I usually do, my awesome sisterfriend!!!! I just can’t wait-DARN, I’m usually home more often and at my computer more often!!!!! Sister, what a lovely, so, so very dearest tribute and memorial this is for your so very dearest old friend, John Dolan. He sounds like such a great and empowering man, sister!!!!! My friend, I am just so enjoying his story. What a brave man to o gain his sobriety in becoming sober at such a young age!!!!! I just know how much of an inspiration he was for sure. I think of myself and how I’m a lesbian and how I, too, am a recovering alcoholic and addict having become clean and sober at the age of 28 on Sunday, August 5, 1990. I’m going to one day at a time have 27 years clean and sober coming up. I made the great decision to accept myself finally as a lesbian when I was in my twenties at the age of 24. All of my life I really did know that I was a lesbian deep down inside but I would go in and out of denial about this and I tried to date men but I came to my senses when I was 24 and wow, has it been some kind of a journey, my so, so very dearest and darling friend! Wow, John reminds me of a lot of the men I know at my Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and other 12-Step Program Meetings, like at my AA LGBT home group meeting, sisterfriend. Wow, John was just brilliant and such a genius in creating his very own tree-cutting service and in being a self-taught carpenter. Sister, I’m with you-I’d be terrified like you from John’s stories about nearly falling out of trees as he was cutting trees, and I’m like you because I remember that awhile back you said that you’re afraid of heights just as I am also, my so, so very dear friend and sister. Wow, he sounds just wonderful-I wish that I had met him because he sounds like such a so very dear person with a heart of gold and just very empowering, sister!!!! Wow, what a powerful and all-star job you have done here, Wendy Jane, as you have brilliantly, lovingly, and sensitively composed such a great tribute and memorial here with this absolutely beautiful and lovely, very powerful blog post article here!!!!! Wow, Wendy Jane, I so enjoyed and appreciated this so, so much with this awesome writing here!!!! I, too, believe that John is sending his love and signs from our Heaven. He is not really completely gone and he is still among us with his love, his brilliance, and his grace in our Heaven, my so, so very sweet sisterfriend!!!!!

    Sister, YOU are the very, very overall epitome of living life with love, humor, courage, and truth, my and our absolutely precious and special sister and friend!!!!! Wendy Jane, YOU not only honor John but also you greatly honor and bless me and all of us with your love, your grace, your so, so very dearest and darling, precious heart and spirit!!!!!! YOU are my and our so, so very immense joy and blessing, sister, and you have been such the very, very epitome of such love and graciousness, my and our so, so very dear friend!!!!! Wendy Jane, I feel even better and brighter with even more cheer after reading this very endearing and engaging blog post article as such a lovely and beautiful tribute and memorial to John reading with such joy, and with very joyously responding with my very heartfelt, thorough, and detailed thoughts, ideas, and comments!!!!! Wendy Jane, now I am even more renewed, rejuvenated, reinvigorated, and re-energized, my friend!!!! Wow!!!! Yay!!!!! Wow, Wendy Jane, you are just the greatest and the very best!!!! Please have such a marvelous and a very mighty fine Monday, and may all of your very days be so, so very especially blessed, sister and friend of mine and ours!!!!!! I love you so, so very much Wendy Jane a whole bunch, sweet friend and sister of mine!!!!!!! :)!!!!!! <3!!!!!!

    Very Warmly and Sincerely For Always, my so, so very For Always dearly special and awesomely precious soul sisterfriend of mine, Wendy Jane, with My and Spirit's Love For You For Always, friend of mine, and with Such Blessings and Such Even More Blessings For You For Always, sister of mine,

    Yours For Always soul sisterfriend black woman and For Always in the very great spirit of unity and solidarity, Sherry Gordon in Iowa City, Iowa

    • Wendy Jane March 13, 2017 at 7:41 pm #

      Hi Sherry,

      Thanks so much for taking the time out to read about my dear friend, John. I can see that you really got into learning about who he was and what he meant to me and everyone whose lives he touched. He sure would have liked you!

      In unity and love and solidarity,
      Wendy Jane

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: