I received a dreadful telephone call on March 30, one of those calls that set you back on your heels even though you know it’s coming. John Plakus, a longtime friend of mine, a guy I met 35 years ago when we both worked in the car business, died after a two-month struggle in the hospital. The call came from his wife, MaryLou. Quite to my surprise, she wasn’t crying on the telephone, nor was she noticeably emotional; her composure seemed calm and subdued. I guessed that she was still in shock and the wave of emotions hadn’t hit her yet.
John did not die unexpectedly. A few weeks after entering the hospital at the end of January, the prognosis was grim. John must have been blindsided by the severity of his illness because in a telephone conversation we had shortly after he entered the hospital, he said that he felt pretty good up until the day he ended up in emergency. I’ll never forget his lighthearted words, “I’ve got cancer, but they haven’t figured out which flavor yet.” That was the John I remember, a guy who could find humor in circumstances that begged for solemnity.
John, a real car enthusiast, was one of those Jacks-of-all-Trades I envied. He could do just about anything from changing a transmission to remodeling a kitchen to planting a bountiful garden. And when we were in the car business together, he was one hell of a good salesman and his ethics were above reproach. He always dealt from the top of the deck.
During my twice-a-year trips to New York, I always got together with John and MaryLou for dinner and drinks, and we would catch up on the latest drama in our lives. I’m going back home to visit family in May of this year, but I must admit that as much as I love spending time with my family, it’s just not going to be the same without seeing John.
Over the years, John and I enjoyed many spirited discussions about everything from politics to sports. But rarely did John discuss religion or his feelings on God and eternity. I never pushed it, and he never volunteered his thoughts. I do know that MaryLou told me two weeks before John died, that he said, “It’s all in God’s hands now.” Yes, John, it was and is in His hands.
Right now, as I write this post, John’s ashes are sitting comfortably in a special urn that looks like a racecar. How utterly appropriate. In my heart, I’m sure that John is in a better place, that Saint Peter met him at the gates of heaven and invited him in. Heaven is a better place with John there making his mark, but this world lost a great one.
Amazon publishing will release, I Do Solemnly Swear, my third novel, in October of 2012. I’ve decided to dedicate this book to John.