Tuesday, October 11, 2016

A Letter to my PTHS Class of '86 Classmates

Pirates Fight for Old Pine Tree High

For your Alma Mater dear

Pirates Fight for Old Pine Tree High

For victory is near

To old Pine Tree we’ll be loyal

Til the sun drops from the sky

Remembering until the end

Pirates fight, never die! 

Class of '86 Classmates and Friends:

There’s a quote that I use often by Gary Thomas, author of the books Sacred Marriage and Sacred Parenting, among others.  He says, as it relates to parenting, “…the days are long and the years are short.”  It’s true; but not just in parenting.  It’s true in life.  As I look at all the pictures and read all the posts connected to the 30-year class reunion, I’m overwhelmed with emotion -  joy, sadness, regret, love, and on and on I could go.  I regret that I was unable to attend.  But I cherish the memories and friendship that are connected to these pictures from thirty years ago and now.  I’m amazed at the beautiful transparency and honesty with which posts are shared.  Posts dealing with some of life’s most challenging, difficult, gut-wrenching issues – depression, suicide, pain and loss.  All very real.  All very raw.  I can’t help but think of the memories I have with two most recent classmates that we’ve lost – Steve Brantley and Craig Russell.  I played many years of baseball with and against Steve and Craig both.  Those were special times.  Steve was always bigger than life – literally.  Craig always carried with him an air of confidence – almost cockiness – in all he did.  They will be dearly missed, as well as those from our class, who passed on before them.  Who would’ve guessed that Craig would’ve been here Friday night and then gone a day later?  Who knew that he’d reached a place of helplessness and hopelessness?  Who knew that Friday night would’ve been the very last time for most to talk to him, touch him, hug him, help him?  The truth is that there are times when we all need help.  For different reasons and at different times, we each need help.  We need a friend.  We need each other.  I’m very appreciative of the vulnerability with which many of you, my ’86 PTHS classmates, have shared that vulnerability.  We all have a story.  Our stories are filled with joys and pains, mountains and valleys, ups and downs.  Each story carries with it similarities to other stories and uniqueness as your story.  Each story important and valuable and with a need to be heard.  Because we need to learn from each other.  We’re able to comfort and love and encourage others as their life stories intersect ours.  Those intersections may be frequent or infrequent; regular or thirty years a part.  When they happen; however, is not as important as this:  when they happen, they must be seen as opportunities to be seized.  Life opportunities – divine appointments, if you will – to make a difference in someone’s life who may need a kind word, a pat on the back, a helping hand, a bear hug, a listening ear, or the voice of truth saying, “You’re valuable.  You’re important.  Your life matters and carries inherent significance and meaning.”  All of us, at times, need that; and all of us, at a moment’s notice, need to be ready to give it away.  To do so means we must be vigilant to watch, to listen, to pay attention to those in our path while there’s time to do so.  We only have right now.  Yesterday’s a fleeting memory filled with lost opportunity.  Tomorrow is not promised or guaranteed.  We only have right now.  Craig’s tragic passing (and that of others like him) must serve as a neon flashing sign reminder that this thing called life, at best, is hard and very, very brief.  But it’s worth living.  And if it’s worth living, my fellow classmates, then it’s worth living to the fullest.  Make every second count.  Because your contribution to life, no matter how big or small it seems, may be the difference maker to someone who is watching you – your child, your co-worker, your friend of thirty years or the waitress that messed up your order for the third time.  Somebody needs you.  I need you.  And you need me.  We need each other.  So, take a risk.  Ask the hard questions.  Get your hands dirty.  Live with no regrets. There's no doubt that it’ll be worth it in the end.

Thanks for taking the time to read my ramblings, whether you know me well, remember me vaguely, or have no clue who I am.  I’m a dad of four and a husband of almost 23 years just trying to do life with all that I got.  Blessings, PTHS friends of the class of ‘86.  I won’t miss the next reunion.  Love and prayers to those of you hurting or in need.  If I can help, I’m available.  – John      


  1. Thank you so much. Beautiful words. We are blessed with each other. Love ya, Michele Fuller Richards

  2. John, thank you for these very inspirational words. You sat next to me in Physics class and was always nice to me. We also worked together at Drug Emporium and you always took time to talk with me. Your beautiful words help calm me before I go into surgery tomorrow for cancer. Thank you.

  3. Well said, I was there for Craig until the very end of his life, he txt me minutes before he passed. He had invited me to the Reunion Fri. He came by to hang out with me, got ready over my place, I fed him n washed his clothes for him.We sat down and talked for hrs... He asked me Leah, I am a good guy? I am a nice guy, right? I said yes, Craig, you have always been super sweet to me, and you were and still the most thoughtful, considerate, caring person to everyone you touch. He asked while holding my hand, Have I changed? I said no Craig, you haven't, you still have that baby face, those pretty green eyes, and always treated me w the utmost respect, a gentleman! He put his arms around me and kissed me on my cheek, and said thank you for everything you have done for me, I told him, I'd always be! He walked behind me, walking out the door, and put his hand on my head and said bye, see you later... Sat he came to my door at 11am, I had just woke up, was in the shower, when my dog barked. I got out to see who it was, bc my mom was supposed to be here that day to go w her, so I called her, and at the same time, I looked on my outside camera and it was Craig driving away, and at that moment my friend across the street had texted me to tell me Craig was here, she was concerned about me, bc I didn't answer the door, now I wished I had...Prior he came to me on Mon of last wk, I helped him the best I knew how to until the very end! On Fri He left w appreciation n thanking me for always being there for him, even in school, I'd make sure he got home safely, Recently, we reconnected and reminiscing about the good ol days. He even remembered my fav sing, "Totally Eclipse of The Heart" and I remembered the song he used tio sing, "Faithfully" but he always sang it wrong "Eternally" I pointed that out to him I remembered that after 30 yrs, he was embarrassed, but I told him not to be, it was something about him, that every time I heard that song, I thought of him. Memories I still have of him, I'll cherish! He's passed from this life, but he will never ever be forgotten! RIP CRAIG! "ETERNALLY"

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