A Bloody Good Bastard – Tribute for Jon Shearer.

In the race of life we line up on the starting blocks without knowing how long the race is going to last. The finishing line is hidden from our view. In our minds, we are all running the marathon not the 100 meters. And yet there comes a time in life when the view is not of the distance to run but of the tape at the end of the race.

Jon Shearer was one of my really good friends in China. He wasn’t the one I knew for the longest time. He wasn’t the one that lived the closest and we could see each other every day.  But he was a bloody good bastard and I loved him and I loved his blunt talk and total honesty.

You knew where you stood with Jon. There was no reticence in using good old fashioned Anglo-Saxon words. None of the namby-pamby Norman Invasion type talk – it was a pig not a pork, a snail and not an ‘escargot’. It was fuck off not ‘go away’. A vocabulary that took you back to the days of Harold Godwinson and not William the Conqueror.

I met Jon when we were both appointed to be servants of the New Zealand government as ‘Beachheads’ Advisers.  Being saintly souls who were chosen to impart bucket loads of advice to New Zealand companies about doing business in China and how to prevent your shirt being pried loose from your back and your money shaken from your wallet, we both were eager to get started and roll up our sleeves and double the country’s exports within the next 20 minutes.

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It was a part-time position and we were summoned to the Shanghai headquarters of New Zealand Trade and Enterprise for an inaugural meeting. One of those ‘get around a bloody big table’ type of meeting and listen to speakers and try and say sensible things.

Jon and I, both being mischievous characters, were soon smiling at each other across the table and rolling our eyes when the speaker droned on too long and wondered to ourselves when we could get off duty and into the whisky. We were soon marked out by the ‘boss’ as troublemakers and since the ‘boss’ was of a rascally cast himself we all got along famously. With a number of us of good Scottish descent it wasn’t long before we had a ‘Scottish Corner’ after the long meetings where us denizens of the heather could drink the smoky peat nectar and criticize the English and throw our cabers around like ski poles. We also had the best hangovers the next day as well.

Jon was the General Manager in China of one of the most well-known companies in New Zealand, Fisher and Paykel, which had a very successful Joint Venture based in Qingdao. Qingdao, is famous for its beer – the Tsing Tao brand. A brewery that was set up in the province that had been stolen by the Germans as part of the big colonial push into China at the dying gasps of the Qing Dynasty. And it was a place that was taken from the Germans after that little contretemps between cousins called the First World War. To the extreme displeasure and chagrin of the Chinese people, instead of being handed back to the Chinese the entire province was handed over to the Japanese for their contribution to the war effort.

A classic case of how to win friends and influence people. That decision had two major effects on world history – it gave the Chinese people and their leaders a bad case of foreigner blues, that exists to this day 98 years later. And it gave the Japanese the idea that China was a chocolate cake to be divided up amongst allies and gave them impetus to jump all over the northern reaches of China (Manchuria) and steal as much as they could.

Both these effects were manifestations of the laws of unintended consequences because the former galvanized the Chinese people into doing something about their decline under the Dowager Empress and start the Communist Party and encouraged the rampant militarism of the Japanese that resulted in bad consequences for several tens of millions of people in the Second World War.

But I digress – we will visit Qingdao beer again, however, as it is both delicious and germane to the story.

Jon and I became friends and we started calling each other from time to time to discuss all the subjects that bloody good bastards discuss. Really important things like who is the latest moron to inflict themselves on our gentle natures.

Jon called it like it was. If you were a moron then he called you a moron. In fact, much more likely, he would call you a fucking moron. Bleep bleep bleep.

Fools were not suffered – they were execrated – generally by being dragged through a meat grinder backwards.

One such idiot was a short little man who happened to be appointed as manager of one of the local expat watering holes in Chengdu. As we found out much much later, he was running away from some addiction issues, keeping your manhood in your pants issues, and in general, a total dickhead.

Jon was a trader in his part-time and had been selling all sorts of products into China and other parts of the world through a company called CHINZ. China New Zealand. I hated the name and told him so many times and was rewarded for my honesty with a gentle ‘fuck off and leave me alone, you twat’.

He rang me up one day and said that a container of New Zealand wine that normally sold for around 3-400 RMB a bottle had somehow been returned unpaid to his care, and would I like to sell a bit of wine in Chengdu – at the absolutely unbelievable price of 40RMB a bottle. 40RMB a bottle at the time would get you the finest bottle of dishwater mixed with left-over hotpot oil.

I headed down to the watering hole and spoke to the owner, who said that I should discuss with his newly appointed manager – the said Mr Dickhead.

By coincidence, shortly after this discussion, a meeting of the Beachheads Advisers was called in Chengdu and Jon found himself in Chengdu and able to come along with a few samples of the wine and an appointment to let Mr Dickhead taste it for himself.

Bearing in mind that this wine was firstly premium quality and at a price that was stupidly low. We sat outside on the balcony tables taking the air (i.e. both smoking) and poured ourselves a few liberal glasses to enhance our sales skills and sharpen our tongues for the sales presentation to Mr DH.

Cue the impressario of wine himself as he swirled the wine around the glass, sniffed a touch of fumes, washed his tender little mouth with the nectar of the vine and put his snooty little face into full Parisian Charles De Gaulle mode.

de-gaulle

‘OOOOOHH’ he sneered. ‘A could not serve this in my establishment’. ‘It is not the standard for my esteemed clientele.’

‘May I also try the white?’

To which Jon, spluttering and coughing and red in the face said ‘Mais Oui. mon homme gentile’. You may partake of this extraordinarily good Chardonnay, and then let us talk business’.

Cue the entire pantomime of disgust one more time.

His Serene Pontification then said: ‘Well, I suppose, I could serve this tasty little white in the summer’ Perhaps served with the tender toenails of a virgin snow leopard, or perhaps with a soupcon of feather of the bird of paradise.’ ‘Put me down for half a dozen bottles’.

Jon regarded this little piece of doggie doo for a full minute and beckoned him to come closer.

He leaned ever so slightly across the table, thrust his smiling face close to Monsieur Doggie Doo and said: ‘Take your sniveling little carcass you little piece of shit and stick this bottle right up your fucking arse’ Get out my sight before I remodel your miserable little face, you son of a bitch and fuck off.’

‘Six bottles? I will smash six bottles over your head, Mr Doggie Doo before I sell you a drop of wine.’

And I headed to the cash register to pay the bill and I was encouraged by Jon to frequent another establishment that evening before violence was committed and the police were called.

The manager, in actions true to his character took off and did not come to bid us a good night as we left.

Our sanctified manager then hated me from that day on. He made it his duty to be as nasty as he could be and I lost the pleasure of being entertained in one of my favourite places.

As time went on his true nature became apparent and he was involved in many instances of downright disgusting behaviour, two or three sexual harassments suits having to be settled out of court by the owner, a return to the days of pill-popping and generally creating an unpleasant reputation for himself, culminating in his abrupt dismissal on New Year’s Eve, when, with his eight-months pregnant wife was in the house, he was chased from the kitchen by one very angry young lady – the pastry chef – who objected to his wandering hands and obscene suggestions.

The owner had finally had enough and sacked him on the spot, to which he reacted rather badly and was about to get the Bill of Rights read to him by the owner (a rather hot-headed man with a skinful of New Year’s joy aboard) and the large contingent of customers along with one very unhappy wife.

3am in the morning is probably not the time to pick a fight with 50 people and he left muttering imprecations against all and sundry, happily never to be seen again.

Jon had his number from that very first day on the job.

Jon had been in China for more than 20 years and was a true pioneer in the opening up of China and had been kicking around the former area of Manchuria doing all sorts of things. Like sneaking into North Korea one fine evening – well, actually it wasn’t a fine evening – it was a bloody cold winters evening when the Yalu River was frozen over and the path into the Hermit Kingdom was a tad easier than taking a million-man army across the bridge and fighting your way in.

Jon was trading in pine nuts – those delicious, highly expensive little nuts that go ever so well on salads and other tasty little morsels. Pine nuts are horrendously expensive and grow on, yes, pine trees. But not any old pine tree – only the Pinus Pinea brand of pine tree, which grows in far northern China and in North Korea. It grows elsewhere as well – in fact it has been cultivated in Europe for more than 5,000 years, but the forests in these cold dismal parts are the worlds primary source these days and there is fierce competition to secure supply and Jon’s genial nature and kind manner, had endeared him to the locals and he had a thriving business in these little white beauties.

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One evening his smuggler, ahem.. I mean supplier, came across the frozen river to meet him and transact a little bit of business and sort of half-jokingly said: ‘Would you like to come and meet my family?’ ‘They are just across the river.’

‘Why certainly,’ said Jon. ‘Ohh, you mean come across into North Korea and walk through the minefield and dodge the million-man army and then come back safely?’ Of course, I do you idiot’ Where do I sign up?

So they drove the truck across the Yalu River, dodged a few sentry posts and headed into the border region to the little house in the forest and said a few hellos to the family and the family of the family and had a pint or two of some wicked brew to warm their cockles and then nice as you like, headed back into China.

yalu-river

This broke so many rules they couldn’t have fitted in a single rule book, and the penalty for getting caught would have been an extended stay in the gulag of fatty Kim’s father eating rattus rattus for 20 years or so.

But by God, it makes a terrific tale and Jon would regales us with his story of the night he sneaked into North Korea with his smuggler, I mean supplier.

Jon’s respect for the constabulary was legendary. As a younger man, he was a farmer and was living in the beautiful warm province of Nelson in New Zealand. Being a relatively isolated province and warm and sunny and it being the end of the sixties and into the seventies there was a particularly large population of hippies. Jon did not like hippies at the time and would get very upset at seeing the broken-down buses and caravans illegally parked on a layby by the river.

He disliked them so much he asked the local Mr Plod what would be the scenario of one or two of the hippies were to cause so much trouble and he was forced to defend his home and castle and shoot a few of the bastards. ‘Bury ‘em so deep, Jon that I can’t find them’ would be the best advice I could give you.

So, when he arrived home one day and found a long haired smelly hippie (sorry all you old hippies, including myself) stealing his motorbike, and holding a 22 rifle, he suggested that perhaps the hippie would be kind enough to return the motorbike and parts to its rightful place in the barn.

The miscreant laughed at him and started to run away, giving him the fingers as he ran. We will never know why that damned trigger was itching to shoot itself, but it did – right in the fleshy part of the leg of the would-be-robber.

‘You bastard’ cried the hippie – you just shot me!’ So, I did,’ said Jon. ‘Sorry about that.’ ‘Now may I politely ask that you return my motorbike to its place in the barn.’

So limping like a one legged paper-hanger the thief pushed his motorbike into the shed and departed from the scene, throwing a few choice epithets to do with Jon’s antecedents behind him.

The tale had its denouement a short while later, when the local cops decided that enough was enough, and went to the hippie camp and pushed all the caravans and buses off the public land where they were living onto the road, where the traffic policemen were waiting with citation notebook in hand to find the several hundred infringements that required hefty fines to be paid.

hippy

The man with a limp came out to complain but seeing Jon there, decided that discretion would be the better part of valour, and limped off into the sunset to pay his fines.

So back to the beer. Beer is good. Fresh beer is even better – fresh, cold draft beer from the Qingdao Brewery in Qingdao.

We were sitting on tiny little stools in them idle of street barbeque area in Qingdao – no-one does street barbeque like Qingdao – delicious. Sticks of meat, vegetables, seafood and other mouth-watering delights – all for the cost of a toothbrush and a plastic comb. And we needed beer to wash it down.

‘How many bags of beer would you like?’

‘What do you mean bags of beer – a bottle will be just fine?

How many bags of beer can you drink? Jon repeated.

Ok, Jon, what’s the joke? Get me a couple of bags of beer.

And he did – Qingdao sells shopping bags full of beer – you go into the bar, ask for x number of bags of beer and they fill up a plastic bag with beer and off you go, carrying your bags as if they were groceries.

beer-in-a-bag

Then you fill up your liter jugs with the beer poured out of the bag, then you drink it, and then you drink another one, and then you buy a few more bags, and repeat parts A through to Z and then you walk home (stagger) arm in arm talking about what we might do if we find any hippies on the way home.

 

 

After getting back in from North Korea, Jon’s business was doing really well. And then one day the police came to visit his office.

Do you have a person by the name of XY working for you?

‘I do, Sir. Indeed I do.’

And do you have a person called AB working for you?

‘I do. Yes, Sir I do.’

What’s this all about?

Mrs. XY was not happy with Mrs. AB – something to do with not appreciating her having an affair with her husband. And Mrs. XY decided that in fact the world might just be a little bit better off without Mrs. AB and went out and killed her stone dead.

Oh dear.

These things in China do not have happy endings. Mrs. XY had now booked herself a date with a rifle and was not long for this world herself. The death penalty in China is the default for murder and unless there are some extenuating circumstances, then 5 minutes from next Thursday the unfortunate person will be taken out to meet their maker.

In addition, when both people come from the same work, the police are very keen to find out every single thing that might have contributed to the problem and spent several days interviewing and basically harassing everyone at the company.

And that didn’t have a good effect on Jon’s business.

And he ended up in the situation where he was asked to join with a New Zealand company and he set up perhaps the most successful Joint Venture between a Chinese company and a New Zealand company – Fisher and Paykel – maker of very high end appliances that eventually resulted in the company being sold entirely to the Chinese partner – Hai’er.

It is struggle to find a better example of how to do business in China than the company Jon put together and it is a tribute to the man Jon was that his legacy remains every time a Fisher &Paykel appliance is sold in China.

And when the New Zealand shareholders sold out lock stock and barrel to Hai’er Jon’s tenure with the company came to an end and he cast his eyes back to New Zealand and he sold up and returned to New Zealand to a magnificent little place called Picton.

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I was really sad to see Jon leave China – we spoke every single day on the phone – we had tried a few things together – like trying to sell the technology to make Korean wine SoJu to a town that was the center of the largest sweet potato growing region in the world, and since Soju is made from sweet potatoes it had to be winner didn’t it? A venture that ended when the samples finally arrived from the company selling the technology and the prospective clients tried the brew and were grateful that the wind didn’t change and their faces were able to return from the grimace of disgust to a more normal visage. Note to self: Try the product before trying to sell it.

And we raised 3 million dollars from an investment company for a joint country to country competition TV Dining show called ‘Fusion Dining TV’, only for a little minx called Apple to decide that she was cleverer than her boss and diverted the money into the short-term money market in China, which at the time was earning up to 72% per annum interest. The project fell apart, which was exactly what happened to the 4 billion RMB investment company one year later when Beijing cracked down on the short-term moneylenders and stopped them in their tracks. Apple, who renamed herself Fiona, became the instrument of ruin for around 100 shareholder’s lives and the company went completely utterly bust.

I had the ‘pleasure’ of attending a wedding where I was sat on a table with 20 of these shareholders and was privy to the 50 Shades of Murder that Apple/Fiona was going to be subjected to – I offered to lend them Jon’s Hippie-Shooting Rifle but alas the offer was rejected as being too kind.

Jon was a really decent bloke – he was the type of friend that you could absolutely rely on – in a separate business deal a mutual friend basically ripped me off for around 100,000 USD. I won’t go into the details, but it wasn’t a pretty sight. And Jon picked up the phone and rang the ‘friend’ and gave him a dose of Anglo-Saxon oration and said that if he ever darkened his door again he would be made to regret it. That’s the type of friend of Jon was.

At a function where there were an array of diplomats and other sainted folk from a variety of countries, Jon and I slipped out to have a cigarette and sat on an outside table where there were only a couple of other people. We both observed a senior member of a countries government assault a young lady in an inappropriate way after she had taken a bit more of a libation than she should have, and despite the possible geopolitical outcome, Jon was out of his seat and fed the diplomat a hairy knuckle sandwich before you could blink and sorted him out once and for all, so we could get the young lady away from this piece of drunken manure.

In half a lifetime in China there isn’t room for all the stories – of how he caused a war between two villages by buying a tractor for only one of the two villages contracted to produce food for him. Or the time we were chased down the freeway by a China Naval Commander (his identity based on his very special number plate that only Naval Commanders are allowed) numberplateafter Jon presented an erect middle digit to him for his poor attempt at driving – only to be let off the hook when the Navy guy cut of another car while he was trying to catch us and it turned into a fight between the Naval guy and the other third car. Or the time he discovered that his accountant was selling the pine nuts out the back door and Jon started to wonder why the money wasn’t rolling in – and how he dealt with her like a dinner at a formal meeting and had her locked up for theft.

There are a lifetimes stories – stories of working in China when it was rough and raw and ready and you survived because you had street smarts and nerves of steel. Jon was one of those characters, that no matter what you thought of him, you damned well respected him.

Decent. Kind. Honest. Straightforward. Funny. Dedicated. Brave. These are the words that describe Jon. He was a bloody good bastard and he is dead, and I miss him.

On his return to New Zealand he got himself sorted out – a boat, a house, a fish and chip shop and a business. He was set – and living the dream we both had of retiring to the Marlborough Sounds – me being far too young to retire and him being a bloody old bastard, he was the trailblazer.

He was set. He thought he had time.

One sad day, after a short period of having some problems, he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer which had spread to his liver and spine and 5 weeks and one day after the diagnosis he passed away and left a beautiful wife and an adult family and grandchildren behind. And he left behind a legacy, that while it did not make headlines, was a legacy of goodness.

We spoke every day for four of those weeks until the cancer and the morphine took hold of him and he slipped away. He approached the knock on the door from the angel of death like he approached everything in life – with bravery and with courage. We laughed every single day we spoke – we joked about shooting hippies in the great caravan of the sky and we joked about ‘Fatty Kim’ and what he might say if he knew Jon had sneaked in and stolen his banana.

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Jon laughed his way to his end and since, he slipped much quicker than we thought he would, into a state where he couldn’t speak anymore or even listen, I made him a promise and I wrote him a letter.

The promise was that I would write a legacy for him, and this is it. And I wrote a letter to him to say the things that I had a mind to say to him were I able to sit beside his bed and hold his hand and tell him it was all going to be alright.

Jon, this is your tribute and I hope your legacy lives on and that your contribution to building the bridge between the country of your birth and the country of your adoption.

May your name be remembered when the great book is written.

Here is my letter to a bloody good bastard:

Jon Ralph Shearer

Dear Jon

I’m writing this letter because there is much for me to say to you but I’m here and you are there and it is unlikely that we are going to be able to sit outside in the sun and enjoy each other’s company sipping tea and chatting and me calling you an old bastard and you calling me the same.

It’s pretty hard to ignore that elephant sitting there right in front of us with cancer written all over it. I’m still getting over the day I received your one-line email and sat there stunned while I tried to process exactly what it said and what it meant.

And however much we wish we weren’t here in this spot, here we are anyway, and here we stand together.

You are a good bastard Jon; you are my good bastard. You stood by me once when trouble fell on my head and you probably don’t know how much that meant to me. I can tell you how much:  a LOT.

And I want to talk to you and talk to your soul and maybe I can say the things that are in my heart and these things might bring some comfort to your soul and bring insight and understanding as you prepare yourself to embark on that journey that awaits us all.

Most of us shy away from confronting what the end of life of means. We fill the spaces with superficial chat – we smile and laugh and we work really hard at keeping our spirits up and we seldom speak of or to what is really happening.

The end of this world looms as a fearful bridge we must cross. A black dark chasm, with the other side hidden from the view of all. And confronting this, when it is raw and close scares most of us, which is why we keep the mood light and the conversation mundane.

I can only imagine the thoughts that are going through your mind – the rough raw emotions of dealing with what has been diagnosed. There will be fear, anger, sadness, anxiety, uncertainty, and a thousand other things that race through your mind as your come to and understanding of what this damned elephant means. I would like to speak to those fears and I would like to offer my hand of understanding.

Each of us set out on our race thinking we are running a marathon, but some of us are running the 100 meters and some of us run the hurdles.

It is not until the finishing line is in view that we learn exactly how far we are called on to be in this race of life and when the finishing line is holding out its hands to clasp us we draw back instinctively and hope that the pace will slow and the race will continue.

Death is a messenger of joy, just as birth is a messenger of joy.

After 9 months in the womb which is a dark, warm, confined place, a baby develops sufficiently to be able to greet the bright light of this world. Where the things the baby practiced daily in ignorance of what the practice was for become the tools and behaviour that the baby needs to survive in this world. Sucking its thumb in the womb develops the muscles that are required to suck milk. Turning and moving in the womb advances the skills the baby needs to move and interact with its new exciting world.

And this world is but one step farther and one step into a new existence.

How do we know that this life continues when it is hidden from view? How can we be sure?

Look inside and tell me how old you feel. Do you feel 50 or 60 or 18? If you are honest you will know that your heart has not aged a day since you reached maturity. Unlike the body which declines and decays with every passing day of our life the consciousness does not change. Our hearts are eternally young. Our spirit remains youthful and buoyant while each day every single one of us deals with the flagging energy of the body.

If our hearts remain young how death can destroy our soul?  The heart is not changed by the change in the body. It endures as we leave this mortal coil behind.

Do not be afraid – what is happening to you in this world is nothing more than the transcendence of this plane of existence. It is a passing over to a new classroom, to a new place to learn new lessons.

As Richard Bach of Jonathon Livingston Seagull fame said:

Here is a test to see if your mission on Earth is finished: If you are alive, it isn’t.

We are on this earth to learn and it’s a very gentle learning – the lessons we learn came one by one and over a long time. We don’t see what these lessons are most of the time because they simply fit in with the ever moving passage of time, but like the pebbles in a river, your heart is polished smooth slowly and relentlessly by our experiences until we stand ready for the next adventure.

Don’t hold any regrets in your heart. What is and what was is simply that. I don’t believe there was a time that you ever did less than your best, so there is nothing to be regretful about. Doesn’t matter if you made mistakes, because we all make mistakes. Doesn’t matter if things didn’t work out exactly as you wanted them to – because they worked out exactly as they should.

In reviewing your existence in this valley of tears (as I am sure you are doing) there will be things that you wished you had done differently. There will be things that you think you didn’t do well – but actually these things are the real lessons – that’s when you learned more than you knew at that time.

Regret is a wasted emotion – there is nothing that can be done about what you think it should have been like. But more importantly hidden within the regret is the lesson that you needed to learn. We seldom learn a lesson when everything goes well – move along, nothing to see here. But when something we do or say causes us to wish we hadn’t done or said that then our experience expands and we become slowly wiser and much less likely to repeat that which caused us to regret in the first place.

What I know about you is that you were always a champion of injustice. You were always willing to help people. You were always kind. You were always a good bastard.  There are many people who come into the home stretch and are unable to say that but you are not one of them.

Look around you and see the result of your time on this earth – wonderful children, a wife who loves you, friends, acquaintances and colleagues – all of whom have shown a tremendous outpouring of love for you. These are the things that signal your worth and these are the things that are the achievements of a lifetime.

Do not bemoan the fact that the end of your race seems to be earlier than you might have wished – there are so many people who have been denied the time you have spent here – the children blown to bits by bombs in a never ending list of tragedies – Vietnam, Iraq, Syria, Yemen – places where life has been snuffed out in the blink of an eye by the aggression and hate that infects the world like a disease.  Babies, children and adults who have been handed short lives as a result of famines and diseases and often simply because mankind as a whole is incapable of getting its act together and looking after the entire family of humanity as it damned well should. Young men and women who are allotted a short span on this earth through accident, illness or despair. There are many whose race is a mere 100 meters. Mortality is what we all share.

But this apparent sadness is not sadness – when the gardener sees the plant can’t flourish in one part of the garden, with love and kindness he moves the tender plants to where they can blossom and thrive. Instead of sadness it is delight.

We are given what we are given and every day is a new wonder and every day has been a blessing.

There are things far beyond the ken of men at work in this world. Without even delving into the realm of religion, God or belief we can discern even through science and reason things that point to the continuation of the consciousness.

Count all of the blessings that you have enjoyed on this wonderful journey of yours – you and I were both born in the luckiest country in the world at the luckiest time of its history. A time when crime and social disorder didn’t exist. When a childhood roaming the forests and swimming in the lakes, a childhood carefree and tranquil. Given the gifts of enough food, clean water, a shelter over our heads, with medical care and education at our fingertips.  We were given all of these and more. And all that was asked of us was to be understanding and tolerant of those who didn’t have these gifts.

And you passed that test – you spent more than 20 years amongst people who had endured 150 years of turmoil and war, starvation and chaos, and you helped these people unstintingly. How many of the people who were given the same gifts as you and I can look at themselves in the eye and say we were thankful for what we were given and in return have helped others. Alas far too few. But you are one of them. You passed that test with an A+ and flying colours.

You have been a champion of others and a clear sense of what is right and wrong.  There was never any fear in your heart to call out the ones who were less than honest.  I have sat with you when you have looked at someone straight in the eye and called them for what they are. That’s bravery – it’s a moral bravery – and it is a strength that I for one have always admired. Moral bravery is far more significant that physical bravery. It’s one of the things that you will take with you on this journey across the dark river.

Dante said that the hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in time of moral crises maintained their neutrality. That was never you – you always had the clear bright moral and ethical standard that you lived up to – time and time again I saw this in you. Maybe in your mind these were small victories because they did not move mountains – but these victories are not graded because of whether the world applauded. These victories of morality over injustice were equal to the greatest in the world because they were not won for the world but simply because you did what was right when it needed to be done.

Treasure that. Treasure the fact that you did what was right and put it in your bag of treats and delights that count towards who you are.

Physical reality is a myth – science has shown that 99.99% of matter doesn’t exist and when you throw in quantum physics then this entire world is not much more than a hologram of intersecting waves, creating what we think is solidity and matter.

When we release the bond between our spirits and this world we cannot take anything of this world with us – we can only take those things that belong to the heart and the spirit. Got a billion dollars’ buddy? Drop it here and walk on. Live in the biggest house on the planet and drive the most expensive car in the world? Leave by the roadside and walk away.

You can’t take anything from the physical with you but you can take treasure.

Every time you made someone smile. Every time you helped someone. Every time you did the right thing. Every kindness, every loving act. Every goodness remains and fills your soul with treasure.

Doesn’t matter what religion you were, or even if you had a religion, doesn’t matter how clever you were, or how many books you wrote, or how many honours the world showered upon your shoulders, or how big were your donations if given in pride, or how many people fell at your feet in awe of your beauty or how big was your business or your plane or your boat.

There is one thing and one thing only that counts: how much love you showed to others. How many times lifted someone’s heart? How many times you made a sad man laugh and how many times in secret you cared.

These treasures will fill the backpack of goodness that you carry with you to where the things that are real are good, and the suffering and tears and injustices of this world don’t exist.

This world is worth less than the black in a dead ant’s eye and every single piece of it is only borrowed for the short span of time we walk on this plane.

Do not tremble or worry about what is happening – every single one of us reaches this point at one time or another. The end of life is a clarion call of joy – it is but another step in the journey of life.

When you cast your mind back over your life, don’t cast it back with regret or sorrow. It’s all ok. It always was ok. In casting back to where you feel you may have not acted as well as you could, simply acknowledge that and accept it – if you felt your hurt someone, then let it go – understanding hurt means it is forgiven and forgotten. The lesson is given so we can learn and once the pupil knows the lesson then it’s time to move onto the next lesson. Job done. Lesson learned.

So now I have said those things that were in my heart to say and that I would have loved to have been able to say to you together, in each other’s company.

We will walk the trails one day Jon, we will sit in sunshine, and we will surely, as the sun rises day after day, meet again in love and happiness.

Take these final days, however many, or however few they are, to bask in the love of your family and friends and know that you will not drift off into a dark night without leaving your ripple in the millpond of life.

Yours has been a good life. You are a good bastard and it has been an honour and a privilege to be your friend over these years in China.

And soon your spirit will be young again as you cast off this old mortal body that weighs like lead and holds you to this plane of existence and soon, at each of our allotted times will we all meet up again and drink honey mead in a garden of sunshine.

Fare thee well, kind, good friend. Travel safe and travel far.

You good bastard you. We are all going to miss you.

And to your dear wife Fan Wei – I can only weep when I consider how much losing Jon must be for you, dear wife and dear companion. The smile Jon gave everyone was for you.

Jon 1 copy.jpg

 

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