John Molloy passes away at 72

Longtime teammate of John Molloy’s, columnist Craig Jones offers his words at the funeral service on April 21, 2022.

This morning before leaving the house, I made myself a note that said, “Don’t forget your hearing aids.” And it made me remember how often John did forget his and how often we kidded him about it when he arrived at a meeting or a breakfast. I didn’t realize, until having my own hearing aids, how easy that would be to do.

I also have a pair of binoculars on my desk that I’ve been using for inspiration as I’ve thought about John and what I might say today, and I have that little laminated photo of him with the Irish blessing on the back that we all got at the funeral home yesterday.

It’s right here, reminding me that this is all about him and not to worry if I say something “wrong.” It reminds me of the time he came to hear me give a talk at my Toastmasters club. He was sitting there in the audience. And it’s kind of like he’s sitting here now, listening to me, as I look at his photo.

That was great last night . Great to gather, great to hear all the laughter and memories about John and get to know the family better.

I also wanted to say to you, Kerry, that when you led us all in a toast for your dad and talked about how he was one of your favorite people to be with,  it went both ways. He always lit up when he talked about you, and he was always really proud of you. And his time with you was non-negotiable.

I figure I knew John Molloy for about 26 years. He was one of the first friends I had after my wife, and I moved back here from San Francisco in 1996. He’d say, “Let’s take our cigars for a walk” and we’d head out along the Charles. I never imagined doing his eulogy. Whoever does? 

Ever since Kerry asked me to do this, I’ve been pondering the notion of “eulogy.” For our purposes today, these remarks are “The eulogy,” but I dare say that “A eulogy” is probably more accurate, for there are as many eulogies of John as there are people here today and many more, beyond us, out there, among those who could not be here. Every life he touched, every day he brightened with that otherworldly elfin smile of his, every one he inspired with the courage he showed after his stroke. 

Every eulogy would have a different flavor, so that, if they were all pressed together they’d be like one of those old-school encyclopedias with the transparent pages showing each layer of the human body. Remember those, back before Google and Wikipedia? Peel back page after plastic page, progressing through all the body’s systems. We’re each like one of those leaves, and together our individual memories would make up a figure called John Molloy.

But a still-incomplete one.

I have a friend who always says “life is an approximation,“ and it often surfaces as counsel. There’s no replacing John, no matter how many people might speak.  It will ever and always be approximate, but that’s why we’re here today.

So, I’m like a jeweler, I suppose, showing you but one facet of a beautiful diamond.

Michael Wasser and Craig Jones at Molloy’s wake, 4/20/22

What’s needed is how to lodge him in our hearts so as not to forget. It’s a good time to remember that line from the movie “I Never Sang For My Father,” which says, “Death doesn’t end a relationship.” So, let’s notice – John’s passing doesn’t end our relationship with him

I noted a few of the ways I’ll always think of John..

Every time I go to Fenway Park and keep score with pencil and paper scorecard, I’ll think of him because it was from watching him, years ago, that I decided to take up the art myself. Now I can’t imagine watching a game without doing it, and I’ll remember John every time I do. He was an old-fashioned guy. He loved tradition and he let others love tradition. It’s no accident that he loved baseball.

I remember one game when I offered to get the first round of beers. I went up to the concession, made my order, produced my license and found it had expired. That meant I couldn’t buy beer, even though I was obviously old enough to do it legally. So I went back to the seats and told him and said, “I guess you’re buying the beer today.” So he got up with his cane and limped his way up the stairs to the concession, and after ordering the beer and producing his license was told that his had also expired. He came back to the seats and said, “I guess we’re having coffee today.” You couldn’t make that up.

I’ll also always remember him whenever I put these hearing aids in. Of all the people I know, he went there first and dealt with his own hearing loss. It helped me so much to be able to admit my own hearing decline and get all the way through my shyness, and maybe even shame about a stigma, to dealing with what is ultimately just another disability that can be managed.

I’ll remember his sense of humor when I remember my own brush with mortality in the summer of 2004, the same summer he later had his stroke and another man in our circle suffered a ruptured spleen, also nearly dying. When it was clear I was going to live, then the mockery started. Oh and he loved the mockery, the much-needed humor ,and he gave as good as he got. He said “If Jonesy doesn’t make it, I want his laptop.”

But in the end, here’s how I will mostly remember John: as our “Birdman.” Out for my run the other morning, I noticed the first Red Winged Blackbird of the season and thought of how often he’d mention an FOY (first of the year). I saw the Starlings and the wild turkeys and the Robins and thought, “That’s it. That’s what will always keep his spirit around.” They’re everywhere, and he taught me, and so many others, how the texture of the world changes when one can name things and when one has the patience to stop and look a little deeper.

So he’ll always be there, in the birds, every day. How many more times will I attempt to buy a beer with an expired license? Hopefully I won’t have any more close calls medically, crying out for mockery. I’ll be at Fenway, but infrequently. 

But, there will always be birds.

An Eskimo proverb has it that: “Perhaps they are not stars, but rather openings in heaven where the love of our lost ones pours through and shines down upon us to let us know they are happy.”

For me, instead of stars, it will be birdsong, birdflight, birdcolor. And each time I stop to notice, John, our birdman, will be there in my heart.

Tennyson penned, in his immortal poem “Ulysses,” that …

“Death closes all: but something ere the end,

Some work of noble note, may yet be done, 

Not unbecoming men that strove with gods”

I’m thinking maybe John learned that. He found his work of noble note, his something ere the end, and we are all richer because of him.

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