Wednesday, October 18, 2017

John P. Couture

John Couture Jun 29, 1972 – Oct 8, 2017 
In the course of our ordinary daily routines, we are sometimes thrown a curve-ball and are forced to face the fact that life is precious and sometimes, painfully too short. Last week - specifically Sunday, October 8th, 2017 – John P. Couture, my 1st cousin on my Mom's side, unexpectedly passed away at
the ripe old age of 45 – just 3 years my junior.

He taught English at Marquette University and was pursuing his doctorate in English. He was a lover of books, art, music, basketball, learning consummately, family and all people in general. He was intelligent, witty and kind-hearted. But for me, he was my mostly my cousin. Among his other titles of son, nephew, brother, friend and teacher, cousin is a humble title, but one I am so grateful he wore.

We, along with our brothers, sisters and cousins grew up together spending holidays, birthdays, family events and random visits with each other. He is part of some of my earliest memories. I remember being told Auntie Marianne was going to have a baby. While not completely understanding that at 3 years old,  I do remember meeting my new cousin who we called John-John for the first time. At family gatherings, we talked as kids talk – silly and giggling. Go ahead; imagine it. It sounded just like the silly kid-banter you had with your childhood loved ones – the memory of its content is long gone, but the sound of the giggling remains. At the time, little did we know one of us would grow to become a learned intellectual.
John on the Right w/Jimmy Danko (my Bro) &
Mark Couture (John's Bro) in 1978

As we grew older, the conversation changed to school, sports, music, teachers and random teenage topics. -- Go ahead imagine those conversations; you had them, too. Giggling was still ever present. After all, it was the 1980s which were immortalized by MTV videos...but so, too, we dipped into current events, our future plans and figuring our place in the world.
As adults, those conversations changed to things we learned and wanted to learn. The adult conversations continued to be sprinkled with giggles but were also filled headier topics. We still spoke of music for we had similar tastes -- admittedly through John, I did learn to appreciate Bob Dylan's lyrics in a different light. We had a long conversation about his father, my Uncle Will. Uncle Will passed away when we were just kids. Although my memories are through the eyes of a 10 year child, as a niece they were different from John's as a son. I remember when Uncle Will spoke to me, I felt like I was the only person on earth who mattered. He never spoke down to me, and never like I was only a kid. At one point, I told John that he reminded me so much of his Dad. I never did tell him that the biggest similarity was when speaking with John he made you feel as though you were the only person on earth who mattered.
So fast forward, to last week Monday, October 9th. The call came in the morning while I was at work. I could not believe John had unexpectedly passed. You can imagine there was shock, tears and questions. In what order, you ask? I don't remember. I do remember sitting outside the office building sobbing. Thoughts turned his brothers, sister, and my Mom's sisters. Before long, I was picking up my sister, brother and Godchild at O'Hare at different times over the course of two different days, but no matter. We just wanted to be together. Ironically -- or maybe not -- I am sure John simply would have wanted us to be together.
Over the next few days, there was time spent with my husband, parents, sister, brother, aunts, and cousins. This time included watching the Packer game on TV is Wisconsin ,and it is just what you do. The topic of conversation always turned to John, his life and our memories of him. Ultimately, it was time to celebrate his life during a funeral mass at Saints Peter and Paul Church in Milwaukee on October 16th.  Amid the hugs, kisses, and tears the words "Fog" and "Dream" entered each conversation. Together in that Church at that moment everyone present shared completely common ground no matter our walk of life or background -- family, friends, colleagues, and students. Disbelief. John so vibrant and present in our lives was suddenly just gone.
As we moved to the cemetery, there again we stood, parents, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncle and the ever-present cousins all saying goodbye to John. We, the same cousins who grew up together, sometimes misunderstood one another, yet are bound by love for one another all stood together at the grave. This was different. At this family gathering, we were being forced to say final goodbyes to one of us with whom we never had enough hellos. I think we were supposed to disperse before the coffin was lowered into the grave (or maybe not, truthfully, it is an experience before now I never knew), instead, we all stood and watched. All silent. All still. Some close. Some not. We watched and said goodbye in what I can only describe as a fog on a beautiful sunny day.
The story of Monday doesn't end there. Monday's story ends with spending time together sharing toasts, food, stories, hugs, and giggles. There in that foggy unbelievable dream, were us cousins bound by love for one another and realizing perhaps for the first time we need to be there for one another even when time and modern life make it difficult. John was present the whole day, I am sure. He brought the sunshine, toasted and giggled with us...if only we could hug him. Throughout the day, each of us stated maybe this could be part John's legacy. A legacy of making sure we, as family stay, in touch and lean on each other. It is something I am fairly sure John wanted in this life, and a legacy of which anyone would be proud.
I am not certain any of us who knew John will ever make sense of his passing. We may know he is in peace with the Lord, but our human hearts need ample time to heal. I am certain anyone who knew John Couture simply believes he passed at least 45 years too soon.

RIP John. Love you, Cuz.
John and our Auntie Fay on 9.6.14 at my wedding

Some Cousins together at Christmas 2013. John is the tallest.

My Mom's side of the family on 4.22.16 at my sister's wedding.
John is directly behind my sister (Cathy Danko) and new brother-in-law (Chris Gloninger)

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