As I was thinking about what to write about and asking God what to say next I felt I had to tell a bit of my John’s story. It is a story I have gone back to a lot over the last few years when I have felt forgotten and have questioned whether God still loved me and had a plan for my future. As I looked back at John’s story and our story together it has always helped me to remember that God worked so much in John, and in our relationship that surely death, grief and sadness could not be the end of the story and has helped me to keep going in the knowledge that God is not finished with me or my life.
I remember the first time I met John Bukowicki (later to become John Forder so I did not have to become Becky Bukowicki!). I was working at HSBC at the time and was moving teams. John was on that new team and he helped me to move my files. Over the next six months I worked alongside John. Now I was never one of those girls who had a list of the qualities or characteristics I was looking for in a husband but safe to say if I had written a list it probably would not have described John. Whilst I had grown up in my nice little Christian environment, going to youth group and summer camps, in my private school education, John had come from a broken family, his father was no longer in his life, he had grown up in a very different family background, and had spent his teenage years clubbing and holidaying with his mates in Ibiza, drinking and dabbling in drugs.
Those years working at HSBC were very social, with people spending a lot of their free time together. I had just moved back to Sheffield from London and had few friends around so would spend a lot of time with my work mates many of whom were in their 20s like me and many of whom are still some of my closest friends today. John made me laugh from the start and other than one other person (you know who you are!) he made me laugh more than anyone I had ever met. We would talk about travelling and all the places we would like to visit and he would question me a lot about my faith and what I believed in – I think for John I was very different from anyone he had every come across and I think I intrigued him in terms of my faith.
John then left HSBC and went travelling for a year round the States, Australia and NZ – I would get the odd email hearing about various drunken antics and then one day I got an email saying he was coming back to the UK and was going to try and come back to work at HSBC, which he subsequently did. I didn’t see John much over that next year as he was working on a different floor but then he moved to live near where I was living and he started to pop in as my house was on the way to work.
We then ended up working back on the same team. John started to question me more and more about what I believed. One day he said to me he saw something in my life that he really wanted in his life and asked if he could come to church with me. By this point I was starting to feel a little uneasy about what I felt, what he felt and wondering what exactly was going on.
I grew up knowing when I got married I wanted to marry someone that shared my faith and I was very black and white on that to the point of being very self righteous and sanctimonious at times. Suddenly here I was on the brink of starting something with someone who was so totally different from me in every way – as my dear friend, Hels (there you go!!) would often tell John I made him boring!
So I arranged to take John to church with me on Easter Sunday evening. That day some of my friends came with me to my parents for lunch and were telling my parents about this boy who was coming to church with me later on that evening. After lunch my uncle went into the kitchen and said to my mum that that boy was going to come to faith. John came to what was a very lively service which completely freaked him out given that he had never really stepped foot inside a church in his life.
What followed was a tough couple of months as our feelings for each other developed and we wrestled with what that meant given our differences. John was amazing in the way he threw himself into situations which were very much out of his comfort zone, and as he faced difficult questions from his mates for getting involved with this weirdo religious girl! John’s step-dad’s reaction was that a religious girl was marginally better than some girls he could have bought home and to remember that the collection plate was to put money in and not take it out!
John met with my friend Jon in a curry house, having never met him before, to talk about Jesus, he spent time talking with vicars and did an Alpha course. I couldn’t pinpoint an exact time when John committed his life to Jesus but by the time he died he was miles ahead of me in his relationship with him.
John’s dad walked about on John, his mum and his brother when John was about 13 years old and after a few very painful years John ceased to have any relationship with him – he is someone I have never met but am so thankful John had made peace in his heart about it and had forgiven him by the time he died. I came from a very privilege, nice background where divorce didn’t really play a part in it, my parents were married until my dad died and my friends’ parents were all still together so I had my fears (totally irrational and unfounded) that maybe history would repeat itself with John if I went any further into the relationship. By rights John could have been very screwed up by that situation but he was one of the most together people I every known. I will always remember him turning to me one day, out of the blue, and saying “God can break the past can’t he so that history doesn’t repeat itself and so that I do not turn out like my dad.” I was blown away by quite how obviously God was working in his life.
For the first eighteen months after John’s death I moved in to live with my parents so I could have support with a newborn baby whilst I grieved. I then sold the house John and I had bought only a few months before he died and bought what is my home now. When John died I had to pack our things up quickly so that I could rent the house out. On moving into my new house my friend, Hels (twice!!!), was helping me unpack and we came across some handwritten notes, which I had never seen before. They were notes John had made of the stuff God had put on his heart about working with youth (he wanted to work in inner city areas similar to the one he had grown up in and use football coaching to make a difference to kids there and he was working towards his FA coaching qualifications) and also reaching blokes to show them God was relevant to their lives. I was again blown away – if I needed any reassurance that John’s commitment was real and personal and not just about me I had it in those notes of the vision John had for the things he wanted to commit his life to.
John was a very different man when he died to the one I first met – not that he wasn’t brilliant when I first met him – but he had grown up and allowed God to change and transform him into a Godly man. My dad and John always got on well but John would say to me that whilst he knew my dad loved him he also knew he wasn’t who dad would have chosen for me, given our differences. One day not long after John died I heard wailing and sobbing coming from my dad, who had locked himself away, and I heard him say over and over again “I was so wrong” – my dad had realised the true depth of who John was. John changed my family in so many positive ways, in both his life and his death and the precious gift he left behind, in his little girl.
One of the biggest lessons I learnt was to let God have his way because he knows much better than me – I would never have put myself with John but God knew he was all I needed and we fitted together in ways that could only have been God given. He was like a ray of sunshine and was so easy going as a contrast to my stress and worry, whereas I like the nice things of life and had no issue with spending money he was the most unmaterialistic person and pretty tight, he was kind and funny, patient and loyal, totally secure in who he was and committed and was all I could have asked for and so much more. My biggest sadness in life is that he never met his baby who is so much like him in so many ways, that they were never together on earth at the same time is something that I will never be able to get my head round but I know that in the last 4 years of his life God worked in amazing ways which means that one day we get to see him again and I hope I am present to see him and Lucy reunited in heaven. I miss him every day but I know he is safe in heaven with my heavenly father and my earthly father. I will always be grateful that he was mine and I was his.
This morning in church we sang John’s favourite hymn “Before the throne of God I stand” – in the past it would have made me cry but this morning it just felt like John was saying to me I am here with God in heaven and God is with you and so we will always be joined.
This story has been the hardest to write so far, and has made me shed tears because today is one of those days where I miss him and not because I miss having a partner around me, but because I miss the person who was John but again this story reminds me that God was there in our relationship, in John’s life, in his faithfulness, and that faithfulness will continue in my life until the day I get to go see John again.