John exemplified, in my time with him, a light touch on being. While teaching with him at the Academy, he used to be a counterpoint to the Van Gogh seriousness of our colleague Desmond Avery. His favorite illustration for his Freedom lecture was his spoiled fat puppy.
Judy and John became extended family in Uptown and our last gathering together was full of laughter over pizza and beer. When the Montgomerys relocated to Atlanta, and Judy called ‘ten-four,’ John got designated Uncle in my book, especially when Mary Lou moved to the Peach State. I last clinked glasses with John (he was with one of the boys, not sure whether it was Tim or Matt) at Kristina’s wedding in 2007 in southern Illinois.
Even John’s metaphysical and theological musings (we tried email but it was sparodic) were sprinkled with the touch of irreverent lightness and defiance to established order. His email monkey handle alone attested to a rebellious guerrilla stance striking at the edges rather than confronting the core, pirouetting as a trans-establishment on tiptoes!
So if there is levity in our grief, it comes not only from our ethnicity but also of jovial Friar Tuck character that John on many occasions enjoyed playing. I think it is in character that we can all grin as we bid him adieu.
~~. Jaime Vergara
I met John Montgomery in Milwaukee when recruiting him to Academy. Later, what a gift he and Judy were for our sons (John was a youth and Jeremiah a pre-schooler) as our chosen guardians at Kemper while we were assigned to a year in India. The last time we saw John was around Judy’s death, but we have stayed in touch by the list, emails, and his blog. I just looked at it and found this typically lucid entry by John:
…it seems to me that in the context of SK’s model, the grace event might be somewhat different depending on the stage of despair.
…it seems to me that immediacy is transformed by expanding the context – putting the basics in perspective. I am struck that given the current trend of mission trips, when folks return in one way or another they report that while they went to serve, they discovered that in reality they had been served. Given a new perspective, a new sense of unity was at hand.
The shattering of the illusions undergirding circumspection is transformed not by expanding the context, but by “rubbing one’s face in the fact of innocent suffering.” You’ve got it bad and you just want to sit and feel sorry for yourself.
One of my favorite stories of late is the witness of a man who was dutifully but reluctantly serving in a soup kitchen because his wife pushed him to do it. Suddenly, standing in the line, he finds one of his friends from work looking to get a box of food to help his family to make it through the next couple of weeks. In such a shocking encounter, he witnesses that his arrogant charity suddenly became compassionate solidarity.
Finally, it seems to me that defiance is not transformed by attention to a larger context or a deeper identity with that context. Defiant despair is a lucid response and is not transformed by new information. Such despair is only transformed when one grasps how silly defiance is.
We will surely miss your direct presence, John. Journey on at the heart of grace and peace.
~~ John Cock