Well, all of the things that I had planned for the past week have either been cancelled or postponed. I was hit with terrible sadness over the past week as I learned that my father, John William Johnson III, had passed away due to complications of a massive heart attack and two large strokes. He remained unconscious through it all, having suffered a fall that had sent him to the hospital to begin with. He was 54.
My father was a great man in my eyes. Though he and my mother had divorced when I was four and though he and I had been semi-estranged for a number of years, I am flooded with remembrances of him. Dad was a great joker and prankster. My cousins and I were often the brunt of these things. He loved children and enjoyed being a big kid himself. He had a big heart and was always willing to give when anything he had was needed. He was first and foremost a Christian and even his last words, spoken as he briefly opened his eyes before the final coma, were "I just saw Jesus." I am honored to have called this man my father.
This has been a week of much thought about my father. After talking a little to Santa Paul Sheehan via email I came to a full realization. Though Dad had never physically put on the red suit, he did wear one around his heart. His love of children, of giving, and that playful grin he was known for showed that. Also, my fondest memories with him all seem to focus around the Christmas Season. He was always jovial and always laughing, enjoying the time he had with his family as he watched with a sparkle in his eye at how they opened their gifts. I realized this week that he was one of my greatest inspirations in doing what I do. Dad first and foremost had really been the one who first taught me all about Santa Claus.
Over the past few years, do to some family disagreements that would never go away, my Dad and I did not speak very often. The last conversation I had with him was very light and we both just enjoyed talking together. During that four hour conversation I was made so happy by the fact that he came right out and told me that he loved me and that he was especially proud of me for two things: my ministry in Christ and my further ministry as Santa Claus. He had seen it coming all along, the fact that I would become Santa. And he was extremely proud of me for this. When we said goodbye that day I never realized that it would be the last time we would speak. So much goes unsaid, but I know that we loved one another and that all is well now. He is with me.
One thing he did love was the Coca Cola Santa. He had been after me for quite a while to look more like this icon, because it was his favorite image. So, this year I had saved my money and had a replica of this suit made in his honor. Though I had told him about it, he never got to see me in that suit. This year I will wear it for him, and I hope that through the portals of Heaven he can see me making glad the hearts of childhood. I'll wear it for Dad, my Santa.