(A tribute by John's brother, David Komarnicki)
On May 24, 2004, my brother John was called away to his eternal home. As Christians believe, “We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord” (2 Cor. 5:8). John was always a true hero to me, his kid brother. Though these words seem inadequate, I offer them in memory of a brother I will sorely miss.
It happened in John’s car today
while paused to honor a traffic light.
I scanned his face … blinked
and fell through time’s trap door
where memory’s tour began.
I was a kid again,
swelling with pride,
proud enough to laugh out loud,
to own a brother, fresh home
from the war he helped to win.
I rolled the window down and grinned
as we rode through Chester Town.
Memory holds John flashing a smile
etched on a face equal to the best
ever fashioned with earth’s crust
since God formed Adam’s from the dust.
His Spartan frame
seemed as ready to run
as sneaker-clad feet
in a “pickup” game.
I blinked again
in sync with an anxious horn behind
that honked for us to go …
zipping reverie’s curtain closed
on memories of 53 years ago.
But in that blink from then till now
five decades of time have traced
fine grooves on his cheek and face.
It’s a mystery how
time transforms skin and bone
from the taut drumbeat of youth
to saxophone sounds still lingering
behind wrinkled brow.
But in the lottery of time’s random whim
time has been kind to him.
True, glasses now aid his eyes,
but they’re still as blue as a cloudless sky,
his laughter still as free
as laughter ought to be.
Yes, his stride is slower …
but you’d likely need a bike
to meet his pace
as he struts the ruts
of a five-mile hike.
His shoulders are still as straight
as a plumb-lined gate
and his grip still as strong
as politeness will allow.
Could this be because
John spent his days
in family ways,
raising children in fear of God
and not of man?
And when he raised his hand …
it was to help a loyal friend
or punch the face of fear’s ugly frown,
grab it daily by the throat
and pin it to the cold hard ground.
Of such men earth’s fathers are proud
and nation’s wars are won.
And when Heaven’s Father lifts John’s shroud
to take his place in Heaven’s crowd
he will hear these words shouted loud,
“Welcome home, my son.”
So, friend, take time to look at faces,
faces you love,
faces you’ve known for a while,
faces that pass you in the aisle
at church, aboard a bus
amidst the rush of a hectic life.
For faces, like clouds,
alter as they move
across the seasons of your sky,
as age, like darkness, descends slowly
Until we squint to find
memory’s faces we left behind
at traffic lights long ago.
Memorial Day, 1998