My Brother, Johnny

This week on the blog, Caroline Gannon pays tribute to her brother, Johnny, who sadly passed away earlier this year due to Covid. Thank you so much to Caroline for sharing this with us.

Johnny was born in 1966 to my 16 year old mum. She fell in love with him straight away and went on to, quickly, have 2 more children, myself and my sister. He then went on to have a nephew and 2 nieces that adored him. He was so lovely and gentle with them when they were babies.

We lost him on the 19th of January, to Covid.

He had an amazing life. It was rich and full.

To grow up with him was so special. We were so proud of him and he was very much involved with all our friends who all loved him. 

Back then, children with Down’s Syndrome went to ‘special schools’ so he wasn’t at school with us but mum took us to all the events and shows that were at his school.

One of my early memories was my mum teaching us manners and saying to Johnny ‘what do you say?’ when he asked for something. He just looked at her and said nothing so she said ‘what’s the magic word?’ He still looked puzzled and then said ‘abracadabra?’ We all burst out laughing and he was delighted – he loved to be the centre of attention and make people laugh. He made us laugh, constantly, with his humour and jokes. He also gave the best hugs when we felt sad.

He had lots of adventures and holidays including a month in Disneyworld (as an adult). When he put on the Harry Potter cloak that he bought and people cheered, mum said it looked like the proudest moment of his life!

We have so many wonderful memories of him.

His funeral was very restricted, because of Covid (and the worst day of my life). The people that couldn’t go, because of the rules, lined the street as we went past. Johnny took his Harry Potter cloak and wand with him.

In the days after his funeral, we walked up a fell and drank snowballs (his favourite drink). On his birthday I went back up the fell in his Elvis T-shirt, with his Scooby Doo and listened to Elvis songs.

It’s been devastating.

However, we had a party for him on Saturday the 28th of August to celebrate his life. There were 80 people and I have never seen so much love for one person in one room.

We all danced and sung to Elvis songs (he was Elvis’ number one fan!) and all the music he loved. There were posters of him everywhere and a screen that had scrolling pictures of him. We wore flashing shoes in his honour as he wore them to all the parties (he even danced on stage with Chubby Checker in those flashing shoes!), and we wore Elvis T-shirts. 

His flashing shoes were flashing away on the table as well. There were lots of tears and lots of laughter. There were people from our childhood that we hadn’t seen for many years who all had wonderful memories of Johnny, including one who said her career had been shaped by him (she became a Physio Therapist for people with special needs).

To have Johnny as my brother was an absolute privilege. I have never met a kinder soul. He was loving, cheeky and hilarious. He touched so many people’s hearts and lives and he lit up a room whenever he walked in. Anyone that ever met Johnny would never forget him. Our lives are so much richer for him in them.

He made us all better people. 

I have a tattoo of his actual signature, and my son has a tattoo of a Power Ranger – Johnny was a fan! – using a hand gesture (not a rude one!) that Johnny used. 

He was the light and love of our lives and we miss him so very much.

From the perspective of someone that had someone with Down’s Syndrome in my life, for all of my 52 years, I can say that he was nothing short of a blessing. He taught us so much more than we taught him and my motto in life is now ‘Be More Johnny’, in fact I have it engraved in a locket.

So, although this is a sad story, it is also a happy one because, not only did he make our lives better, he was the most joyful, happy and content person that I have had the privilege to know.

The world would be a better place if we could all ‘Be More Johnny’