He Kindly Stopped for Me

Never was there a better man I knew. It's a large statement to make, one I make in grief, but one I do not make lightly. My heart is broken once again, be it that I am bereft in sorrow. No, no, no, it's too soon for you to go! Please Lord God, I wish there were a way to bring him back.

Roger Johnson

Also known as Grampa Johnson to me and my son.

My son adored him.

I adored him.

He came by to visit us. We were friends because he wanted to know us, wanted to meet us. He loved my son; I'd watch with careful eye, over-protective mother that I am, until I learned to trust this man. I cannot believe he's gone. Why, oh why didn't I give him one last good-bye?

Oh but the last few hugs good-bye were solid. There was one that he gave us, clinging, knowing he would never see us again. I wondered why he wouldn't let go.

The sadness is this: I never met anyone with such warm, loving intentions, and now that person is gone from this earth.


I have never met anyone who loved me and my son unconditionally, strangers at first. He reached over the line and brought us close to his heart. He made us become friends, we had no choice but to love him. He visited us each and every visit to Door County. We knocked on their door if he hadn't; we were invited in. I'd sit at their table and visit, drinking coffee. He always asked about my son, my father, myself. He told us he prayed for us. And thru him I came to know his wife Gloria.

We'd stop by and be invited in. We'd sit with Gloria while Roger was off working in his shop. When he would walk in the door, his presence filled the room, his energy pierced my heart. He is the closest thing to real love, true, honest love for another person on this earth.

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When he'd come by, he'd walk quickly. He couldn't see very well, but then Oliver would run into his arms. He'd pick up my son and twirl him around, graciously lavishing love upon my child. Oliver would soak it up.

Once his task of saying hi to Oliver was complete, then he'd focus his attention on me. “How are you doing?” he'd ask with sincere interest. I'd always feel comfortable telling him the truth. He'd ask about work. My dad. Of course, Oliver, even tho he'd just given him the biggest bear hug ever. Then I'd ask how he was, how Gloria was. He'd always be honest. And it was never, "Nice to see you! Thanks for stopping by!" ... instead I’d say, “We'll stop by later to visit.” His response was always the same, "You know where we are. We're not going anywhere." We'd find them home with the door open so we could let ourselves in. I'd bring my own cup of coffee over, timing it just right as I knew Roger would be home for his afternoon coffee mid-day. The three of us, Roger, Gloria, me, would sit at the table and chat. Oliver would be on the living room floor playing with Roger and Gloria's now-grown sons' toys. She'd keep them around just for times like this, when kids would stop by to visit. I'd sometimes think to myself, This is my life. I'm visiting with older folk, and I'm actually enjoying it. I'm not out with men; I'm not shopping; I'm not working. I'm sitting in someone's kitchen table in the middle of Wisconsin, in the middle of (almost) nowhere, and I'm liking it. 

digger 2

Now you know why we love that cottage. Part of it was Roger and Gloria. Roger. Oh Lord, I can't even begin to think about our future visits.

digger 4

I'm grateful the memorial is scheduled when we will be able to attend. I haven't shared the news with Oliver yet. I will, but I want to tread carefully in this unchartered territory. He knows about Velvet. He said good-bye to Velvet, and has told people Velvet is in kitty heaven. He believes he will see Velvet again. One night, not long ago, Oliver brought up Velvet. "Momma? Velvet's never coming back, is he. I'll never see him again." My heart broke. It was my chance to tell him about the afterlife and how even tho people and animals we love leave us for heaven, we will meet them again when we are ready. For now, we have to suffice to live knowing they are watching over us. It's the stuff I remember from being a kid, the things my mother shared with me. I'm passing that on to my son because while my heart would hurt, it was comforting.

digger 6

Oh Lord, my heart breaks for the loss of this man. I can't tell you enough how lovely he was, genuine.

When he gave me a hug good-bye this fall, he held me like he was never going to see me again. Little did I know I wouldn't see him again. My dear Roger. I can't thank you enough for seeing in me what I knew to be true about myself but no one else (it seems) knew. We're all garbled here, entangled with hurts and fears surrounding our hearts when it comes to those we love and are put next to on this earth. My friendship with you was untangled and clear. It was pure, genuine, precious. Never a doubt in your mind about me or Oliver. Never a negative thing to say. Nothing but love, delight and adoration for me. How did I get so lucky to have met you? How is it God chose YOU to believe in me, to love me the way He does, to care for me the way He does? I've never met anyone like you...

I'll miss you forever my dear friend, my friend who saw the good in me, believed in me, loved me with purity of the heart.

Because I could not stop for Death,
He kindly stopped for me;
The carriage held but just ourselves
And Immortality.

We slowly drove, he knew no haste,
And I had put away
My labor, and my leisure too,
For his civility.

We passed the school, where children strove
At recess, in the ring;
We passed the fields of gazing grain,
We passed the setting sun.

Or rather, he passed us;
The dews grew quivering and chill,
For only gossamer my gown,
My tippet only tulle.

We paused before a house that seemed
A swelling of the ground;
The roof was scarcely visible,
The cornice but a mound.

Since then 'tis centuries, and yet each
Feels shorter than the day
I first surmised the horses' heads
Were toward eternity.

Because I Could Not Stop for Death by Emily Dickenson


  1. Oh Andrea, how is it that I am sitting here on my table, crying for a man that I never knew. Your Roger reminds me of my great uncle, he was in his eighties and I would go to see him every weekend. I worked in Toronto back then and he lived in Lindsay, 2 hours north of the city. When I would leave Toronto on Saturday morning, I was surrounded by traffic and hectic, sirens and people rushing back and forth, only occupied with shopping and chores. Two hours later, I would arrive at his house, an old maple tree on the front lawn, my uncle Joe standing on his porch, waiting for me. He would hug and laugh and pull me in the house where it smelled heavenly like freshly baked cake. We would sit on his kitchen table that was covered with a plastic table cloth. No noise, just us chatting for hours and the old clock on the wall ticking away.

    We both were lonely, for different reasons but we had each other. When I was out there in his house, listening to his stories, I felt safe and loved. And so did he. He died in October of 2004, I miss him so much.

    I am sorry Andrea, I am just sorry.

    Take care,

    1. Jana, thanks for sharing. You comment really did warm my heart (cliche)... it felt good to know that someone who didn't know Roger felt his loss. Just got back from the wake/funeral. Lots of people felt like I did. In such a small town, he absence leaves a big hole in everyone's hearts. I'll share more in a later post. But thank you so much for sharing your own story. I LOVED reading about your Uncle Joe... x o x o

  2. My heart goes out to you and Oliver on the loss of this very special man. Certainly seems like a father figure to you & grandpa for Oliver. I'm also thinking he was your "angel" here on earth as in heaven. More loss for both of you, I'm sure, but so many wonderful, fond memories to draw on for inspiration. hugs to you and Oliver . . . . . L

    1. He was our angel! And the whole experience was just as special as knowing him. I'll share later this week. Thank you for leaving us a note. :)

  3. Sometimes there are people we are privileged to know who provide us with a slice of heaven. I am so sorry you have lost this man and at the same time glad that you and your son were able to know him.

    1. He is a slice of heaven, for sure. After attending the memorial services, I see how special he was to many people. It was a heart-breaking 24 hours, but it was amazing to see how many people loved him. He certainly knew how to bore a hole straight into someone's heart and how to make each and every person feel so incredibly special and loved. Wow. What a man!


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