On Thursday March 24, 2016 the world got a little darker while Heaven grew much brighter. I felt that sharing this on Easter Sunday was symbolically fitting for this occasion.
For the last 3 days, I have been in a fog having great difficulties in wrapping my head around the passing of my great friend and brother Johnny Vines. I say passing, but it’s more like going ahead to help God prepare a place for the rest of us to come home to. And who better to perform such an important task than Johnny?
I have been bombarded with calls, texts and emails from all over the planet sending prayers and condolences for Sandra and Loudan, and many people concerned about my well being. Thank you. I have observed the testimonies of so many people whose lives have been improved and impacted by this special man.
Am I angry? Yes. I am. It’s selfish, but it’s true. I want him here to be here when I need a friend. I want him to be there for his family, and I want him here to show the world that there really are good people still existing on this earth. Doesn’t God have enough of the good ones already?
This is where I have to bring up the vision in my mind of the smile on his face when I saw him 2 weeks ago at his home. He was at peace, and he knew where he would be shortly. Some of his last words to me, as I leaned over to kiss his cheek were, “Man, you smell good.” Then after I had some alone moments where I told him what he meant to me and that I and my family would watch over Sandra and Loudan, he told me “I love you like a brother. Be safe.”
Those of you who know me know I am rarely at a loss for words. I am now. I can’t squeeze my emotions into the right words yet. I love this guy so much. He was one of the few people I know who loved me for being me, not the guitarist. He wouldn’t have cared if I were anything different, he loved my soul. And I feel the same towards him. I want to say these things to everyone because I feel like I was blessed so much to be close to him, and there were only a few others who were able to know him like I did. So, I want all of you to share in this amazing gift.
I have so much to say, so I will. I am glad I am typing because I have this lump in my throat right now and the onset of tears, as I think about the profound effect of my friend.
When Mike Darby and I first met Johnny, we were dumbfounded. This ball of energy and vocal aficionado was something we had never seen before. And he was nice to us! We were the new kids on the block, looking for a singer to share our dreams with. It clicked like two Lego blocks.
Johnny, Mike, Danny and I spent the next 4 years growing up together. It was the basis for the emotional and spiritual growth of 4 kids in a rock band traveling all over the country touching lives and taking names. The stories could go on forever. We had a great crew around us, and it was a band of brothers. Johnny was the oldest, so he was the driver, the organizer and the big brother. As a singer and performer, he was unrivaled. As a friend and human being, there was no equal.
As is life, we took separate paths for a few years, only to come full circle musically, but more importantly as brothers, several years ago. That in itself, was more important than any music we ever created, because it was guided by the hand of God. I remember the night at Johnny and Sandra’s house, saying to him, ” We need to get Mike and Danny back together and do a record and call it Circle of Light.” If you guys could have seen the look on JV’s face and felt the happiness he and I shared, you would have cried. The rest is history.
He was funny, energetic, sweet, kind, loving and made everyone he came into contact with a better person. He made me a better person just by knowing him. He was a man of God! He made every single person he met feel as though they were his best friend and more importantly, they were valuable. And he touched many people that we will never even know about. I recently was told how he and one of dearest friends saved someone’s life by pulling them out of a burning car. Johnny never told me once about that. It’s called selflessness. He was and is a warrior of God, the guy that would take a bullet for another person, even if he didn’t know them.
Johnny is the person who named me Blaze. He showed me how to be persistent and smile even in the face of adversity. Rarely was he in a bad mood, and he looked for the good in everyone. And no one could work a hula hoop like him, not even Elvis.
There are so many memories, driving from city to city in the middle of the night, performing all over the country, laughing, crying, sweating, shivering, and getting each other through tough times. We set a precedent in our wake, and JV set the bar high for every singer in our path. I have not met a person who knew him or of him that wasn’t affected by his presence in a wonderful way. A sample of this fantastic truth was the benefit we all held for him recently. Thank the good Lord for the ability to show him how much he was loved by so many people from all walks of life.
I have spoken to Sandra at length, and I will be working with her when she is ready to help her share her feelings with everyone. I have to emphasize what an amazingly strong and gracious person she is. Please keep her and Loudan in your daily prayers. They are family to me and Julie, and I promised Johnny I would make sure they were safe and protected. Sandra is one of the best friends a person could have, and we all love her very much. And I know how proud JV was and is of his son, who will grow up to be a great man in the footsteps of his father.
So many things to say, so few words to express my feelings. Just know this, that he was the best of the best. It’s been a rough year for me, losing 5 people close to me in 16 months, but I swear, my faith is what I have to know that I will see them again, along with my dad and sister, and everyone else I have lost. The same goes to all of you. Faith is hard. It’s believing without seeing. If it was easy, the lesson would fail us.
It’s hard to stop writing because I feel I am leaving so much out, but I think you all get the idea. Be sad and remember him always, but be glad that you know where he is. I promise you guys, this earthly trip is a short one, but the heavenly one is eternal. Every time you see your wife, husband, son, daughter, mom, dad, cousin, friend or anyone you love, let them know often. No regrets.
JV, my friend and brother, I love you. My world here will not be the same without you, but I know you are here with me, keeping an eye out to help me when I stumble. You are only gone from us for a short time, and we will be together again, all of us, families, friends, brothers and sisters, in Heaven for the rest of time.