Tears pricked my eyes as I listened to Chris Lantman’s clear, unfaltering voice. He was reading the words of his partner, John (or ‘Smiley’ to those of us who knew and loved him) from the transcript of our interview at his home on the outskirts of San Francisco almost two years ago.
I came across the remarkable life story of John Andrews during my research in the early stages of the resilience project that came to be my forthcoming book, ‘9 Secrets to Thriving’. I reached out to him to ask if he would be one of the 50 ‘Thrivers’ – those people who had flourished in the face of immense adversity and who held the key to understanding how we could all thrive in the face of everyday challenges. His response included:
“Why should I spend my valuable time and talent, and share my personal story, with you and your project? I’m sorry if this may come across as a bit challenging, but I have very limited time and energy and I need to carefully assess and choose how and who I share my story with.”
It was a fair question. After all, my approach had come out of the blue. I responded from my heart and shared my own story of struggle that had led to my interest in why some thrive in the face of challenge and trauma while others fall apart. His response came within less than half an hour, in capitals: ‘I’M IN!’ I later used our written exchange to persuade other potential Thrivers to come on board.
My husband Graeme travelled over 35,000 miles around the world with me as my camera man. He and I were lucky enough to spend some time with John’s partner, Chris Lantman too. The four of us settled around their coffee table with wine and cheese and Chris and John shared some wonderful stories of their time together. I could see how deeply in love they were.
On 22nd July 2019, I received the following email from John:
“. . . because I know you sincerely care about us, I want to let you know about yet another health problem that we’re facing. For the last several years, my kidney function has been declining, due in large part to the many years of chemotherapy, the HIV drugs that I’ve taken for decades, and HIV itself.
…For a few years now, Chris and I have been diligently researching treatments for kidney failure. I feel like we’ve been spinning in a whirlwind of doctor appointments and difficult conversations. ..I think we’ve arrived at some decisions. Just yesterday I requested that my doctors provide me with ‘comprehensive conservative care’. This means that they will continue to treat my kidney disease and my symptoms with medicines and other interventions instead of dialysis or transplant, so that I may have the best possible quality of life through this time. The prognosis is that I may have from six months to up to two years of life ahead of me.
In the meantime, I’m doing really well and life is still grand! I continue to appreciate each day, each person and each blessing in my life. I’m still the luckiest guy on the planet (and am managing to find humour and continue to laugh through it all)! And I will always remember our time together as truly a highlight of my wonderful life. Thank you for that gift!”
Graeme and I were sitting in a coffee shop in Germany when I picked up John’s email. We cried quietly together as we read it. We spent a wonderful hour or so sitting in the warm German sunshine reminiscing together about those precious hours we had spent with both John and Chris.
John passed away on 6th September 2019. This remarkable human being was still able to appreciate every single day, even in the face of such a damning prognosis. When Chris wrote to me to tell me of John’s passing, I had an idea that I thought might appeal to John’s sense of fun. I asked Chris if he would voice John’s words in the 9 Secrets to Thriving audiobook. He kindly agreed.
This morning I received a wonderful gift in my in-box. Chris had prepared a special MP4 containing the edited highlights of John’s story as it appears in ‘9 Secrets to Thriving’ with a special message, just for me. Thank you Chris. Your gift made me feel close to John. And John – we all miss you, though I know your uplifting story and practical insights on how to thrive will inspire more than you could ever have anticipated.
You can hear Chris voice John’s words, and many of the #50Thrivers share their secrets on how to thrive in 9 Secrets to Thriving. Coming soon (but you can pre-order it here).