One of the people we have gotten to know is Jon Blais. Though it's true that ALS robbed him of his earthly life in 2007, his spirit is alive and well. Since a hesitantly made phone call last Christmas, Jon's parents, Bob & MaryAnn, have become close friends of ours. They live on the other side of the country and we have enjoyed only one weekend in their company - but friendship these days does not require close proximity to one another. Jon's parents have been very kind to share Jon with us. We have gotten to know him through the stories they tell - not just the story of the 2005 Ironman World Championship, but stories of his youth, his love for adventure, and even his first trip to Maui as a teenager for a triathlon. We know that Jon would have loved XTERRA and the Live More philosophy that is integral to all who make up the XTERRA family. Jon has been with us throughout the year - we have felt his presence and his inspiration during some of the more difficult moments. Jon has become a friend.
One day last spring, during a phone conversation, Bob Blais asked Brent if we would accept some of Jon's ashes and be willing to scatter them at some point during the XTERRA Across America journey. He trusted that we would choose an appropriate time and place; his only request was that we document the event so that he and Jon's mom would have that memory of their son. They trusted us with their son.
We knew, without any doubt, that Hawaii would be the place to take Jon. The XTERRA World Championship - the last race of the season - to be held on the island of Maui, was the most fitting time and place to honor his parents' request. We would get to take Jon back to Maui!
When the time came, we were introduced to Clifford Nae'ole, a Hawaiian Cultural Advisor, who helped us to put together a ceremony worthy of our purpose. We held the ceremony at dusk on Friday, October 25th, at the edge of a majestic cliff, overlooking the ocean. Clifford began by speaking of the Hawaiian traditions and how our loved ones remain with us in spirit. We continued with a testimony of the work of God in Jon's life, and concluded with some of Jon's familiar words.
The Psalmist reminds us:
Give Praise to the Lord, proclaim his name;
Make known among nations what he has done.
Sing to him; sing praise to him;
Tell of all his wonderful acts. (Psalm 105:1-2)
The work of the Lord is evident in the life and legacy of Jon Blais:
In Jeremiah, the Lord declares, “For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
While that promise may seem at odds with the fact that Jon died at the age of 35, we can look to Isaiah for the assurance that, “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:9)
We gain additional assurance from the book of Romans, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
Jon himself asked, “Is this God’s plan? Have I been appointed this job?” He knew that finishing the Ironman in Kona that day was something he had to do. He didn’t know why.
In the Gospel of John, Christ tells us, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10)
Eight years after Jon’s finish in Kona, we can look around us and see just a few of the many people that have been affected and all the good that has come from his willingness to follow God’s plan. His life and his legacy have reminded people and inspired them to live life to the full.
It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living,
I want to know what you ache for.
It doesn’t interest me how old you are,
I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for your dreams,
for the adventure of being alive.
I want to know if you can live with failure – yours and mine
And still shout at the edges of a lake, river or mountain
It doesn’t interest me to know where you live or how much money you have
I want to know if you can get up after a night of grief and despair,
Weary and bruised to the bone
And do what needs to be done for someone you love.
I want to know if you can be alone with yourself
And truly like the company you keep
in the empty moments of your life.
More than your neighbors.
Unleash yourself upon the world and go places
Giggle. No, laugh!
And bark at the moon like the wild dog that you are
Understand that this is not a dress rehearsal
This is it – your life
Face your fears and live your dreams
Take it all in.
Yes – every chance you get
And by all means – whatever you do
Get it on film
Thank you, Bob and MaryAnn, for your friendship and for sharing your son with us. Thank you, Jon, for living a life and leaving a legacy that has inspired us and will continue to inspire people for years to come. We've done our best to live up to your words. And yes, we got it on film.