John was there at the very beginning of my journey. As Head of Office for Stuart McMillan & later Derek Mackay, he was ever present in the Scottish Independence Referendum and every election campaign. He was there when I went out canvassing for the first time, a steady hand & cool head. He was there with Stuart McMillan at a fundraiser when I first met his future boss, Derek Mackay. Yet it’s difficult to think of any particular memories of John, because he was always there: on canvassing sessions, constituency meetings, fundraisers, conferences. Any memory of John, for me, was inseparable from any of those memories.
I was only too eager to support him in his successful campaign for the new position of Member Support Convenor earlier this year, helping his team out with leaflets & whatnot. Just last month, when I was feeling so despondent & frustrated, his counsel & reassurance was instrumental in lifting my spirits from the doldrums. John had that way about him: despite being younger than me by just under a year, I always felt he was older and wiser all the same. It’s no surprise to see the heartfelt messages of condolences from across the political spectrum: a harder-working, more dedicated, more thoughtful, & more compassionate campaigner, activist, & person, you’d be hard pressed to find.
I’m no good in the company of death: I suspect no one is. But it stings especially so when it’s a fellow independence supporter, when it seems we are so close. All these people who lived, breathed, & worked for the cause, only not to see it through to the end – or, at least, to share it with us. People who cried with us on the 19th of September 2014, who cheered with us on the 9th May 2015, who shared the spark of renewed determination on the 24th of June 2016. Yet all those who passed between then and now helped build our support, strengthen our resolve, support our campaign: the bricks they laid still hold steady. We just have to keep building.
I was reminded of a bittersweet quote by Richard Bach in The Bridge Across Forever: A True Love Story: “Here is a test to find whether your mission on Earth is finished: If you´re alive it isn’t.” It’s difficult to reconcile the sentiment of John’s mission being finished with the cause he dedicated his life to, since it’s obvious to all who knew him what that mission was. But no one person can win a cause, any more than one Egyptian built the Great Pyramid of Giza. It’s up to all of us.
We lay our bricks, supporting one another, until we reach the sun.