Johnny MacDougall died suddenly. The shock still lingers around us and the repercussions of that loss will widen as time passes. A child's death is never easy to bear, or shoulder alone. He will never experience falling in love, drive a car or see the Eiffel Tower, raise his own kids or watch his little brother grow into a man. These truths sadden us all. It is why we gather here today to join together and stand side by side to gain strength in this most difficult time. We are saddened by the loss, and the hole in our heart may never fully close, but time does heal and the countless fond memories of John will help to ease the pain.
But oh this boy did live, and he got to enjoy life. He was the first grandson to Mary and Warren and the first son to Roseanne and Dave. The entire MacDougall clan was excited about his arrival. His wavy blonde hair and big blues eyes were so adorable. Surely the Sunkist boy would be a golden child for the family, and he lived up to those expectations, almost too easily.
He was a regular kid, walking and talking at the right ages, perhaps swimming came easily, but his curiosity and thirst for knowledge were apparent from the start. He seemed to absorb everything around him, asking questions and reciting factoids like a Jeopardy contestant. He was in a word, awesome, and he made his parents so very proud.
He was stimulated by the stars above during his earliest years. It seemed that he would go there someday.... perhaps as an explorer. The promise of the future was open with possibilities. Exposure to new experiences was the key element in offering up a life of opportunity; and his parents wanted to give him options. He was taken to his first opening day baseball game, four months after birth and he never missed another. A tradition was born that first season, one that would surely continue as a father and son bond lasting a lifetime. Over the years, countless games were attended, each with a different outcome. Baseball games can mirror slices of real life; sometimes theatrical and exciting, other times painfully slow and disappointing, but always with a take away lesson. Johnny learned that losing is tough and winning is great, but that showing up and playing hard, fair and honest is the only way to go, no matter the outcome. This lesson would cross over to life too and be tested time and again.
His personality matured and his good nature and polite disposition earned him smiles from those he met. His mom and dad always beamed with delight when he shook hands with people, looking them square in the eye and firmly stating that his name is "Johnny MacDougall, nice to meet you." This would often times be followed by rattling off a few state capitals or some other tidbit he had learned. Teaching the boy is after all a full-time job, one that needs focus, love and dedication. This job was second nature and the boy flourished. His polite manners were second to none. He was shaping up to be a real schmoozer, perhaps even President someday. He was told from day one that we was special, that he had qualities inside of him that set him apart from the pack. His childhood was filled with a nurturing that he could potentially change the world in ways that would benefit all mankind. After all, if we do not think it can be done, it never will be.
His school work and teacher reports were always glowing with praise. This was a given. He had an innate competitive streak in him to try hard, to finish first and to be correct. All report cards were filled with lovely comments such as 'a pleasure to have in class' or 'so polite and friendly'
When it came to play time, there was MineCraft, XBOX and computer gaming, all of which came easily to him. What nine year old doesn't love spending time playing games? He learned to play chess at three and was a fierce player, hating to lose, but thrilled when he won. More recently, he played a domino style game, "Mexican Train" that was quickly learned, with some measure of success. This more traditional game played on a kitchen table at the Sloan house brought us all together and the memories will be cherished.
Outside of the house, there was always something happening. It seemed that his dad was always dragging the boys around from marina to marina and office to office, greeting customers and writing out checks. There were also fun trips to Disney, a weekend camping trip with the cub scouts or just a day trip to a water park. Johnny was always up for a new adventure. He took to paddle boarding immediately and he loved it. From the moment he got on his first board he just stood up and did it. We all enjoyed time on Biscayne Bay, as well as many trips on the New River.
Boating was another activity that he was fortunate enough to enjoy with great regularity. Be it sailing on Antonio's Lagoon catamaran, or the Spirit of Lauderdale in Fort Lauderdale, to Mike's Sea Ray in Miami or Pascal's yacht on Biscayne Bay, and more recently Terry's sport boat with the jet ski, Johnny was always smiling and thankful to be invited. He was taught that these activities are great gifts given to him and the family to enjoy because of those client meetings and office visits. They put some time in and they too got the benefit. He got that. He was made to believe that your labor will in fact yield fruit.
He was immersed in live music events too. Did he have a choice? No! But he loved it nonetheless. Every Friday night concert he attended in Fort Lauderdale was a joy. Each Sunday Jazz brunch was too. His toe tapping was noticed and he danced when asked. He sang along in the back seat to AC/DC and more recently Uproot Hootenanny, a local band, and when he saw them in person he was in awe. He was hooked.
He got to sample some of the Caribbean when on a cruise ship vacation. He never met a roller coaster he could not handle. In fact, if he was tall enough to ride, he did it. He was fearless. He rarely hesitated on new things, even trying new foods on a regular basis. Some things, like Sunday morning pancakes however would never change.
The Military and its pageantry truly caught his attention. He had an array of toy guns, played army with passion and studied on his own about World War II. He was fascinated by it.
He loved his mom so very much. His good nature and manners, politeness and gentleness all derived from her. She was his everything and the center of the universe. He was proud of his little brother too, between the punches and wrestling moves, he taught Tommy how to play, share toys, do your chores, how to be a boy. Their friendship was destined to last a lifetime and it will. He loved his dad too. Johnny's temperament is exactly like his dads.
Johnny lived well during his nine years. He was liked and loved by all those he met. He looked them in the eye and he was honest, a straight arrow.
We are all sad today. The hole in our heart is wide and yes with time it will close, but the memory of Johnny will never fade. He will always be that perfect nine year old boy with the smile on his face and a ball cap on his head. And we will go on. We will go to the next opening day this spring to watch that perfect first game. To start anew. And a ticket will be purchased for Johnny this season and every season. And although the seat might be empty, the joy he brought us all could easily fill the ball park.
- January 17, 2015