Monday, December 17, 2007
Fare thee well, John Neil
I had sad news on Saturday - John Neil Davidson passed away last week. He was 24, a brilliant, funny, delightful human being who has been struggling with cancer for 6 years. He had almost reached his 5 year anniversary last December when it his cancer back with a vengence - we had the news in the same week that we heard our Lily Rose's first scan was clean. It was a bittersweet juxtaposition of joy and grief, renewal and fear.
My girls and I know John Neil through the John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, North Carolina. My teacher and mentor, Norman Kennedy brought me there to take a traditional rug weaving class in 1996 and in that class I met Ruth Truett, Nanette Davidson, Lucy Best and Beth Johnson - some of my favorite weavers. Ruth was then the program director at Campbell and she encouraged me to start teaching there that year. Nanette's husband Jan is the director of the Folk School, and they had 2 children then - John Neil and Chloe, and a few years later their Sam.
I returned in June that year with my three daughters for the Little Middle Folk School week. The girls participated in the children's classes and I taught an adult Treasure Pouch class in which we made tiny vessels and bags with wool felt, waxed linen and beads. We all came back for Little Middle week year after year, until each of the girls was too old to participate and became busy with work at home. We brought other girls with us some years - one year I had 6 girls with me, but after that I always brought a second adult!
John Neil was the same age as our Lily Rose and they teased and antagonized one another as 12 year old boys and girls will, but over the years he was a good friend to every one of our girls. He developed spinal cancer during his last year in high school, and was left with chronic pain issues that kept him out of college. He maintained his wry sense of humor throughout all his trials.
I feel honored to have known him. I remain delighted in his sense of humor and his spirit. I mourn for the loss that his family and friends are feeling. But the greater part of John Neil with be with us for as long as we remember him.