Shelley Marie Johnston (Hamblin) passed from this life onto the next phase of her journey on Thursday, April 12th.
My mom was one of the most beautiful souls to ever grace my life - sadly, I took that for granted and never expressed the depth of love that I had for her. Something that I deeply regret.
My mom was an extremely generous woman who would share anything she had with anyone who needed it, even though she lived an extremely modest life. It’s hard to express how giving she was even though she had no means to replace anything she gave to someone else.
It’s hard to express the level of genuine love she had for everyone she came into contact with. She knew the stories of all of the kids who would ride their bicycles in front of the house. She knew every neighbor around us, and even had kind things to say about the neighbors who weren’t very kind back. When she started hanging out with the step kids (Josiah, Sage, and Micah), she had an authentic interest in everything they were doing. She shared the love of music with Josiah and was constantly suggesting newly-discovered music to him, and to all of us. She’d ask about Sage’s mountain bike practices and races, and wanted to know what was going on with Micah. She usually knew the scoop on everyone and everything that interacted with me more than I did. She had such a deep love for her grandsons, Casey and Tyler, and although she wasn’t able to be present with them during the earlier part of their life, once we were all living back in the same city, she wanted to know everything they were up to, every achievement they’d made, and every interest they had. Funny enough, she knew all of those things even when we lived hundreds of miles apart without me telling her. She’d talk to everyone about them and always knew the latest news. She had so much to teach them, but I’m glad that she was in their life for as long as she was.
My mom tried to teach me so many things about life, and over the past four years, so many things about death. As a child, I would go so far as to describe myself as an atheist, or at least a deep skeptic. In the summer of 2013, she slipped into a coma for about three weeks. Doctors told us that we should pull her off of life-support and allow her to “die with dignity.” They claimed that she had about a 1% chance of coming back, and about a 97% chance that if she did, she would have permanent brain damage. Ry and I opted not to because we just didn’t have enough information to make that decision. Three weeks later, while I was at work, Ry called me and told me that she’d come out of her coma and wanted to talk to me. He had been there when it all happened and suddenly, there she was on the phone, speaking to me. During this time, we had been planning on operating an architectural design firm together again - something that nobody knew. Aside from that, we had specific details about how we were going to do it and where we were going to be located. When she started talking to me, she had no idea that my dad had passed on many years before, and she told me that she had just been talking to him. “Dad told me you are Ry are opening and office together again. I think that’s great!” She described a few of the specifics, which gave me chills and I started to cry. Having been a skeptical person all of my life, this did something to me that has changed me since then. It changed the entire way my life had looked since I was a child, and I have been exploring this since that happened. The hardest thing for me about all of this has not been the fact that she is gone. The Hamblin, McDonald, Dumas, and Johnston clans have experienced a tremendous amount of loss and we know it looms in the background all-to-well. I believe we all know what to expect during times of loss, and we understand the mourning process. Loss is natural and it comes with the gift of life - in its own way, it has turned out to be a gift in disguise. For me, the most difficult thing to deal with is the fact that my mom gave constant reminders to us about being present. I have always been a hard worker, but I have a lot of goals and the past few years have been filled with long hours and dragged out days that have not allowed room for a lot of interaction. I have not been present. When my mom came out of that coma, she had more than faith. She had a deep knowledge of something else. She told us that she spent a portion of each day with my dad. She used the term “Push against.” I heard her say that constantly. Reminding all of us to stop “pushing against.” It seems that’s all I have done my entire life. Her lessons are written all over her notebooks and papers. Her quantum physics books have notes in them in her handwriting. Most of them reminding herself (and I now suspect us more than her) to be present, to believe that even those who are gone are right there, that we don’t just vanish into nothing, and to be present. A week ago, I despised that term due to its trendy yoga cliches… “Be in the moment.” But I now understand it and I am embracing it completely. She would wander around our huge garden and find dead twigs, leaves, and flowers. Using her magnifying glass, she would bring them in and tell me to look at how beautiful they were. I thought she was crazy but pretended to see what she saw. I remember when I started to wish that I actually saw the beauty in them instead of just a dead twig. That was about 6 months ago. I finally saw the beauty in them as I started to look through her notes and dried flowers and sticks. She had a pressed rose from the yard in a notebook. On the page was written: “A man who works with his hands is a laborer; a man who works with his hands and his brain is a craftsman; but a man who works with his hands and his brain and his heart is an artist.” I wish the quote had gone a step further, because she was beyond and artist. She was an angel. I wish I’d shown her that a lot more, and I wish I could show her how sticky her lessons had been. I’d been so busy pushing against that I had never shown her fully that I had listened to her wisdom and that I believed. That I believe. I am still the same little boy and I am lost without my mom. -Jake Johnston (Son)
Our cousin wrote this week that, his memories of Shelley were from our childhood, "her 1000-watt smile and her energy." She was the leader in our play, and the imagination force behind endless hours of joy and adventure. I was absolutely confident in her design for the party balloons to lift our cardboard box from the top of the metal garbage cans and take us floating over the valley.
The Old Testament book of Isaiah says, "A bruised reed He will not break, and a smoldering wick He will not snuff out."
For a very long time I have seen Shelley as that bruised reed; illness and addiction bruised her. They dimmed her light but they couldn't snuff it out. She lost some battles to the darkness they create, but God doesn't lose. Her light IS rekindled. -Julie Dumas (Sister)
I will remember Shelley as the loving mother, daughter, friend that she was. She had an inner light that shined through when she smiled, a soft beauty. She loved antiques, and had an eye for creative composition. She loved taking care of her houseplants, and would sometimes talk to them, as she was certain that they responded. She loved music, and from our earliest age she would listen to my albums over and over. Later on it was she who was bringing new music to my attention. She also had a rebellious spirit I remember when she was probably not older than three she reached up on the kitchen cabinet and touched a pan fill of hot fudge, then quickly touched her cheek. This made a burn scar that she carried the rest of her life. My mother had just told her “don’t touch, hot!”, and this was her way of finding out why. Shelley didn’t always follow the expected path, but her intentions were always pure. She loved her children and her family I will always remember her with love. -Brent Hamblin (Brother)