Commentary: One last time - the fourth and (final) letter to myself

Be grateful for everything you have and for everything you don’t.

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  • | 1:00 a.m. April 4, 2024
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Judge John Guy
Judge John Guy
  • The Bar Bulletin
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Dear John, 

This is our fourth letter, and our last. But before I leave you to our future, indulge me one more time as I look back 30 years later.

John, I wish I could soften this, but there are tough times ahead. Really tough times. Personally and professionally. You will doubt yourself and your circumstances. Tomorrow will test your faith. Storm clouds will darken countless days.

But here we are, right? Having survived some difficult times, let me offer some light.

First, no matter how bad it gets, know that someone has it worse.

Just when you think you can’t endure another running injury, you’ll see a man with no legs, in his wheelchair, waiting at the traffic light. And when you and your wife are struggling to have another child, you’ll attend the funeral of someone else’s only child. Understand?

Second, change comes. No matter what you’re going through, it won’t last. At least not to the same extent.

Most of the things keeping you up at night will one day be forgotten. And the rest will no longer exist.

John, it’s not about avoiding life’s challenges; it’s about surviving them. Maybe that’s why we have sunrises.

Third, and most important, life isn’t supposed to be easy. You’re going to read that one day in the world’s most widely read book.

Life on earth is designed to be into the wind. It’s designed to be part of something bigger than you. It will cause you to consider justification. For yourself. Remember when we talked about your purpose? That evolves.

And John, be a giver. I know you’ve just left the dock, but so much will be given to you. Think about everything you’ve received already.

One day when you’re sitting comfortably in the coffee shop you’ll watch as a young woman of far less means than you walks a homeless man to the counter, orders for him and walks out anonymously. You’ll spend the rest of your medium drip watching gratitude and wondering why you hadn’t done that. Why John?

Let me remark about a timeless societal obsession – photographs. Be wary of still images. Understand the photographer publishes only what suits the photographer.

I recall a woman who frequently shared photos of herself, her husband and their children in the grandest places, smiles on every face. And yet, as the photos were being shared, Ms. Perfect and her husband were divorcing.

Also, recall that photographs capture only moments in time. You will come to realize it’s the times between the images that matter more. Everyone smiles when told.

John, it’s not as important to be in the photograph as it is to be in the moment. Don’t miss the true beauty of the experience.

Someday you’ll get compliments on your work in court, but you will know the truth. Most of our opening statements and closing arguments were written on Sunday mornings, on wooden pews, to the cadence of our pastor’s sermons – the cadence you are making ours.

Keep reading, keep writing and always be respectful. Know the virtue of humility.

Most important, be grateful for everything you have and for everything you don’t.

About losing a loved one, mom’s death will not be our last. But John, when someone close to you dies, it’s not about being forever changed by their death. It’s about being forever changed by their life. Remember that.

In each of our letters I’ve asked you to hold something near. Hold this above the rest. It is written, “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

Know with certainty that those who can’t walk will run. Those who can’t speak will sing. Those who can’t tell you they love you one day will.

John, it’s been said that children are born for their parents. Know the opposite is also true.

Take care.

Fourth Judicial Circuit Judge John Guy was appointed to the bench in 2015 after 22 years in the State Attorney’s Office.



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