Story behind “Ordinary Hero (Song for John)”

Ordinary Hero (Song for John)* – played at his Memorial Service

My Mom asked me to write a song for my Step-Dad a couple weeks before Christmas 2016, when they found out the second chemo didn’t work, and would be trying a third treatment. I told her I would be honored to do so.  I told her I would take some time over my Christmas trip to CT to brainstorm, and asked her to send me anything she’d like to say to John through the song. Then we’d get together again to write the song after Christmas. I knew from the start it needed a slight country twang, for my country-lovin’ Mom and Step-Dad. 😉

I started brainstorming: John lived life abundantly, spending quality time with his family. Him and my mom went on more adventures than I could keep track of… they were always doing something!  (It was an inspiration for me to get out there and do new things with my hubby too.)  Their honeymoon in September fulfilled their bucket-list of a trip down the east coast.  What an adventure!  He lived well.

In the airport on my way home from CT, I got a text that John was headed to the hospital.  The next morning my sister came over to discuss booking a flight up to NY to be with them, for an undefined amount of time.  I quickly unpacked, repacked, and did the tasks I needed to do before leaving. The following morning I had a few hours before we needed to be to the airport.  Since I wouldn’t have my guitar with me in NY, even though I hadn’t gotten my Mom’s ideas yet for the song, I figured I’d better try to write it before I left.  Normally I’d take at least a couple days to finish a song… so I prayed for a miracle! And it came.

As I reflected on John’s life, the term ordinary hero came to mind.  A hero is “a person who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities.” John certainly had courage, achieved a lot, and had noble qualities… but he did so in a regular, humble way. No matter how much he did to “save the day” in many ways as a heroic firefighter, sincerely caring bus driver, and friend who would drop anything to help out, at the end of the day, he was still just a man: my Mom’s beloved husband and co-adventurer. He was an ordinary man who demonstrated the love of God in those ways:

“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. […] And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us” (1 John 3:16,23). “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13). 

Although his physical stature might cause you to assume otherwise, it was hard in the everyday to do these “heroic” things.  He would get tired.  There were things he sacrificed.  Sometimes he needed help.  He wished for more time.  As an ordinary man, he needed God to help him and be his hero, even more than he helped others heroically.

All of his life filled the verses and chorus in honor of him.  But I still needed a bridge.  My Mom called later on that morning.  She talked of how loving and gentle he still was, despite waning physical strength and increasing physical discomfort.  That was so telling of who he was.  As I visited with him that evening, I noticed that even in moments of confusion, the topic of conversation was always about taking care of someone or some situation.  It wasn’t about him.

I played the song for him that night; I thanked him for loving my Mom, and told him it’s ok to go rest in the arms of our Hero… we’ll all be there soon.  In the morning he met Jesus face-to-face.  I will forever treasure that memory.

I leave you with the poem my Mom wrote:

God, You Got a Good Man

669 days ago, a gentle man began the fight of his life,

along with his family, friends and loving wife.

With much love for his family, especially fatherhood,

he lived each day doing the best he possibly could.

With great respect for the elderly, extending a hand out,

that’s only part of what this strong man was about.

Loved by the children, and loved the children so,

As he spent many years watching them all grow.

He’d drop everything to help anyone in need,

a wise and sensible man, dependable indeed.

He loved the outdoors, camping, four-wheeling and the farm,

and all who met this man could not resist his charm.

A love for his country, patriotic as a person could be,

A strong and faith-filled man, he was our oak tree.

*If you’d like to have the song, email me at and I will send it over to you.