John Gunther Jr.
Hartsdale, New York
John Gunther Jr. was just a boy when a brain tumor ended his hopes of doing some good in this world. His father's account of his sickness and death went on to become a seminal memoir of grieving and loss. That's all I really have to say about Johnny. The book at first seems too cold and straight-forward, but it is one of the first of its kind and is memorable for the way Gunther conveys his son's optimistic character throughout the ordeal.
When he uttered that childish wish – “to do some good for the world” – he was reflecting all the gifts that had been given him, of goodness, gentleness, and warmth of spirit; he was one of those who thought earnestly that he owed the world a living, not vice versa. But he never got a chance, and the world is much the poorer for it.
-- John Gunther, “Death Be Not Proud”
No fear of Death, no fight against Death, no enmity toward Death, friendship with Death as with Life. That is – Death for myself, but not for Johnny, God, not yet. He’s too young to miss all the other parts of Life, all the other lovely living parts of Life. All the wonderful, miraculous things to do, to feel, to see, to hear, to touch, to smell, to taste, to experience, to enjoy. What a joy Life is. Why does no one talk of the joy of Life? Shout, sing, write of the joy of Life?
–Frances Gunther, Johnny's mother
The title of John Gunther's book about his son is the opening line from John Donne's Holy Sonnet X. His son's epitaph are that poem's final words...
forgive me for my agnosticism;
For I shall try to keep it gentle, not cynical,
nor a bad influence.
if Thou art truly in the heavens,
accept my gratitude
for all Thy gifts
and I shall try
To fight the good fight.
--John Gunther, Jr. May, 1946