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  Seek Truth Without Fear  

"The Infinity sign goes round and round without an end, and true love bears the same pattern.
~ Michael Bassey Johnson





John Bratholm
February 9, 1960 - February 12, 2018

     John was a very familiar figure in Eatonville. He always gave his time, energy and amazing sense
of humor freely to the community. This photo shows him with mic in hand during MC "duties" at a Lions Club Casino Night raising fund to help Dollars for Scholars. (photo by Bob Walter)

A Beautiful Obituary Like None Other...

   John was a religious man who did not wear it on his sleeve. He is survived by his wife, Tammi Bratholm, his children, Johnny, Randi (grandson) Rosemary, Jake, Erika, sister Connie Harmon (Rick), mother and father-in-law, Jo and Don Records, his many in-laws, nieces, nephews and cousins, and his "brothas from anotha mother" Brian Neely and Tony Powell. John is predeceased by his parents Connie and Lud Bratholm, brother-in-law Mike Horner, and countless dear friends.

   John and I (Tammi) met at St. Joe's in the mental health unit, August 18, 1994, both suffering from severe depression. The day after I was admitted, I came into the lunchroom and the first person I met was John. He was sitting at the table eating and offered me a seat. After I sat down, he offered me a single cookie in a bowl, saying, "Would you like a bowl of cookie?" It was the first time I laughed since I was admitted.

   After that, we moved on to group therapy, where we colored together, and knowing us, I doubt we stayed inside the lines. Of course John made jokes the entire time and got us in trouble constantly, until we were finally told we couldn't laugh. We were trouble from the get go.

   John got out of the hospital first, but instead of saying goodbye forever, he kept coming back to visit me. Each time he came, he would bring me a gift. He saw I had holey socks and brought me socks; he even snuck in a razor so I could shave my legs; and he KNEW I couldn't survive without Cheetos balls. A month after I was released, John took me to Cannon Beach. We had separate rooms, but that didn't last long!

   A week later he got down on one knee with a ring and asked me to marry him. A short seven weeks later, we shared our vows. We've been married 23 years. We became a blended family - his, mine and ours. Our marriage was an imperfect love story. We faced many tragedies, setbacks and disappointments, but we stuck together and through it all managed to get things back on track with love and humor. Our love just worked.

   John loved his family and our children with all his heart. The difficulties and joys of blending a family are known to many of us. John and I brought our own strengths to the relationship and did the best we could with what we had. Because John and I loved each other so deeply, we were thrilled when we found out that I was pregnant with Erika.

   She is a child of that love and when she was born, it was a blessing, adding to the love we had built with Johnny, Randi, Rosemary and Jake. We learned to become a family. It wasn't always easy, but it was always worth it and something we worked hard to achieve. Again, imperfect, as are all families. John's love for his children is deep and will continue on forever.

   John was the one in our marriage who was able to care for me in ways no one else could. My role was to love and build him up, make him feel the love all around him, and help him to see the incredible impact he had on every person he met. He often struggled to feel this love, and masked his pain and difficulties with jokes and laughter, as is common with many who face depression. Robin Williams comes to mind - few people knew he was hurting until it was too late to help him.

    Most who knew John saw him as a happy-go-lucky man, full of humor and  heart, but in his private moments, he stressed about events. He had stage fright and doubt before every public event but I bet few of you ever knew that. It is difficult to reconcile John's private struggles with the laughing, funny, supportive man with the most generous heart of anyone I knew.

   Those who face depression often do not show a despondent, sad face to the public, and sometimes not even to the people closest to them. The high suicide rates we are currently seeing in this nation are people who tried to handle their emotions alone, fearing the stigma associated with mental illness. It is not weakness to ask for help, but often they see it as such. The world is a difficult place where common decency and kindness are a dying art.

   If sharing John's story can help even one other person realize that despite life's difficulties, our time here on earth is a mixed bag of challenge and tragedy, happiness, and in John's case a huge dose of laughter. I would like John to be remembered for the joy he brought to all of us with his unfailing humor, crazy antics, and enormous heart, but the other parts of John he did not reveal are just as much a part of who he was.

   John's difficulties are not unique. Our family's loss is felt by many other families who have gone through the same thing with their loved ones. Other people's despair is being messaged to me throughout this tragedy, telling me they share that despair, have family members with mental illness, and have lost loved ones to suicide. They understand the complexities of mental illness, they understand our family's pain, deeply and personally, because of their own losses and struggles. I want to thank everyone who has reached out during this very difficult time.

   Since John's passing, this quote has been running through my mind: Love Always Wins. It does not end with a loved one's passing. It is eternal. An endless, beautiful force that will continue to lift our family and friends as we remember all of the wonderful, hilarious, uniquely John moments only he could create.

   Please reach out to others if you are hurting and the weight of life's difficulties becomes too much to bear. We are here for you. With love in our hearts, each of us can choose compassion for those who are struggling. We can choose to build people up rather than tearing them down with judgment, intolerance and a lack of understanding. It is my hope that the tragic loss of our beloved John will result in a higher purpose.

February 22, 2018, 5 to 8 p.m.
Edwards Memorial - Edgewood
11020 South Tacoma Way

February 23, 2018 11 a.m.
Bethlehem Baptist Church
4818 Portland Ave. E. Tacoma, WA
Potluck Reception to follow

Graveside Services
February 24, 2018, 11:30 a.m.
Mt. View Memorial Park
4100 Steilacoom Blvd. SW, Lakewood

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