It has been two weeks since our colleague, next door neighbor, and good friend passed away. It is still difficult talking about Dr. Jon Masso in the past tense because his passing still somehow does not feel real to me. I keep expecting him to walk in the door, looking for a cup of coffee or wondering if there is some nice dessert he could enjoy.
This is one of my fun memories of Jon…his sweet tooth. Amanda and I used to jokingly call him Cookie Monster because when Amanda was in her early teens and learning to bake, he would give her a bag of chocolate chips, asking her to bake some chocolate chip cookies and to give him some when we were done. When we sent them over, we never quite knew when we handed him the container of freshly baked cookies, whether his wife, Phyllis would actually get any of them! He loved sweets!
When we met the Massos over 18 years ago, Jon struck us as a very quiet, reserved and unassuming man. Though later, as we got to know each other better and Jon became more inclined to open up and share his thoughts, he still always remained humble and never spoke without first thinking through what he wanted to say. Because of this, we felt he was also a very wise man. The scriptures tell us that a wise man does not speak too quickly or rashly. I have always enjoyed our Thursday neighborhood Bible Study groups, especially when Jon had a very strong opinion about a certain topic. He never pushed his opinion arrogantly or argued hotly. He always proposed his idea, even a firmly held belief, almost tentatively, yet causing us to challenge our own beliefs and thinking. He always had that wonderful blend of firmly held beliefs and opinions and humility, which disarms the would-be challenger.
As the years passed, I also came to know Jon as a kind-hearted man, though because of his reserved, quiet personality, one had to get to know him before his kind heart became evident. His kindness was often expressed through his utter dedication and tireless work on the behalf of others…whether that work was teaching students, engaging in student activities, working for the children’s home he and Phyllis ran in Kenya, keeping the church financial records as treasurer, serving as a church elder, singing on the worship team, or simply helping a neighbor out who needed to be dropped or met at the airport, or who needed some electrical problem worked on. That was Jon Masso…ever the servant, always working quietly in the background. Even one of his favorite songs was “Make Me a Servant”. How appropriate!
Jon did not smile or laugh a lot. Those who did not know him might have thought him rather dour, but those of us who had the privilege of being his neighbor, his friend, working with him, and knowing him well, knew better. When he did smile, it was genuine and heart-warming. It was always a treat to hear him laugh out loud.
I believe that though we here on earth feel that Jon was taken away from us way too soon, it was also fitting that he should depart this earth while in his beloved Kenya, which I suspect had become very much home to both him and Phyllis. We would have all chosen to keep him around us much longer, but God had other plans. We will miss you Jon, but we look forward to a sweet reunion one day and maybe Amanda and I will bring your favorite chocolate chip cookies!