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Dr John’s Memorial Service, from John Page

To all in Greece, Poland, Southern Africa and the UK who knew Dr John Upledger whether personally or through his work.
From John Page.

Led by his son John Matthew Upledger, CEO of the Upledger Institute, a small team of family members and Upledger Institute colleagues went to great lengths to arrange a fitting memorial and celebration of the life of John Upledger, who died on 26 October 2012. This happened on 15 December at Jupiter in Florida where I was privileged to attend on my own behalf and as your representative. While there I resolved to write something in an attempt to convey an impression of a day that was not just extraordinary but that typified him. With my characteristic zeal I determined to do this on my return. But although at the time the experience made complete emotional sense it is only now that I have been able to make logical sense of it sufficient to put into words.

The day’s simple plan had us assemble in the Jupiter Resort’s so-familiar ballroom at 2pm. An hour’s “welcome” would be closed by Stan Gerome’s sublime flute after which thirteen speakers – John’s children, other family, friends and colleagues, gave readings or anecdotes – some deeply moving, some hilarious. How typical for John. Around the huge room were hundreds of photographs grouped and beautifully printed onto large storyboards enabling us all to quietly reminisce while, during the “welcome” we had circulated, reconnecting and catching up with beloved friends and colleagues both in our memories and in the flesh. The speakers having finished around 5.30, and after a silent minute for further personal prayer and reflection, we wished John “Bon Voyage”. In the evening we reconvened for a “Celebration of Life” – sharing a drink with each other and dancing to an excellent band with whom John had played, and who for some of this evening were joined by son Michael Upledger on Guitar. Between each music set were interludes hosted by volunteers who shared, and invited others to share, further thoughts, reflections and anecdotes.

While these notes are unashamedly personal they will conclude in a place that I believe all who have known John will feel able to own. The following paragraphs cover what for me have been the most telling, the most deeply touching experiences of that day.

I shall start with John Matthew Upledger who over the past two years has led the Upledger Institute through a period of dramatic corporate change. That the Institute has not only come through better than ever able to face the future, but has also continued to provide without interruption its celebrated training, is down to him. He has shown acceptance and openheartedness without limit, and continues to. He opened the personal addresses and, though occasionally interrupted by his own unashamed tears, spoke as an adoring son of an extraordinary father. John tended to be good at everything he attempted, more of which below. Here John Matthew told of his introduction to roller-skating under his father’s supervision, or lack of it. In John’s usual way John Matthew was put on skates and invited to get on with it. His begging his dad to show him how it was done was eventually, and reluctantly, rewarded with a virtuoso display of (sometimes backwards!) speed skating with exhibition stunts. He had had no idea his father had even been on skates.

John also tended to ignore inappropriate authority, whether government bureaucrats, the medical establishment or simply the accepted way of doing things. This story by his lifelong friend Ken Wilkinson is again typical. When John owned his first car the family home was in a district without roadside ditches. This, Ken told, was to prove significant. The car used a shocking amount of oil and developed ominous engine noise. “Big end” trouble was diagnosed and, game as ever to attempt anything, John contemplated removing the sump to get at the crankshaft and rebuild any offending bearing. Lacking an inspection pit, or even a convenient ditch over which to place the ailing vehicle, he recruited a severely leaning tree in their garden, and drove the front of the car up it. After far too long from their neighbours’ point of view with the engine bottom in bits all over the garden the repair was completed.

John’s wife Lisa Upledger spoke last. Lisa had seen to it that, with the support of family and friends, and the help of two professional carers who were present today, John could spend his last months at home, to the end. Lisa’s measured and dignified relating of what John meant to her, and of those last precious months, seemed to deepen even further and sustain the state of trust and love that enveloped all in that room and, I feel sure, far beyond.
Looking back one reflects on the genius of that day: a simple, trusting plan that facilitated openness, spontaneity and perhaps above all natural emotional honesty. A framework was provided. What happened, happened. The whole “family” was involved and, where still with us, physically participated. John’s blood and marital family were there including his sister, now 90, his three surviving children, their spouses, his grand daughter, nieces, nephews and cousins. I was privileged to meet and chat with most of them, and came away with compassion and great respect for all of them.

A further reflection, and several of us shared this on the day, is on the Beyond the Dura conferences that so many of us present had enjoyed together in that same room, all seven in my own case. Confession time: conferences have never been entirely comfortable for me. For a start there is mental overload: I tend to reach a point where I can’t handle any more so I ration attendance to those lectures that really appeal. And then there is the sense of inadequacy in the face of work presented that I find humbling, reminding me of my own laziness and technical inadequacy. So what is it that I especially love about the conferences? It is the re-connecting and catching up with beloved friends and colleagues, and discovering new ones. (It is this same that adds such pleasure to assisting and teaching assignments when as colleagues we reconnect around the world.) So this 15 December brought back all the joy and companionship of Beyond the Dura without the challenges. One will rarely find such openness and trust outside a good therapeutic session, even in the closest personal relationship. And this in a roomful of I guess at least 200. What testament to John’s spirit!

Which takes me to the concluding anecdote of this all-too-sketchy report. In her simple testimony Lisa Upledger told us that she had more than once during John’s last months asked him to state, to define, the overarching intention or mission of his life and his work, as perhaps a message for all of us. Sitting in that room we wondered how would he, this great original thinker, encapsulate for us more than 50 years of groundbreaking course development, teaching, treatment and authorship with its
legacy of literally roomfuls of catalogued articles and other research paperwork? What final guidance would he offer? Twice, Lisa told us, he would not be drawn, discouraging her from pursuing the matter. A third time, and when she reckoned would be, during his decline, possibly the last opportunity, she made the same request. Following brief and typically curmudgeonly resistance he at last made his statement: “Helping people”.

On 15 December 2012 we lived in the moment: a great, triumphant Upledger moment. We were allowed to be ourselves, nothing to prove, nothing to judge, nothing to fear. The lesson that I have taken away: love is not something that is given or received. Love is not what one does or gives to another. When we have done our work and get out of our own way love is simply what we can be, what we are.
Thank you John.

John Page 30/12/12