Vernon. You told me how you wanted to raise these kids. I didn’t always agree with you. But now I’m now I’m on my own trying to do it both our ways. I was doing fine until you keep showing up in my mind. Now I keep doing it your way, despite what I intended. No fair.
I got a surprise letter through FaceBook this morning which really touched me. I remember this person, as I spoke with her many times. She was one of the ambulance staff that took Vernon to dialysis five times a week over the course of two years.
Hi, I’m not sure if you remember me. I’m Jenifer, one of the EMT’s that used to take Vernon to dialysis. I just found out about Vernon’s passing & wanted to reach out to you & tell you that I’m terribly sorry for your loss & your children’s loss. I never got the chance to tell you but you inspire me in so many ways. The way you stayed at Vernon’s side & the love that you have for him is amazing. There were times were I would go to the bathroom & cry after dropping him off because it broke my heart to see how much you love him & how hard seeing him in that state was for you. You are the definition of an amazing wife & a beautiful soul. God bless you & your family, & may he give you the strength to overcome this.
I was moved by her letter, of course, as these medical assistants filled up all the important ensemble roles of our Play. But then we only tend to stay in touch with the main characters, the people we actually know well, and all the others can fade to the background when the bows are made. But these background people are the ones that make the world turn, especially in Vernon’s case, as he could do nothing by himself. Of course I knew they cared in the moment, but its a treat to actually hear that these people remember him fondly. They were such an important part of our lives, the unsung ones.
I sent the letter to my friend Sandy, just to give help give it some wings. She wrote back:
Thank you for sending this to me. It makes me actually weep. I know I have lots of tears stuffed and stuck down. And this releases some. Allison, we all have been watching ( and participating) in an extraordinary love story. And love stories usually have tears. Beautiful words from Jenifer. And so true.
And Allison. You sometimes ask, “Where is God? Is He even there? ” He was there. Inside you. As you were being His hands and feet and love to Vernon. No, He didn’t say ‘Yes’ to miraculously healing Vernon. But He demonstrated His love and power through you. And the children. And the Logies, Ketcham’s, Hendrix’s, Adams’, your parents, Joe. Others watched and saw the face of God. They saw love in action. His power and love to do what was given to Vernon.
Vernon left the imprints of his fonts behind. And he left he imprint of love.
PS Jenifer’s name was changed. But the rest of the story is real.
Death is one of the main things in life that connects us all. It is a major part of life—we know that but we don’t like to expect or accept it in our culture. It’s inevitable—we all have that in common. Sometimes I imagine we are all in a long metaphysical queue (like at the grocery store, just waiting our turn…which will come eventually, but not no time soon. Suddenly a new clerk opens the next register and someone in the middle or even back of the line, suddenly is called to be first. And off they go when you least expected it. Its especially distressing to everyone in the waiting queue when we watch someone young get called up ahead of us. Or if it’s someone we love a lot.
There a small painting on my living room wall. I did it sometime after Vernon and I returned from our Venice honeymoon in 2016. I have been looking at it lately, wondering if its time to take it down, whether I should reorganize the artwork. At any rate, I think it matches the poem I am about to share (from a book someone gave me at Vernon’s memorial service—thanks Yuki!) I hope others who have lost their loved ones can gather comfort and hope from the words.
On The Death Of The Beloved
— John O’Donohue
Though we need to weep your loss,
You dwell in that safe place in our hearts,
Where no storm or night or pain can reach you.
Your love was like the dawn
Brightening over our lives
Awakening beneath the dark
A further adventure of colour.
The sound of your voice
Found for us
A new music
That brightened everything.
Whatever you enfolded in your gaze
Quickened in the joy of its being;
You placed smiles like flowers
On the altar of the heart.
Your mind always sparkled
With wonder at things.
Though your days here were brief,
Your spirit was live, awake, complete.
We look towards each other no longer
From the old distance of our names;
Now you dwell inside the rhythm of breath,
As close to us as we are to ourselves.
Though we cannot see you with outward eyes,
We know our soul’s gaze is upon your face,
Smiling back at us from within everything
To which we bring our best refinement.
Let us not look for you only in memory,
Where we would grow lonely without you.
You would want us to find you in presence,
Beside us when beauty brightens,
When kindness glows
And music echoes eternal tones.
When orchids brighten the earth,
Darkest winter has turned to spring;
May this dark grief flower with hope
In every heart that loves you.
May you continue to inspire us:
To enter each day with a generous heart.
To serve the call of courage and love
Until we see your beautiful face again
In that land where there is no more separation,
Where all tears will be wiped from our mind,
And where we will never lose you again.
“I try not to worry about the future – so I take each day just one anxiety attack at a time.”— Tom Wilson
Let’s talk about anxiety, shall we?
When I’m not busy DOING something, or actively taking care of the kids, I find my breathing can suddenly change, my heart rate goes up, and if I don’t start moving immediately, the tears come or I just feel unhinged.
My beloved sister-in-law called me while I was shopping in Costco yesterday, and all was fine until she mentioned planning something fun in the future. Suddenly the tears welled up. I left the cart and started walking so no one would notice. Next thing I knew, I was lost in that massive warehouse and couldn’t remember what I was shopping for, let alone where my cart was. I’ve taken other phone calls, and there haven’t been those problems. She was being perfectly lovely and supportive as always. Why should I get a panic attack then?
Today, I dropped off my car at the mechanic. For some reason, I couldn’t just tell him I had a flat tire. I opened my mouth to explain but could feel my breathing start to change, and the tears came. I felt so embarrassed, standing in the middle of that office with a man who was somewhat shocked and slightly uncomfortable. I thought: Do I always look this crazy to these people?
It hasn’t just started. It began while Vernon was in hospice. Everything was so intense. I would go go go, until suddenly the wrong stranger crossed my path or there would be a mixup in the nursing staff or a friend would offer something I couldn’t process in the moment. Then it would pass, though I’d be embarrassed of the out-of-control-ness of my emotions. I was told not to worry about it, to give myself grace. But it was new to me. And I didn’t like the frequency (and unexpectedness) in which it came.
I was fine going to the Back to School night at the High School two weeks ago—I handled it for nearly two hours, meeting all Maki’s teachers, without a stitch. But the next week was Parent’s Night at Justine’s school. Suddenly the sight of all those adults folded into tiny seats at tiny desks threw me into sudden panic and I had to turn around. Why then? Why sometimes—not other times? People say that this is a common symptom of grieving, and is to be expected.
But the problem is, Anxiety comes when you least expect it. I don’t have to be thinking about Vernon or a specific memory. In fact, I don’t have to be thinking about anything at all when it hits. It’s just a weird physical reaction to this new stage of life I guess. A different kind of un-knowing. My girlfriend who recently lost both her parents in the course of a year, and then her husband’s mother the next year told me she learned one thing about grief through all this: everybody goes through it differently.
Exercise helps! Last week I had a few down days and filled them with exercise as much as I could. My muscles got sore, but I didn’t feel anxious….at least not while I was moving! So when I was with friends in LA last weekend, they gave me plenty of opportunities to walk if the feeling came. I have also started volunteering once a week as a room mom in Justine’s class. Weirdly, going into that very different world of elementary school and doing phonics pages with the kids or laminating in the office is grounding in it’s own way.
When someone asks me what I plan to do next, the first thing that comes to mind is this: learn how to be a mom to a Tenth Grader and a First Grader. Re-learn how to cook and have normal mealtimes. Help with more homework, read more with Justine. These things aren’t coming as easily as I remembered them being before summer. I think we all feel slightly different now, but each in a way we can’t explain to each other. We don’t even understand it ourselves. I expect we are still in the portal of change, and this won’t be how it feels forever.
PS For a period, I was able to go off my anti-depressants, which seems ironic, as it was during the very stressful time of trying to help Vernon. Perhaps the sense of busy-ness and purpose helped lift me out of that natural-to-me behavior. It looks like I’ll be on them again…at least for awhile and for different reasons.
Here are some more bits from Vernon’s memorial on Sept 11. Chris, his best friend, read the bio. Stick around for the slide show afterward. It’s full of love.
How does this sound?
Vernon Paul Adams was born to Joan and Keith Adams in 1967. They lived in Bournemouth, a seaside town in southern England. His older sister Vanessa couldn’t wait to start changing his nappies.
He was artistic from a young age and ended up going through Art College in England. Shortly after he would head off to Bergen, Norway to continue his study of painting.
He met his first wife Synnove in Oslo, Norway. They pursued their artistic careers in Norway and Germany and eventually moved back to England where his beloved son Maki was born in 2001.
Synnove and Vernon separated, but Vernon’s heart was with his son Maki who had moved back to Norway with his mother.
During this time Vernon met Allison who was living in California. They fell in love and were married. Allie moved to England so they could stay closer to Maki.
Vernon spent the first year of their marriage in an intensive Master’s Degree program at the University of Reading for Type Face design, a very small field at the time.
When Maki was seven years old, he made the decision to live with his dad full time.
Vernon paid the bills working as an antique furniture restorer…teaching ex-addicts marketable skills. He spent his free time working on Type Design.
In 2010, Vernon and Allie had their beautiful daughter Justine. Around this time Vernon also began making royalty free or libre fonts which I’ll talk more about in a bit.
In 2013 Vernon and his family moved to San Clemente, California. Vernon was an avid cyclist and he loved the smooth roads. He also loved the warmth of the people here. The community here was a good place for him to be himself.
Vernon partnered up on an office space with the illustrious designer Jen Hubbard. They shared a space downtown where Jen would spend her days doing graphic design and Vern would tweak every letter in the alphabet to his liking. I was lucky enough to spend quite a few days in that little office with them and I can describe that time to you in four words. Coffee. Lemon Drops and Laughter.
Vernon once told me that a font is sort of like the clothes on a letter. It gives the alphabet style and purpose. He believed that if you gave away fonts for free that there were enough generous people in the world to support a designer doing custom work to those fonts.
His fonts began to gain popularity and as of today Vernon’s fonts are some of the most widely used fonts in the world. To give you a brief example of how many times his fonts have been I’m going to read you something that Jen wrote.
“When you look into the sky tonight, I want you to consider the Milky Way Galaxy. It has been estimated that it contains 100 — billion — stars. That large of number is hard to fathom, isn’t it? But with that in mind, consider that since the moment Vernon’s type designs were added to the Google Fonts library, they have been requested from websites around the world — from businesses building a brand to bloggers sharing their heart like Allison — over 700 billion times. That’s well over 7 times the number of stars in our galaxy. It’s more than impressive, it is astounding.”
When you have time later today, go to SansOxygen.com. There is a banner on the website that will take you to the Google font libray and show you Vernon’s fonts.
Vernon loved tinkering with things, and restored a vintage 1977 Vespa, which he rode short distances around town. He was riding this Vespa when he sustained major injuries after colliding with a truck on May 23, 2014.
He survived for over two more years with a massive brain injury and kidney failure, and finally succumbed to complications around his kidneys on August 24, 2016, survived by his wife and two children, who knew completely that he had loved them well…as well as a legacy of original fonts that are used everyday be people all over the world.
Of course you can’t capture the enormity of a man in a short biography. I can tell you the basics about where he spent his life and how he spent some of his time. I can tell you he was humble and unassuming. I can tell you that he was a bit mischievous and that he was very talented. But it’s difficult to capture the intangible qualities.
Vernon was one of the good guys. He knew that his heart was more important than his head. He was a thinker and a poet. We was an artist and a type technician. He was a husband and a partner. He was a father and a daddy. He taught me a lot before the accident but he’s taught me even more over the last 2 years. Vernon, thank you for teaching me about free-ness. Your struggle has taught me move about God than any sunday sermon. Thank you for leaving us with such amazing kids. We are all better people as a result of your life and the way you lived it.
And as an extra, the band sure played their hearts out for a mean Amazing Grace for their friend.
Discover Vernon's fonts on fonts.google.com
Donate to Download
- Letter from an EMT
- On the Death of the Beloved
- Vernon’s Bio/Slideshow
- Maki’s Eulogy
- Blessings in Disguise (a Eulogy)
- Please Help
- The Bends
- Thank you from Maki
- Memorial #1
- Super Bloom
- Justine’s Words of Love and Comfort
- Pictures of You
- Memorial Season
- The Ocean
- Poetry in Motion
- A Room of Her Own
- Such Great Heights
- Calling All Angels
- Labor Pains
- Hotel Days
- Bracelet Clasps
- Mythical Beings
- A Guide to Dying
- With This Ring
- Miracle Moments
- Walking Home
- Fake Plastic Trees
- Sub ICU
- Two Peas in a Bed
- Being Present
- Sutures and Stuff
- Family in Town
- Cast Away!