An incredible life lived in stories – Chris Johnson

Posted on 28 June 2020
By Andy Johnson
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Our lives are all stories. They make us feel joy and sorrow. They heal us. So many incredible personal histories are being forged across the globe. Too many tales of personal grief and loss.

Chris Johnson, my dad, dedicated his life to journalism. Sadly, dad was given a stage 4 cancer diagnosis the week we entered lockdown.

Having worked for him and with him for most of my life in Liverpool, I knew he would give us another story of hope to tell.

There’s a warm memory I have locked safe in my mind from just three years ago, shortly after we lost mum to the same pernicious disease.

I can vividly revisit one sunny Sunday afternoon, going back to my childhood home on the Wirral, to find dad had the long cable of his upstairs phone draped across the hallway and winding into his office.

Hearing him talking, I raised my eyebrows, because his voice was animated in the unmistakable style and cadence he reserved for chasing a story and alerting editors on the London news desks.

I took refuge, lying down in my teenage bedroom and listening to that warm, familiar and enveloping voice singing out with the thrill of discovery.

Many times I’ve fallen asleep listening to those mellifluous tones on the phone. Able to pretend that my mum and sister were both at home too, I often find myself travelling back to that moment.

Oral histories must be protected. In every tribe there used to be a scribe, someone who would curate other people’s stories.

Now as my dad starts writing the closing chapter of his life, it feels like a great public library is being burned down.

Stories were all dad thought about every day. Often it was an idea he’d heard on Radio 4 and knew he could turn into a page lead. He’d call and ask me to research it or get a quote.

One family quote has been coming to mind a lot lately: “You must believe the unbelievable or it is not faith, you must love the unlovable or it is not love. And you must hope when things are hopeless or it is not hope.”

As people learn about dad’s fight, they have begun to tell stories of his former glories. This is something I know I will be able to look forward to for many years to come.

Call me whenever you need anything dad,
Your ever loving son,
Andy x

With ongoing restrictions in place surrounding funeral arrangements, Chris’ family have asked for any well wishers looking to send flowers to instead donate to his favourite charity, the James Bulger Memorial Trust – Just Giving – Chris Johnson for the James Bulger Memorial Trust