The Last Call: A Son, Brother Honors Family, Inspires Readers

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Last year, in a matter of months, Payson lost two of its finest individuals, Rim Country Literacy Program founder Lois Johnson and her son, Payson Police Officer Doug Johnson.

Doug died in his sleep after a late patrol shift, from an undetected heart problem, in August of 2002. His mother, a few months later, succumbed to cancer.

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Darryl Johnson remembers his brother, Doug, and mother, Lois, in his book "The Last Call" which is available at several locations around town and over the Internet.

Their deaths deeply affected the community and the Johnson family.

Doug's brother, Lois' son Darryl Johnson, who lives in Missouri, has now published a book entitled "The Last Call."

"After losing my 37-year-old brother unexpectedly in August of 2002 and then only four months later standing at my mother's gravesite just feet from his, I wrote this book for my family," Darryl said.

The book is a collection of memories of his family as well as inspirational testament to survival in the midst of tragedy.

Darryl writes, "It documents our recent trial and epiphanies of dealing with a police sergeant and a father of four whose heart stopped and a mother who grieved her son while trying to maintain a high quality of life in the final stages of terminal lung cancer. The Last Call juxtaposes the frailty of physical life with the steel of human spirit."

Through humor, poetry and his own profound realizations, Darryl takes the reader on a journey of his own reconciliation of the loss.

"Initially, writing was a coping mechanism for me," Darryl said. "I remember being on an airplane going out to Doug's funeral and I wrote some things on a legal pad to get me through the flight."

Darryl wrote some childhood memories of Doug to give to his wife, Theresa. These were later read as part of the eulogy.

"It started out as more of a family chronicle, and I had no intention of bringing it to a broader audience," Darryl said. "It was going to be a gift to family and close friends."

The title, "The Last Call," refers to several things according to Darryl. The first being the final portion of a police officer's funeral when the dispatcher reads a farewell message over the radio.

This poignant moment is recounted in the book.

"SAM 121," (Doug Johnson's call sign)

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"SAM 121."

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"SAM 121, respond to Heaven. Our heavenly Father has advised you have completed your assigned duties on Earth."

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"SAM 121, you have been a loving son, loyal husband and nurturing father. You have been a wonderful friend to all who have had the honor of knowing you."

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"SAM 121, you have fought the good fight and stayed the true course. You have been a brave and noble warrior who walked the thin blue line with honor and bravery that set the example for all to follow."

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"All units break for a moment of silence. Sergeant Doug Johnson, your shift is complete and you are cleared to secure an eternal life of peace and happiness in the house of our Lord ... Good day, Sir."

"It was really neat to watch my brother work," Darryl said. "I'd go on ride-alongs with him, but I didn't really understand what he meant to the community until his funeral."

"Both my mother and my brother possessed a sense of community and made a difference," Darryl said. "They always saw the bigger picture. Law enforcement and literacy are two of the most important things people can dedicate themselves to."

The other significance of the title refers to Darryl's final phone conversations with his mother.

"Each time I called, our discussions became shorter and shorter -- sometimes only a few words were exchanged," Darryl said. "My mother had such dignity."

Darryl recounts when he went to his mother's house and looked through photo albums and read some of Lois' journals. "It was such a treasure to me," Darryl said. "It's taken me some time to understand that people exist on different dimensions -- I found out that she was a whole lot more than just my mom and that she meant a lot to other people."

Darryl recalls many of his mother's words of wisdom, especially ‘never stop peddling.'

"That really sticks with me -- the idea of perseverance and making it through," he said. "I had that phrase in my head a lot when I was typing and I couldn't see the screen through the tears in my eyes. That I shouldn't walk away from the screen -- I should just keep peddling."

What began as a family chronicle also evolved into a book about coping and healing, and, that with tragedy, can come spiritual growth.

"There is significance in embracing your own lineage and heritage," Darryl said. "It means a lot more now that I have young children. My family appreciates that we have a small part of our family history documented."

Writing was a cathartic experience.

"I learned so many things through writing this book -- overcoming adversity, connecting with people, appreciating things," Darryl said. "I learned to appreciate humorous moments because humor really connected our family."

Darryl said his brother's death reminds him that you don't know when your last breath will be.

"I appreciated going to Payson and spending time with my father, sitting on his porch," Darryl said. "It just means so much more to me now than when I was in college. I've learned to embrace those opportunities and see them for what they are."

The Last Call is available at The Rim Country Literacy Program Office, The Candle Factory and the Payson Police Department. It can also be purchased online at Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble.com.

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