By Dennis Dumpias
For all intents and purposes, Jonathan Ko and I were just strangers to each other. But for just a couple of hours on a Saturday afternoon spent getting to know one another proved enough to realize we were more kindred in spirits than merely being motorcyclists.
Jon and I both chose to live life like the end was just around the corner.
The difference between Jon and I was that one of us was still waiting for that corner, while the other knew they had already turned it.
I learned of Jon and his dying wish through my local motorcycle forum back in October of 2013. He had shared his story and what he set out to do – to try and ride as many MotoGP circuits as he can before his cancer took him. I couldn’t help it. I was compelled to help him. Reading about his plight hit two nerves in me; one was that like me, he chose to live like tomorrow is not guaranteed; the other was that he at least has a chance to live out his final days the way he wants to. The latter resonated more so because of my brother, who ever since surviving a brain aneurysm has been unable to do just that – live.
Unlike Jon, my brother didn’t have the benefit of foresight for his aneurysm. If my brother had, I’m sure he would’ve done exactly what Jon set out to do before he kicked the bucket. And I would’ve tried everything I could to help my brother in his final days. Now here was Jon, a motorcyclist who was somewhere between my brother and I. So by god I was going to help Jon out of if I could.
Laguna Seca was not set to host the MotoGP championship after 2013, but I invited Jon to consider adding the circuit to his list. If he would, then I would have a bike for him to ride. All he would need to do is get himself out of Seattle and book the event, and I would have bike for him to ride. He took me up on the offer, and I met him for the first time during a Saturday afternoon in May 2014. I delivered him a Yamaha R6 to ride at Laguna Seca, and he and I went to a nearby motorcycle parts store to have fresh track tires installed on the bike. Afterwards, we got to know each other more sitting on the lowered tailgate of my pickup truck. He told me more about his story, and I told him more about my brother and mine.
It’s not uncommon for people to choose to live life like tomorrow may never come, but I think in some ways, being able to truly understand the reasons behind why we have chosen to do the same is what really related Jon and I with each other.
I didn’t see him again until after his trackday when he returned the bike, and again we went our separate ways.
In The End
I didn’t know that Jon had made a donation in my honor to The Aneurysm and AVM Foundation, a cause that was close to me and my brother. I received a notice of his donation in August 2014, but it had gone to my spam folder. It took fifteen days after the donation for me to see his message. In it he wrote:
I’ve been reflecting on this past year, and I thought about my trip and meeting you. I just wanted to show a token of appreciation for your generosity. I know this is a cause which is important to you. My health has been good so far, and I am trying to make the best of this summer. Just going out and having fun is easy, living purposefully and authentically is hard. I hope things are going well with you. I hope you’ve been getting out there and riding.
I thanked him for his donation and his message, and again for letting me be a part of his bucket list adventure. I told him that much like I owed it to my brother to never stop living like there is no tomorrow, I now owed him the same after meeting him.
You don’t need to live for anyone but yourself. The important part is to be in touch with what really matters to you and to fight for it with all your heart.
That was Jon’s last advice. He passed away two years later, in August of 2016.
My brother passed away in October 2018.
Jon meant well, telling me to live for myself. But what he maybe did not realize was that dedicating how I live my life to people like him and my brother was me being in touch with what really mattered to me. That having known people like him who actually did live their last days to their fullest, and people like my brother who never even got that chance, I do want to live a life in honor of them.
Because I am not going to squander the opportunity I now have that neither one of them had.
It’s because Jon and my brother can no longer keep going that I do, and their memories serve to keep fueling what life is left in me to not just move forward, but to ride for a reason.
I ride on and live on for people like them.