For any teen, 16 is a milestone. Jonathan, however, was still recovering from the loss of his father, who’d passed away suddenly on April 1.
Jonathan’s birthday was in early June. While he was grateful to enjoy the day with his family, he knew that he’d also be spending the day without his dad.
But Johnathon’s father, John, still made his presence known. Months before he passed away, he’d visited a local music store to buy a gift for his son.
John had been visiting the music store with Johnathon for the past year; the Michigan teen had been taking guitar lessons, and he’d become an avid heavy metal fan. At one point, he mentioned to his father that he’d been dreaming of a Dean Razorback guitar.
“[The guitar] is very sharp and angular. It looks almost like lightning,” said store owner Pete Kruse in an interview with CNN.
John paid for the guitar in full, but because he wanted to surprise Johnathon, he asked Kruse to hold onto the instrument for several months. The plan was to bring Johnathon into the store for a lesson, then surprise him.
“We tucked it away for him so nobody would play it,” Kruse said.
But sadly, John Crow died of a heart attack, leaving his family devastated. While they grieved, Johnathon’s sister Chandler learned of the gift.
She decided to surprise the 16-year-old, blindfolding him and bringing him into the music store. There, she gave him a card from their father. The music store’s staff brought out a big, black case, and that’s when the tears started.
“It was a really emotional moment for everybody,” said Kruse. “Not a dry eye in the house.”
Chandler recorded that moment, then posted it online. It quickly went viral, attracting nearly 14,000 shares on social media and racking up more than 12 million views.
The comments on the video were almost universally positive.
“That poor child to lose his dad at such a young age,” one comment reads. “Such sweet, painful sorrow this must have been for him.”
“Happy birthday,” another user wrote. “I know how it feels to be without a father.”
Soon, the internet mobilized, creating a fund for Johnathon’s future guitar lessons. The crowdfunding campaign quickly surpassed its goal, earning more than $17,000.
Obviously, that far exceeded the cost of a lifetime of lessons.
“We don’t need to give Johnny lessons for the next 16 years,” joked Kruse.
Instead, the shop is helping the Crow family find an attorney who can help them manage the funds.
“I understand that he’s a straight-A student and he aspires to go to college,” Kruse said.
The video also attracted attention from celebrities. Johnathon is reportedly a big fan of rock band Alice Cooper, and after hearing of the video, the heavy metal legends reached out to offer the teen backstage passes to a nearby concert.
The internet’s generosity is, of course, limited, and nothing can make up for the loss of a family member. However, we’re hoping that the goodwill helps the Crow family grieve and that John’s final gift keeps on giving.