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Whoever crosses paths with Adam Jingo Johnson feels they’ve instantly found a friend for life. He’s warm, friendly, honest and wants the remaining days of his life to be filled with positivity. 

He’s always been a positive light within The Celebrant Society community. On the 3rd of February he shared with us all about his terminal illness, he told us he was retiring from Celebrancy, handing over a heap of ceremonies to fellow TCS members, and he gave us his closing tips:

1. Charge your equipment to max on the 1st day of every month.

2. Don’t allow anything to come between your microphone and the PA System. 

3. Be you. That’s why they booked ya; you goose. 

4. And charge as much as you can. You’re a business; treat it that way.

Like many of us, I was personally moved by his open approach to death and dying. I get a little tired of people who look at death as something that’s morbid, especially when it’s inevitable for every single person on the planet. So, I reached out to him to see if he’d be open to sharing more, and even though his time is so very precious, he obliged.

A boy from the bush Jingo grew up in Mudgee. He was the angry teen who would wrestle pigs and start fights everywhere, especially on the footy pitch. If someone dared him to eat glass at the bar, he’d do it. In fact, he thought he was that much of a menace growing up, he was completely shocked during the birth of Facebook, when the girls he used to go to school with sent him a friend request. That’s probably because one of his rules for life is to never treat a woman with any disrespect.


He met Liz at the local shopping centre. His best mate was going out with her best mate. Liz was playing on one of those mechanical horses when he turned to his mate and said, “I’m going to marry her”. He didn’t realise it at the time, but he worked with Liz’s mum Barb at the local winery’s cellar door, where he would often turn up stoned to work. When he rocked up to Liz’s house to pick her up, Barb opened the door. All she saw was the pot smoking, wine swilling yahoo from work, and she slammed the door right in his face.  But he wasn’t giving up that easy, I mean, this girl was his future wife. 


Liz’s Dad, Roger, a Vietnam veteran, sheep sheerer, had no time for young yahoo’s turning up at the front door asking to see his daughters. He took Jingo out to the back shed, got out his old-timer (a small pocketknife), looked Jingo directly in the eye and said, “this is my castrating knife, if you mess with my daughter, I’ll castrate you”. But regardless of the threat, Jingo was more than happy to treat Roger’s 3rd daughter with the utmost respect.

When he was 20, he grabbed Liz and their baby, Grace, who was one at the time, and drove right out of town, headed for Liz’s Gran’s place in Port Macquarie.  Once there he told them he was going to keep driving until he found somewhere nice for them to live. As he made his way up the Bruce Hwy, he drove over a bridge into a town called Maroochydore and he saw crystal blue water.  After he got a room in the pub for the next week, he walked across the road to the ginormous Big Top Shopping Centre, that had an international food court and found the Donner Kebab. Not being a worldly person, he thought he’d struck heaven. He called back to Liz and told her, “The food is unbelievable, the water is blue, we’re living here”.

Jingo agrees that we do death terribly in the western world, and he believes it’s because we were brought up by the people of the generation who fought in WWII. He told me, “We were told when to talk, eat, sleep, everything was so black and white. They had no idea how to approach anything except survival, so approaching death or mourning in a modern world in any which way but morbid was just unheard of”.  

“Our kids, Grace 28, Jack 22, and Oscar 13 are the first generation to have their own voice and opinions listened to, so they won’t battle with the same type of morbid conversations that many of us have surrounding the inevitable.”

He started planning for his death about 10 years ago. He lost his dad at age 13, and his mum at age 18, both were 40 when they died of cancer so he knew the same could happen to him. As soon as he could, he took out the premium life insurance.

In 2017, he created The Johnson Boys Code of Conduct that went viral. It’s a list of 40 rules that he wanted his boys to live by. “It’s not new, it’s not rocket science, I printed it out and stuck it to the wall. I told my boys, if I die you will live by these rules until you are your own men, this will set you up for life”.


Jingo has worked across 3 industries in his life. Starting in the wine industry as a teen in Mudgee. Then in the wedding and funeral industries, he’s learned his own approach to dealing with death. “If you approach it the same way it’s always been approached such as, here’s Bill, Bill was born on such a day, went to school here, then in 1980 he did this… everyone falls asleep, and they walk out and wonder what to do next”.


He has everything planned out spiritually and financially, right down to what words will be said and what drinks will be poured at his own funeral. He wants the people to walk away with a direct message from him, so they know exactly what to do when they walk outside. He doesn’t say what he’s created is right, he’s not even asking for anyone to like it, but that’s what he wants to do and that’s okay.

He’s had very open conversations with his friends and family. During a family trip to Moreton Island, a regular holiday destination for the Johnsons. They were driving through an area with walls of earth on either side of them and a canopy of trees above. He turned to his son Jack and said, “when I die, you’re going to bring my ashes here and spread them all around.”  By simply saying this to his son, before anyone knew he was dying, he’s planted the seed, so when he does pass-on there’s no confusion. 

He’s calm and carefree. He has no frustrations, no hatred, all he has is happiness and peace.

I asked him why he wasn’t angry? He thought hard about his response, and he knows he must be careful what he says as everyone’s experience is very different, this is solely from his own experience and perspective.

Burying both his parents at such a young age, he knows cancer well, he’s lived it. He said, “people want to hate cancer, and you can’t be seen as friending the enemy. But I don’t see cancer as the enemy, I see it as something quite peaceful and giving. To a degree, I’m honoured to have it”. 

“Dying with something like cancer, a slow death, allows me to make the choices of how I spend my time, I choose who I talk to, who I spend my time with, I know I’ll open a very expensive pinot noir for dinner tonight and if I don’t have the one I want, I’ll go to the shop and buy the right one. Having cancer gives me the luxury to have all the conversations, the hard ones, the funny ones, the loving ones.”

“The day I was diagnosed, a guy was tragically killed in a car accident caused by a woman who was drunk and stoned in a stolen car. Then, a few days later Turkey fell apart – these people didn’t have the luxury I have, so it would not be right of me to waste the time I’ve been given. Those people would give anything to have an extra day, an extra conversation.” 

“Cancer gives me the luxury of time, of course it comes at a cost, like the ongoing pain and fatigue I feel daily – but what doesn’t cost in life?”

He knows many people won’t agree with or understand his point of view. If someone had come up to him when he was burying his mother at 18 and told him; ‘At least she had the luxury of time’, he would’ve punched them in the face! 

But now as a man about to turn 50 he really feels content in the knowing that he’s lived the best life he can live.

He talks of his life in two distinct sections, before Liz and after Liz. Once he met Liz, his life just became so much better and brighter. He started to find peace within himself that’s only grown with time. Over 30 years together they’ve built a happy family, and a loving home. They’ve succeeded in both of their careers and in their marriage. 

He registered as a Celebrant back in 2015. Like many of us, after MC’ing half a dozen weddings or so. He considered Celebrancy after the umpteenth person told him that he should. He travelled up to Rockhampton and completed the course in a couple of days, and after falling into the same traps as everyone; how much do I charge? how do I get a website without any photos? how do I get photos? He found his position in the sun. 

He never tries to be funny, or cool but he adds a level of sincerity that everyone will remember. He’ll get nana up, surprising her to repeat after him as he announces the couple as married, or he’ll get the groom to go up to his mum just before his bride is about to walk the aisle and whisper into her ear, ‘Thank you for everything you’ve ever done for me’. He’ll cue the photographer up for these moments and they become some of the most treasured parts of the wedding. 

He stumbled across The Celebrant Society; he doesn’t remember how but he’s bloody glad he did. In the beginning he got really involved and commented all the time, and then after a while he decided maybe he didn’t need it anymore and looked at other insurance options. Then he noticed that it wasn’t really that different in price, but with TCS you also get this wonderful and supportive community that’s always there for you. And so, he stayed. 

Jingo plays in a couple of different industries and he reckons that there is nothing quite like TCS anywhere, that has such a great, supportive, and safe community of like minded people. When he announced he was sick, the TCS community raised some money for him to have a lovely experience with his family. Upon receiving it he said, 

 “I’m in tears; as is my wife. I’ve done nothing but just be me… At a time when all of us in the industry have hurt and lost, you’ve chosen to give. The lesson here… you just be you! Don’t copy or try to fit in. Be different, be  everything you can be. Try, fail, fall and get up again. When others look at you like you’ve do something wrong; it’s because you tried. People appreciate (and apparently reward) authenticity. What will I do with this most generous gift? Fu*k it; I’ll place it all on black at the ‘big house’ (casino) … joking… No, I won’t.  We are sitting at home planning my exit party for a large 2 day gathering for my closest 150-200 friends on a nearby rural property. I’m thinking that this will go towards securing a fun activity for all on night 1; Drag Queen Bingo. I think that’s fitting, inclusive, flamboyant, bright, colourful and entertaining; just like my mob at T.C.S.”


He was diagnosed with stage 5 advanced prostate cancer in mid-January of this year. Basically, his testosterone is feeding a tumour. The doctors have given him a pill to kill the testosterone. The side effects are along the same lines as menopause. Once the tumour is weakened, he will begin radiation therapy.

He’s so pragmatic about it all, he told me, “If I can get 12 good months, I’ll be so stoked! All the family are aware of what’s going on, and they get first chance of questions at each stage. All the group chats are set up across the entire family and friend groups. My family know which pills are for what”.

He’s activated euthanasia for himself, and all his doctors are aware of his wishes. On top of this, because he started paying the premium health insurance 10 years ago, Liz, Grace, Jack, and Oscar will be completely looked after once he’s passed. 

Adam Jingo Johnson has thought of absolutely everything. His family are young enough, and financially set up enough to enable a very comfortable life.

His kids will be looked after. His wife will have time to live her life all over again, and experience stuff that she never would’ve experienced with him. He tells me, “Liz loves the Aurora Lights, she loves the sea, and she loves turtles. When Liz smiles again, she’ll meet someone who’s been to the Aurora Lights 5 times, and is going again next year, and just finished up at a marine rescue hospital”. He says this with a content smile on his face.

In the time since he’s been diagnosed, he says he hasn’t learned anything new about life nor does he have anything he’s busting to do, because he’s had it planned out for so long. He says, “dying people will often tell you to hug this person more, and tell that person you love them, and yeah, I get that. But I don’t see light or dark in a different way, everything is the same. Although I have spent a lot of time landscaping and putting in watering systems and sprinklers, so the gardening is easier for Liz.”

His biggest advice on life is “when someone asks you how you are, don’t use double negatives like; ‘not bad’, use double positives like; ‘absolutely awesome’. If you say that 100 times a week, you’ll start to believe it. And use the good tea set, the chips and the marks are all part of the story, the story isn’t sitting up in the attic”.

His biggest advice for Celebrants; “don’t copy everyone else, write a ceremony script that no one else has ever seen, and present it as though it’s the one and only wedding ceremony that’s ever happened”. 

He’s very proud of the person he’s become and he’s truly thankful for every opportunity that he’s grabbed in life.

And he will go out content knowing that his family will feel about him the way he does for them – with enormous pride and satisfaction, and that is all that matters.

He tells me he is the happiest dying man alive.

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Author Bio

Victoria Armstrong

Victoria is a full time Australian marriage celebrant and lover of love in the Northern Rivers region, and our local leader for the great state of NSW. She moved to Ballina almost 8 years ago from Sydney and has found her little slice of paradise.
She loves dogs, people, pretty dresses, swimming in the sea and the colour pink. She doesn’t love washing the dishes, cleaning the glass in the shower or eating eggplant. When she’s not frocking up to marry people you can find her walking her four legged bestie – Gidget, enjoying rose’ with her girlfriends or getting away and camping in the back of her fiance’s van somewhere along the east coast of Australia. Her life is pretty great!