Scroll through John Travolta’s Instagram and a theme quickly emerges: Family is everything.
From a picture of his daughter Ella, 21, of whom he says, “I’m a very proud dad,” to a video with his son Ben, 10, cheering on the Bolts in the Stanley Cup playoffs, to photos of his wife, Kelly Preston, who died at 57 of breast cancer last year, family holds a pride of place in his heart. “John’s kids have always meant the world to him, but now, with Kelly gone, more than ever,” a friend of the actor tells Closer. “He’s just super present. That’s changed.”
John, 67, has been reevaluating a lot lately. He’s traveling less, taking on fewer roles, and has sold two of his and Kelly’s vacation homes, in Maine and Florida. “I learned that crying for someone, living in mourning, is something personal,” says John of what Kelly’s death has taught him. “Mourning is individual, and experiencing your own journey is what can lead to healing.” Now, he spends more time than ever with Ella and Ben. And after the past year of reflection, John is emerging back into the public eye, filming a new movie, Paradise City, costarring Bruce Willis, and talking about what’s next.
“First of all, I will ensure the future of my children,” he says, “help them with what they want to do with their lives.”
John is no stranger to grief. He and Kelly lost their son Jett, 16, in 2009 following a seizure during which he hit his head. The couple weathered that tragedy privately, and with Kelly’s passing, John faced new challenges — like talking about death to his son. “[Ben] said to me once, ‘Because Mom passed away, I’m afraid you’re going to,’” John recalls. “I said, ‘Well, it’s a very different thing.’ And I went through the differences about my longevity and her limited life. I said, ‘But you know, Ben … you always love the truth, and I’m going to tell you the truth about life. Nobody knows when they’re gonna go or when they’re going to stay…. You just do your best at trying to live the longest you can.’”
John also aims to teach his son how to live by example. “He’s never taken life for granted,” says the friend. “Ever since Jett passed, John’s lived life to its fullest, but he’s more introspective now. He’s committed to making sure Ella and Ben are happy and cared for in every way.” To that end, John’s helping Ella with her acting career and making sure Ben does well in school. He has “a nanny and friends who are there for him,” the friend adds, among them, especially, is John’s Grease costar Olivia Newton-John. “That bond was created many years ago,” John explained, “and I don’t think it will ever break.”
As for moving on romantically, “John’s not ready,” notes the friend. “He’s open to love, but down the road.” For now, he will continue to focus on his children. “I’m just sorting out what’s next,” John admits. “Ben is barely 10 years old. I want to help him evolve. He has his whole life ahead of him.” No doubt that’s exactly what Kelly would have wanted. “Kelly’s dream was to see her kids grow up, get married, have children of their own,” the friend tells Closer. “John wants to be Kelly’s eyes, he wants her to smile down from heaven.”