This post originally appeared on The Thundering Herd website – June 14, 2011
On Sunday evening, the world lost a great man. He may not have been famous and most of you may never have met him, but he was great nonetheless. I want to take a moment to tell you about him.
He was the eighth of nine children and he lost his father when he was only 5. But adversity was no excuse to fail to achieve his dreams.
He served his country proudly in the U.S. Army and, thus, demonstrated self-sacrifice and duty to country. The Army sent him to language school where he learned to speak, read and write Mandarin (Chinese) – a life lesson that you can learn absolutely anything if you simply set your mind to it.
The Army and a series of jobs funded his way to the University of Tennessee. By focusing and achieving his goal, he taught the value of determination.
Upon graduating from college, he went to work for a company and remained with them through his entire 38-year career. The company faced many financial challenges over the years, as many in the textile industry did, but he remained faithful to them until the day he retired. The value of loyalty.
He was married for 52 years. We cherish the 50th Wedding Anniversary celebration that we helped him celebrate two years ago. And we cherish the hundreds of funny little stories of family events over the years. The importance of family.
In these last few years, as a disease (progressive supranuclear palsy) robbed him of his body and mind, he taught us what is really important in life – simply sitting, talking and sharing time. Not to mention, we learned the power of a canine as Cheoah visited first him in his nursing home – and then a series of other patients as they looked for Cheoah during our Sunday visits. What another great lesson – simply pause for a moment and make a stranger smile.
He told me a thousand times that I could be whatever I wanted to be and then he supported those dreams. We siblings are different than each other and pursued different dreams, but he encouraged each of those dreams equally and celebrated our differences.
He guided me. He taught me. When needed, he disciplined me. And when I was out on my own, he became my coach and advisor. I sought his counsel often.
Sure, he taught me how to catch a baseball, throw a football, and shoot a mean right hook. But mostly, he taught me the honor of a life lived well.
Yes, the world on Sunday night lost a great man. The world lost my dad.
I can do only one thing to honor that memory – continue to make him proud. I will do what he always asked me to – I will do my absolute best.
I love you, Dad.