Birthday Reflection

Every year I try to take time to reflect on my life, taking a checkpoint on the journey.  As I hit a milestone birthday, I reflect back on people that have had the most impact in my life.   I have been blessed with so many wonderful friends, family members, coworkers, and people during each phase of my life.  My mother taught me respect, compassion, kindness and love. My father taught me strength, sacrifice and how to take care of my family.  My friends have taught me loyalty, challenged my thinking, and shaped my ideas of the world around me.  My children have helped me reconnect with innocence and kindness.   However, there is one person who has had the greatest influence on me throughout my life, my wife Nell. She has done more to show me, push me, pull me, support me, and love me along the way.  She is an incredible role model and I am confident that I am a better person today because of her than I could ever hope to be on my own.

I have found that it is not just people, but organizations that shape each of us as well.  The groups of people that we choose to spend our time with have an impact on us.  Be it sports, music, theatre, or service groups.  The groups evolve us because of the nature of the people in those groups that we choose to associate with.  In my case, scouting is the organization responsible for having the greatest impact in my life.  Beyond the obvious goals of scouting to teach leadership and citizenship through outdoor activities, several of my oldest and dearest friends can be traced back to the days of hiking and camping in the woods of Virginia through my early teenage years.  Later, when my own boys became scouts, scouts reminded me why this is such an important organization in the development of young people and offers opportunities no other your organization can.

When a scout first joins a troop, the first four ranks are based on mastering the basic skills around citizenship, camping, hiking, first aid, fitness, and working as a team.  Once a scout achieves the rank of first class, each new rank requires a position of leadership.  The objective is to take the skills that you have mastered, use them, and give back to others who follow behind you.

This really feels like a metaphor for me today.  Hopefully, by this point, I have mastered the basic and necessary life skills.  Now it is time for me to reflect and give back to those who follow me.  I look for ways to show my paved path to those that follow behind me or help them find their own path.  Give back to my neighbors, my community, and my fellow man.

As I begin this new path, I have culminated a list of organizations, all of which give back in some respect to the community in which I live.

Community Organizations

My friends and I are all very blessed.  We all have our struggles and strife.  With that said, I hope each of you will take a few moments to look at this list and choose to give back to one that represents what is important in your life.

I appreciate all your friendships and well wishes on this special day.  Please join me in helping those around us.

Honoring My Mother

(This is a repost from an earlier blog)

My mother, Sue Dillard, passed away on May 8th.  Here is her obituary.  The following are my remarks from her memorial service.

Thank You all for coming today.  It means a great deal to our family to have you all here to remember such a special person.
It has been a comforting reminder these last few weeks to hear others describe our mother.  Words that kept coming up are sweet, kind, caring, loving, Christian.  She was certainly all of these things.  But one word I don’t think came up often enough was tough.
She was certainly tender, kind, and caring, but it was only in the past few years that I realized just how strong and tough she was.  Mom was part of what Tom Brokaw described as our “Greatest Generation”, and for good reason.  Mom was born into the Great Depression.  She lost a brother to a car accident at a young age.  She was a teenager during WWII.  She suffered the deaths of her own parents within six months of each other in two different hospitals, all with a toddler “me”  at home.  She was a survivor of breast cancer.  She spent the past five years on dialysis 3 days/week and two years ago, she literally bounced back from a broken hip.  Not to mention the death stare she would throw our way when we did wrong.  It still intimidates me picturing it, and I’m still working to master it.
Through all of her personal hardships, she sacrificed so that her children could have something better.  If her path in life had turned differently, I think she would have been an incredible financial manager.  What she did with a checkbook to raise 3 children, one of which on retirement benefits, still has me in awe.  There may have been many things I  WANTED growing up, but I was never short on anything I ever needed or that really mattered.  It was an inside joke in our house that if Dad ever asked how much something cost, we told him half the real cost.
Mom was a caring person, who was happiest just having those she loved close by. I could always catch a smile on her face just sitting among her children and grandchildren and being part of their lives. Her strong sense of home and family has roots in her history.  As my sister Betty and I researched our ancestry, we discovered so much of Mom’s history was in Brunswick County where she grew up.  We have traced her family back to the early 18th century, all in Brunswick County.  So much of her history was born, married and died in Brunswick County.  It was no wonder she always enjoyed just staying close to home.
Her sister Frances was one of her closest confidants.  They often spent weekends on the Eastern Shore at flea markets, antique stores, and garden shops.  One time she even came home with a goat( a story I will save for the reception). Her cousin and childhood friend Hilda is here today and has shared many stories of their time together as young girls.  The family was so very important to her.  It gave me great joy that we could give her one more time with all her children when we celebrated her last birthday and my son Jackson’s Eagle Scout ceremony.  It was a wonderful day I won’t soon forget.
Something you might not know, Mom enjoyed sports.  She and I usually watched baseball.  It didn’t even matter who was playing.  I thank her for showing me such a wonderful game that I now enjoy sharing with my son Bennett.  One of my favorite memories was with her last Thanksgiving.  Everyone here knows what an “enthusiastic” fan I am of Virginia Tech football.  Mom stayed up with me on Saturday night to watch VT vs UVA game.  It was an exciting game that went down to the final minutes.  She stayed up with me until midnight watching until the final play.  The poor woman wouldn’t even get up to go to the bathroom.
Along with my sister Vivian, I thank my mom for inspiring my love of the outdoors.  Not many women would start sleeping in a tent around age 50 so their son could have that opportunity, but my mom did.  She supported my time in scouting and made sure I was able to have as many adventures as possible.
I credit my mother with teaching me to respect everyone regardless of position and circumstance.  She taught me compassion, humility, and faith.  Most of all she instilled in me a love of life and an optimism for the future.  She has made me who I am in more ways than one.
I would be remiss if I did not take a moment to thank everyone at Covenant Woods.  This place was a blessing in every sense of the word for Mom, and our family.  The quality of life it gave her for almost ten years cannot be overstated.  Throughout her time here, she was treated with caring, kindness, respect and above all love.
Sue Dillard lived a long and fulfilling life.  A life of joy and sadness. A life of challenges and rewards. We may have laid her body to rest, but who she is will carry on in each of us.  We are all grateful for her love, her smile, and her kindness.  Today we honor her and her quiet strength.
In closing, I leave all of you with this.  My hope for everyone here is that your grief and loss will soon transform into the warmth of wonderful memories of an amazing soul who loved all of us deeply.  Let us all continue to love each other as she loved us.

May God Bless You and Keep You All

Thank You

Brave young man

Today I saw one of the bravest moments I have witnessed in my life.  I attended a funeral yesterday for a man that died suddenly, leaving behind a wife and two teenage sons.  I myself lost my own father when I was young, but I was 24 years old.  These boys were 15 and 13.  Much too young to lose someone so important in their life.  As the memorial service progressed, the pastor indicated several people had thoughts to share.  The first person was the youngest son.  A quiet and shy young man, he gathered the courage to talk about what a wonderful father he had lost.  He talked about how fun his father was and how much he would be missed.  In the face of such pain, grief, and shock, I was in awe of the courage it took to stand in front of a packed hall and talk about his father.  Later the older brother spoke as well.  It was a powerful reminder of how fragile our life and our love is.  Although I did not know the man well, I do know this.  He could not have been more proud to see how his sons handled this painful moment with strength and dignity.