Recently, I’ve experienced three different deaths from men I have known and had an influence in my life. All three gave me a lesson to consider and their words still stick in my mind. I want to share their knowledge.
The first man was a man that I’ve known for a long time. He was a family friend and I grew up with a few of his sons. His name was Ray Dunn. He was very close to my father. I only met the man a few times, but I heard many stories about the great things he’s done with his life. He sold the health care company that he founded for millions of dollars and then proceeded to form a non-profit and build hospitals around the world. He took his success and decided to give back to society and help others. He was a great man. Even though I only knew him for a brief time, he left me with one message that I’ll never forget.
When my business was failing and I was asking my father for help, he decided to call his friend Ray because he knew that he would have some advice. Now to understand I needed a lot of financial help, so I was excited to get the call. When Ray finally did call, I picked up the phone with anticipation expecting someone to come in and save me, but instead of a financial gift he gave me advice that has stuck with me for my entire life. It was October 2008.
“Greg, this economy is never going to recover. Not for a long, long time and you do not have the money to sustain yourself until then. I want you to sell your business, file for bankruptcy, and close your doors today. I mean go downstairs right now, fire everybody, tell them to leave, and tell them that you have to close your doors. Save your family Greg, live to fight another day, it is the only option you have. “I hung up the phone in shock and disbelief.
I never took Ray’s advice. Instead I held on and eventually my business failed. I never filed bankruptcy and instead ended up getting charged criminally for theft and having to go away to prison for 14 months. This man’s advice was solid and true and I should have listened. After he passed away, just a few days ago, my mother said something to me that has stuck with me.
“I want you to honor Ray’s memory” were her words. I sat back and thought about what she meant. Thinking about the life this man lived and all the good he did for others, I realized that I’m not doing enough. That I have to do more. I feel I have to help as many people as possible to honor his memory and to honor myself.
I have been volunteering for years but I decided to step up my game and join another organization called Defy Ventures. Now I am helping others overcome the obstacles of progressing out of prison. I will live my life in service to others from his example.
The second man that recently passed away, was not somebody I knew at all. Presently, I’m remodeling homes on the side to make some extra income, and he was my electrician. His name was Charles Hadad. He was a sweet, kind man, an ethical man, one of the few people with these traits that I’ve had the experience of doing business with in the construction industry.
I honestly trusted him because I could see it in his eyes that he was caring. A couple of times I knew he was stretched thin and having financial struggles. He asked me to give him an advance on his pay. Which I politely declined, because that’s not something I do.
After a while he was slow showing up to the job, and then I found out he was in the hospital. Of course, I felt bad and wondered why, he said, “Oh I’m just in here getting a check-up, I had some problems, they’re going to let me out in a few days.” True to his word that’s exactly what happened and he showed up and finished that present job, no issues.
The next month the same thing happened. He was on a job working for me, got sick, went in the hospital, was out for a couple days, said he was having a blood transfusion. I knew he was probably having some kind of kidney failure and I assumed that he was getting dialysis. But I didn’t really know the whole story.
But again, I let it go because he followed through and did what he said he was going to do.
The third time, he disappeared for almost a week, and again, there was no explanation or communication. I did not know what happened and got nervous. When I called, I got a little quick on the phone. My words were “Listen, if you don’t get over here and finish, I’m going to find somebody else to complete the job, I can’t wait anymore”
Answering the question, he said “Listen, my health has been poor and someday you’ll be faced with the same problem and you’ll understand where I’m coming from”. I sat and I thought, I wondered what those words meant, and immediately I grasped it. He was dying. At the time, I really didn’t know for sure but I knew something was drastically wrong. I was too busy with my own problems. But once I heard he had passed I knew what he was sharing. A final few words of wisdom that life is short make the most of it. He was younger than me.
A few years ago, I met a woman who I’m now engaged too. Her name is Julie, and her father’s name was Bob. He was an exceptional man in my eyes for he accomplished many things in his life. He was in the public relations and marketing business for most of his life and built a successful PR company that still exists in Denver.
Until he too fell on economic hard times and lost everything. Unlike me he did file for bankruptcy and closed his doors. He lived to fight another day. He quickly recreated himself and became an artist and an author expressing his creativity. I always admired him for rebounding, even though I never knew him at that time. I often thought about what it must have been like to be at the top of a PR agency, the biggest one in Denver, and then to end up bankrupt at home with no job when you’re 65 years old.
As Bob’s age progressed, he began to get dementia and the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s. I knew him when he was still quick, and I’ll never forget his words the first time I visited his home as he pointed to one of the paintings he made of my fiancée, Julie. I stared at it for a moment admiring her beauty as he said with a twinkle in his eye “Isn’t she beautiful?”
Those words will always stick with me as a man that loves his three daughters.
We went to see him last Father’s Day in the Alzheimer’s home where he had to be placed because his memory was going. He would come in and out of reality for fleeting moments, and we would have some really interesting conversations. He’d remember some things about me and Julie and his past He knew, now, we were engaged, because I had made sure to propose when he was still aware, so we got engaged on Christmas Eve the year before.
As we sat in the visiting room on Father’s Day, we sat down and took a picture. He smiled, as Julie and I were on both sides of him, looking into the camera being held by one of the nurse’s aides.
As we got up from the picture, he grabbed a hold of Julie and looked me in the eye, and the final words that he ever said to me were “Take care of each other.” These words have stuck with me, from a man that knew he was on his way out. A little word of wisdom. A little piece of advice.
Because in the end, the smallest of details or even kind words matter when you’re in a relationship. None of the little false problems you create in your head are real in comparison when you’re facing death’s door.
All of these three men taught me something and in different ways. Yes, there’s been a lot of death in my life recently, but I’m looking back on these lessons that these men have shared, and I’m adjusting the course of my life, at 52, to try to give back, make something of it, and leave my mark on this world so that people will learn from my successes and my mistakes.