Thanksgiving: A Time To Remember Those Who Are Missed

Thanksgiving: A Time To Remember Those Who Are Missed

Thanksgiving: A Time To Remember Those Who Are Missed

 “Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.” ―Marcel Proust

Thanksgiving is a time to reflect and celebrate quality time with family and friends.  It is also a moment when we can stop, breathe and remember those who are no longer with us, but never forgotten.  No one can really escape their past.  For many, we spend our entire lives trying to come to terms with our past and trying to make peace with it.  For those courageous enough, they use the lessons learned to rise above the challenges in life and create their new life. I faced my past head-on and it turned out to be one of the most loving and profound moments in my life and I wanted to share my story with you.  I still recall the day that I received word that Jack White had passed away in Thunder Bay.  Who was Jack White?  He was one of the first adults that I met in my life who told me that they believed in me and that I deserved to have a happy and fulfilling life.

Throughout my misspent youth, I had been told by teachers (and even my own principal) that I should just quit school and that I was what amounted to a loser and offered little value to society or the school I attended.  I grew frustrated and fearful that my behavior was living up to those expectations that others had callously set for me.  My mother was ill my entire childhood and did not live to see 34, while my dad valiantly tried to support the family financially while lacking the tools or time to support us emotionally.  I was an angry and hurt teenager who was quick to settle disputes with my fists, rather than my words.  When Jack entered my life, it seems that not even I believed that life had a purpose for me and I had come to a point where I really didn’t care.  I met Jack White when he was assigned to me as my probation officer, after the police showed up at my Dad’s house during a wild party…again.

Jack was kind, compassionate and got his point across in a way that us kids were not used to.  It seems that the small acts of kindness he showed to me really set into motion the person that I saw myself wanting to become.  I respected the fact that he had his own family, and yet would always make time for me.  I grew to trust myself and my innate abilities and changed my life completely. Jack used to put his arm around me and say, “You’re a good kid and you’re not stupid – you’re smart, but you’re doing stupid things, even though you have the opportunity to change if you want to”.  I decided to use my toughness to create a hard work ethic and simply outworked others who I think had less to prove.  I remember thinking that I wanted to be that person who Jack told me I had the ability to become and channeled my energy on proving him right, and the others wrong. When my son Myles was born 34 years ago I flew back to Thunder Bay from Vancouver to show him off to Jack and maybe more so to show him that what he had done had worked.

Jack’s influence permeated my entire life, and I was blessed to have the opportunity to visit him when I returned home to Thunder Bay on my 60th birthday.  His health had deteriorated and I saw him valiantly battle Alzheimer’s, but to me, he was that same strong man who had unknowingly guided me through life and that positive voice in the back of my head that told me to try something new, and to not fear failure.  When Jack passed away,  I was humbled beyond words when I was asked to fly to Thunder Bay to speak at his funeral.  I wasn’t sure how I would handle the pressure and if I would find the right words to aptly describe this great man, and was quite anxious during the long flight back east.  When I arrived, I was greeted by such an overwhelming love and acceptance by Jack’s wife Betty and their adult children.  They were so happy to see me and really made me feel as though I was part of their family.  I was surprised by the response from Jack’s family after I spoke at the funeral as it turned out that Jack had been very tight-lipped about the teens that he had looked after when he was a probation officer.  I don’t know who benefited more that day – the family or I to share in such an intimate and loving moment of tribute to someone we all loved dearly.

On my even longer flight home (complete with delays and damaged suitcase), I realized the power that each of us possesses.  Had it not been for Jack believing in me, I might not have ever believed in myself.  An act of kindness literally saved my life, and allowed me the opportunity to become a husband, a loving father and a friend to others.  I am grateful that my tenacity prevented me from giving up, and through hard work (which I had never been afraid of), I was able to create a life that I did not ever think that I would have.  Today, I truly appreciate everything and everyone that I have in my life and accept my past without judgment. I truly understand the meaning of “gratitude” and will forever hold Mr. Jack White in my heart for the rest of my life. It is because of Jack that I understand that it doesn’t matter how much money you have or how many possessions you accrue, it all comes down to what people think of you, how many lives you have touched in a positive way and how much others have loved you.  So, this Thanksgiving, enjoy your special celebrations and hoist your glass in celebration of someone you are thankful to have known and loved.  I know that I will.  Happy Thanksgiving to each of you.

Brian McCullough

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