Posted by: Ted Mattis | 20/07/2010

THE GREATEST MAN I’VE EVER KNOWN

Well, what can I really say that truly conveys my heart right now nearly a week after my father and I said goodbye?  There was no other man I respected more, admired more, trusted more, loved more and … forgiven more.  We found together over the last few years a love that can only truly be explained spiritually.  It was the sheer grace of God that moved between us that enabled us to laugh and love together. We shared a common earthiness in our faith- we loved the same things (the country, country music, horses, music, stillness and action).  He was a man of great passion and was passionate for finding and stimulating greatness in others.  He never stopped in that quest. Before he was too sick to go any further, he spent his last days with my children sharing and teaching them of his last great love- diving- and experiencing the magnificence of creation below the surface of the water.  He was imputing greatness to them- moving them to seize the opportunity to be bigger than they are.  He expanded minds and mindsets.  He challenged convention and re-created a world around him bigger than convention.  He was his own man.

Many who only knew Dad in the last few years of his life  cannot appreciate the wonder of his whole life.  They simply enjoyed the fruits of his previous years.  He loved you dearly.  But at 68 years of age, the past 6 years were merely a tenth of his life- just one tenth- not the whole.  To assume that the last six to ten years defined him entirely would truly be to NOT know him, or simply put, to be ignorant and at worst dishonoring.  His last years indeed were extraordinary but no less so than the previous 62. His whole life is why he is and will always be my hero.

Born on a military base in 1941, he didn’t see his father until he was four years old who returned from WWII suffering from Tuberculosis.  He spent much of his young life in the place of his father’s convalescence- the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania where he absorbed a love for the mountains and the natural world.  Driven by his blessed but demanding mother, he entered college at 15 and a half, graduated with a Master’s Degree at 21 years of age and was immediately jettisoned into the world of international pharmaceuticals.   At 23, he married my mother, now Patsy Cuthbert and they took off to conquer the world. They did.  Australia, Hong Kong, Philippines, Paris, New York…they did it all.  Discovering the wonders of places like the Taj Mahal, Kabul, Afghanistan, the Great Barrier Reef, Ayer’s Rock – the center of Australia’s outback, deep into the heart of China and into the wilds of Africa. By the time he was 35 he spoke approximately 9 languages fluently.  He lived a big life.

Dad’s professional genius  shaped the current pharmaceutical industry as we know it today. Before building a horse ranch, he built an international culture.  In 1993 he was named the first “Pharmaceutical Executive of the Year” by Pharmaceutical Executive Magazine.  He was named  “Outstanding Alumnus” by The A.B. Freeman School of Business at Tulane University.  He served as a director of Solomon Brothers Asset Management and on a number of corporate, association, non-profit and philanthropic boards including chairing The Advisory Board of the A.B. Freeman School of Business at Tulane University; Governor of The Center For Creative Leadership; Honorary Chairman of the Special Olympics; Partner in the New York City Partnership; and member of The National Council for Health Education, The Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Association and The Non-Prescription Drug Manufacturers Association.  It is indeed quite a resume.  He was quite an exceptional leader in his field.

It did, however, come with a high price.  The struggles Dad experienced after his retirement were the building blocks of who he became in his last few years.  It was upon the backs of those closest to him, as well as his own, that he learned through suffering the greater value of relationship vs. recognition.  In his first 55 years he was driven by recognition.  He accomplished the extraordinary. But his last ten were no less extraordinary and perhaps more so.  Dad lived a quote that he had framed in his office from Khalil Gibran- a Lebanese-American philosophical essayist, novelist, mystical poet, and artist.  It went like this: “When you have reached the mountaintop, then you shall begin to climb.”  The full quote is even more profound and reveals more of the man he became.

“Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing.
And when you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin to climb.
And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance.”

In his last ten years, his accomplishment was equally as significant.  He was driven by relationship- with God, Judy, me and my sister, his seven grandchildren and whatever lost or hurting soul God brought onto his path. But one thing never changed in my father whether it was in the corporate field or in the fields of Colorado, he sought after greatness in his own life and those around him…in fact, he did not accept anything less from himself or anyone else.  If there was anything that he desired for everyone he knew it was that we not be satisfied with where and who we are. For sure we are to embrace our lives, accept who we are, but seek to be more today than we were yesterday.  Love better.  Give more of yourself and take less. Give the best of yourself to those who matter and need it.  And as he said to me repeatedly- choose to be with people who strengthen you, who are willing to give and receive charity, give for the joy of giving and run like hell from those who only want to suck the life out of you. Life’s too short to fill your world with as……     well, I’ll leave it at that.

My sister (Debbie) and I truly grieve my father more deeply than I think each of us anticipated.  We have loved him, endured him,  forgiven him and then loved him again more deeply for 45 years.

The only thing I’d trade for those 45 years?  To have him back for just one more day.

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