Thoughts on leaving this a better world
by Dick Yarbrough
September 15, 2012 12:27 AM | 1122 views | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Dick Yarbrough
Dick Yarbrough
This was not a good week for me. It is the fourth anniversary of the loss of our oldest grandson, Zack, who died while training for the Atlanta Marathon, an event in which he had participated several times. To this day I don’t know exactly what happened and why. All I know is that Zack is gone and a bright future has gone with him.

Now, I write my first column since the passing of my friend, Otis Brumby Jr. I think just about everything that could be said about him has been said and by more important people than me. I will only add this: Otis was my friend for more than 40 years and that friendship never wavered. Not for one day.

There were times when my over-the-top opinions made for some uncomfortable moments for both of us. When he disagreed with me, which was not often, he would call me and tell me why he did. He was usually correct. But not once did he ever tell me what to write or not to write and there were more than a few times — many more — that Otis Brumby gamely took the heat for me as I verbally scorched the earth.

As for Zack, he was the light of my life. His smile could light up a room. He was an athlete and a scholar in the pure sense of the word. Zack was also an unapologetic and unrepentant Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket in the midst of a Bulldog family, well along the way to graduation.

Losing Zack made me reassess my priorities. I had grown up believing that if I had some measure of control in the events impacting my life, everything would be OK. I was not a control freak; just someone who had great confidence in my abilities to make things happen the way I wanted them to happen.

Today, I realize how little control we really do exercise. Sure, we can control our weight, our attitude, our finances and the quality of our decisions — whether to drive too fast or drink too much — but what we can’t control are the vagaries of life. Life is fragile and unpredictable.

Zack’s untimely death has given me a new perspective and I have learned a lot about myself since that fateful day. My faith has been severely tested — and thankfully has survived. I am not angry at God. I must assume there is some higher meaning that I am not privy to.

In the meantime, I have discovered an equation that says the more something costs, the less likely its ultimate value. The opposite is true, as well. Automobiles and HDTVs are expensive. They are also temporary because there will soon a newer and better model available.

Hugs, on the other hand, are different. They cost nothing and — as the commercial says — they are priceless. The last time I saw Zack, I hugged him. That hug will last me for the rest of my life. He knew I loved him.

It is the same with friendships. They, too, are priceless. As I reflect on my friendship with Otis Brumby this week I think not about his newspaper or my column within it, although I am grateful for the opportunity he gave me to have a conversation with you each week.

Rather, I think of our discussions about our families. I think about our mutual affection for UGA and our labors of love for our respective Methodist churches. I think about his homemade Brunswick stew which was a source of great pride to him. It should have been. It was good stuff.

Otis and I shared the friendship of another great man, Jasper Dorsey, a native Mariettan who was my boss at Southern Bell and who later became a columnist for the MDJ. He was a mentor to us both. One of Mr. Dorsey’s strong beliefs was that we should leave this a better world than we found it. I believe this is exactly how Otis Brumby will be remembered — as someone who made this a better world by the way he lived his life. I’m not sure I’m there yet.

I think Jasper Dorsey would tell me that a good place to start would be to emulate the example of this giant of a man who achieved so much and of the young man who was on this earth for too short a time. They passed through my life and enriched it greatly by their words and deeds. Maybe I can do the same for someone else. Maybe you can, too. And together, we might just leave this world better than we found it. I sure hope so.

You can reach Dick Yarbrough at or P.O. Box 725373, Atlanta, Georgia 31139.
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