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Despite A Tough Week, Thankfulness Is the Focus

HarrySkipOCSCommissioningLast week my big brother, Harry, passed away.

7-year-old Skip pins Lieutenant bars on big brother Harry after graduating from Officer Candidate School, earning his officer commission in 1967 at Ft. Benning, Georgia.

This past Monday was his funeral.

Leaving the cemetery after a beautiful military funeral (Harry was a Vietnam War veteran, a U.S. Army Captain) my sisters and I felt strange, with my parents leaving us 13 years ago, now it is just three of us to carry on.

In my sister’s elegy I learned some things I never knew about my brother, 16 years my elder.

All were even more things to be proud of and thankful for “our” big brother.

Harry wasn’t perfect, far from it. None of us is, of course.

Harry lived a challenging life, especially after returning from Vietnam, where he served just one tour of duty (which was more than enough for anyone to endure).

Harry did some things wish he did differently.

Sometimes he hurt us.

Sometimes confused us.

Sometimes he helped us.

Sometimes, in good ways, he surprised us.

Sounds like most families and siblings, right?

It took me ‘til the age of 40 to really to start to get to know him.

I’m so thankful for these last 15 years.

One thing I’m most proud of I learned from my one sister for the first time in our post funeral story telling about Harry.

As teenagers in the early 1960s, Harry, the oldest by two years, taught his two younger sisters that there was no difference between people of different skin color.

This was no small feat.

They all grew up in a household where our mother had significant negative opinions of other races, and a father who was ambivalent.

I learned Monday that Harry had a number of friends who were African-American and with no shame brought them into our home, to my mother’s dismay and disapproval.

Where Harry learned this, which what was not just racial tolerance, but racial embracing, we have no idea.

He just had it, and he taught it to his little sisters.

His little sisters passed it on their little brother, me.

So, although at holiday time it’s tough to mourn the loss of a family member, maybe Thanksgiving time is the best time to reflect on what we’re thankful for about those we’ve lost.

I know this year I will be.

So, as Harry once said to me a few years ago upon leaving a special dinner for a friend I invited him to, it’s time for me say, “goodbye, Love You, Bro!”

In honor of Harry, a Vietnam War hero, who in your life (living or passed) are you most thankful for, and why? What lesson(s) did they teach you that you can use this space to say “thanks?”

Please leave your comment below.

’til next time Communicate With Power!

skip-weisman-professional speaker-small business championship coach

There are 21 comments. Add yours.

  1. Glenn Paterson

    My condolences to you and your family on your loss.

    A couple of years ago, my father, who was a WWII Navy veteran, passed away at age 87. Growing up, I didn’t like all the yard work and other chores he had me do, but he did teach me the importance of taking responsibility for one’s work and the value of integrity. He also passed along to me his wonderful sense of humor that I have, in turn, passed along to my daughters, and his gift for making small talk with strangers, often using humorous comments to break the ice.

    I think of him often, as I know you will think of your brother often in the years to come, and whenever I’m feeling low or stressed, I remember an amusing anecdote or joke he liked to tell, and the smile that it brings to my face makes whatever is bothering me a little easier to bear. I wish the memory of your brother does the same for you.

    • Skip Weisman

      Glenn,
      Thank you for your thoughtful comments and sharing remembrances of your father. My father, too, was a WWII Navy veteran. Something we have in common.
      My dad is remembered almost every time I’m driving with my wife. In learning to drive, mostly informally through observing and experiencing my dad’s driving, dad taught me the “rolling stop” at a stop sign on back streets in quiet little neighborhoods. I call it the “Mel Weisman memorial rolling stop.” And my wife always reiterates that statement every time I do it and it always evokes a smile in us.

      Glenn, thank you for your continued interest in my writing and my work. Please come back again and add value to our conversations here.

      Skip

  2. Skip, I’m sorry to learn of your loss but I took comfort in the story you told of your brother Harry. Thoughts and prayers are with you and your family. Wishing you a thankful Thanksgiving.

    • Skip Weisman

      Thank you for your thoughts, Deb. I appreciate your continued interest in my writings and work.
      Best wishes to you and your family, too, for a great Thanksgiving holiday!
      Skip

  3. Thanks, Skip for the comments. They awoke emotions in me when reading it. I’m thankful for my family, especially my children, who, now grown, continually teach me new things about myself. They’ve grown into solid citizens who value honesty, integrity and hard work. I’m thankful for what they’ve decided to become.

    • Skip Weisman

      Tom,
      Thank you for your thoughts and for expressing your comments about your family. It’s great to show appreciation for the things people have done in emulating the lessons they learned growing up in your shadow.
      I truly appreciate your continued interest in my writing and work.
      Have a great Thanksgiving Holiday!
      Skip

  4. Sheri Harrelson

    I am so sorry for you loss. Thank you for sharing your story with us. I lost a close friend 2 years ago on Thanksgiving day and I have been dreading getting through it again. Having read your story, I will take this time to reflect on the good times and remember everything I am thankful for.

    • Skip Weisman

      Sheri,
      I’m so pleased my brother’s story has inspired you to turn your loss into a positive time of appreciation and thankfulness, especially focus on how your friend brought joy to your life. Interestingly 5 years ago my sister’s husband also passed away on the same day as my brother, Nov. 17th. It also happens to be the day my wife and I first met. So, that day will have trigger very melancholy emotions for us. Such is life, as it takes the sad times to appreciate the happy times, and we have to understand we can’t have one without the other, just like without rain we can’t have the beautiful flowers that bloom from the nourishing water.

      Anyway, enough of that philosophy. Best wishes for a great Thanksgiving Holiday and thank you, so much, for your continued interest in my writings and work.
      Skip

  5. Albert Chowansky

    My deepest condolences to you and your family.

    My father, a WWII veteran, left us 16-years ago; my mother in March. Thanksgiving was a special time spent with my parents, walking with Dad in the mountain farm his parents immigrated to long ago, and enjoying the simple things of life. While we didn’t have much, we always knew there was a loving family to support and guide my brother and me. A time to reflect an be thankful for the few things we had and recall the joys of the year and family members past and present. I still prepare turkey the way Mom did and remember the many things both Mom and Dad taught us, albeit in a stern European manner. Thanksgiving has just not been the same without Mom and Dad.

    Unfortunately, I didn’t realize how intelligent and influential my Dad was in my life and didn’t make the opportunity to thank him — I did not make the same mistake with Mom. My Mom’s passing brought my brother and I a bit closer, but not nearly close enough – there is so much we don’t know about each other over these past 40-years that I’ve been chasing the world.

    Your message speaks volumes to me and should speak to all. We’ve such a short time to value the people in our life that once gone can never be replaced. Thank you is a small thing to say but has such incredible impact when used genuinely, openly and often. Thanksgiving is a special time of year.

    We are all so busy with our daily lives, our jobs, our friends and loved ones, that there are not many occasions to get together as a family, but Thanksgiving is one of those occasions and it’s my favorite one! Thanksgiving brings out the best in us. It’s one of those holidays we love to prepare for as a team and chip in with our different recipes and add-ins that we each want to include to make the meal that extra little bit more special.

    Ronald Reagan said “Perhaps no custom reveals our character as a Nation so clearly as our celebration of Thanksgiving Day.”

    Enjoy the great smells coming out of the kitchen, enjoy the great dishes that will be laid out before you, enjoy the games, enjoy the entertainment, above all enjoy the meaning of Thanksgiving!

    Give thanks, give thanks to each other, give thanks for Thanksgiving Day and what it is … give thanks for what you are thankful for and keep these things in view daily.

    To quote John F. Kennedy “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”

    Again, my condolences to your and your family. Time to call my big brother…

    • Skip Weisman

      Albert,
      Thank you for your thoughts and even more importantly your story. I’m pleased my story of Harry and my family has inspired you to add value to the discussion here.
      One thing I didn’t have space to write about in the article is that in 1998 I was taking a psychology class to finish up my Masters degree. The professor gave us a “Transactional Analysis” assignment to find a photo of us as a child and do something for that child. the attached photo is the photo I chose.

      One day before the assignment deadline, I had an opportunity to drive with Harry down to my parents home in central New Jersey. I picked him up at his home in Brooklyn and we drove the 2 1/2 hours alone together. It was during that drive that I told him about how I’ve always looked up to him ever since I was a child, I wore military uniforms often as a child and drew pictures of soldiers all the time. I told him I was proud of him for his courage and service and appreciated him as my big brother.

      It was that experience that brought us pretty close the next 16 years until last week, or maybe it didn’t end last week, we’ll always be close ’til the rest of my days and beyond, as I continue to be proud of him and will see that in his two boys who have just recently grown into men.

      Thanks, again for your continued interest in my writing and work.
      Skip

  6. Sulaimon

    I’m so sorry to hear about your loss, and accept my sincere condolence.
    I’d like to use this opportunity to thank all that have made this world a better place to live, whether they are still alive or dead.

    • Skip Weisman

      Sulaimon,
      Thank you for your kind thoughts. I appreciate your continued following of my writing and my work and encourage you to come back often and comment when the inspiration strikes as you did today. Thank you, so much!
      SKip

  7. Gunvant Bhakta

    My condolences to you and family of loss of brother,

    Thank you for sharing so beautifully expressed journey with your big brother. I know colleagues who are Vietnam veteran hurt and struggling from war experience. Your big brother has shown humanity by not just talking but by taking lead and actions in painful racial years. Have a most enjoyable and fun filled Thanksgiving to you and your family.

    • Skip Weisman

      Gunvant,
      Thank you for taking the time to come here and express your thoughts. It is very much appreciated by me and my family.
      So many things to be thankful for at this time of year and all year, and my big brother has and always will be one of them.
      Just 10 years ago, he helped me buy my first guitar when I decided to start taking lessons. He played in a band all through his teenage years, so I went to him for advice on that purchase. Got me started playing music.

      Thanks, again, for your continued interest in my writings and work. Please come back and comment again when the inspiration moves you.
      Skip

  8. Dear Skip,

    First of all, my sincere condolences to you and your family on your loss.

    We’re old enough to know that life must go on. So, Happy Thanksgiving to you, your family and dear ones, and to the world.

    I’m sure you and your sisters are so proud of your brother Harry. We all are.

    But, the most important two persons on earth we should all be proud of are our PARENTS, regardless of who or what they are.

    Being of Palestinian Origin, I know exactly how it feels to be, even worse, on the other side of Racism. As a Projects Director with so many people to manage and over 30 nationalities, I always try to resolve any racial issues personally. I don’t look up the book and find policies to implement. That will never solve the humanitarian issue.

    I believe that even Racist People are good people. Something went wrong with our cultural values that lead them to be who they are. We need to dig deep into our cultural differences and make them enrich our social relationships, rather than igniting hatred.

    Some who may read this disagree with my beliefs. That’s OK and well respected.

    That’s what I believe, and that’s what I stand for.

    GOD Bless Harry’s sole, and every human being sole.

    • Skip Weisman

      Jamal,
      First, thank you for your kind thoughts and comments.
      Secondly, I agree with your approach. I believe those with issues and challenges with people of other races need our compassion and empathy. We do need to invest time to “seek first to understand” before we can ever seek to influence. Attitudes such as yours is really the only thing that is going make things better.

      I’m amazed that in 2015 it seems like races and nationalities are more polarized and divided than ever, and we all need to look for the good in people first. We all need to realize we all only do things for positive intent and we must dig deep to understand how we can act on that positive intent in a way the delivers positive results for all.

      Thank you, Jamal, for raising the level of this conversation. I know my brother would be proud of this discussion.
      Blessings to you and your family and again, thank you, so much, for your continued interest in my writings and work.
      SKip

  9. Sharon Blanchard

    Hi Skip,
    I’m so sorry to hear of the passing of your brother, and I really thank you for sharing your insights and what you’ve learned to appreciate about your brother. It reminded me of something that has become a mantra for me. I lost my father when I was a teenager, and for many years after he passed, I focused on our major philosophical differences which gave me a lot of angst and guilty feelings as I attempted to “grow up”. I realized that our household and my upbringing centered around a very strict religion and intolerance of anyone who believed differently than us.

    Many years later, with some hard work, wonderful mentors, and people I call my angels, I grew to appreciate my father and my upbringing. Even though we disagreed on religion, I learned to respect his absolute dedication to his belief and ideals. Though he was stubborn and intolerant, I’ve learned to be curious about other people and open to their beliefs, and as a result I’ve discovered so many wonderful (and sometimes weird ) belief systems and the people who cherish them.

    My mantra is “I get to choose my own reality”, and I’m happiest when that reality is to be amazed by people.

    I applaud your brother, and send you and your family prayers for healing.

    Warm Regards,
    Sharon Blanchard

  10. A. K. M. Suzaur Rahman

    Well, very sorry for your loss which has left you with no brother with two living sisters. But the principle, your brother showed is very important these days. Each race can learn many things from other races I.e. Culture, good practices, leadership styles, successful approaches, development policies, educational strategies and so on from other races and countries. This is also very important for inter cultural and inter religious understanding and cooperation, which is badly required today.

    Thanks

  11. Lydia

    Thank you for sharing such a personal and touching story with us. My sincere condolences to you and your sisters for your loss.

  12. Francisco Avalos

    Thank you for sharing your story, but most of all sorry for your loss and my deepest condolences to you and your family.

    There’s a lot of great comments and stories here, which is making me once again reflect on the values that my parents taught me and also got me thinking about a recent funeral that i attended for a dear friend that severed our country with military honors. I had never attended one before, but I felt honored to be there and witness the folding and presentation of the United States flag and the playing of Taps. There were a handful of people at the service, including his wife and only daughter who I’ve known for years from the stories that he told me about them.

    The irony of this story is for many years, my buddy was always very conservative, private and always seemed angry at the world. He didn’t have many friends and easily scared away people away, however for some reason, i always kept a level respect for him, had coffee with him frequently and always fed him positive vibes to the point where I would see him getting uncomfortable; which I thought was funny because i knew all he needed was love and compassion! And so be it; i stopped communicating with my buddy about six months before losing his battle with prostate cancer which came very sudden and simply – i didn’t even know he had pasted away until his daughter sent me a text saying he pasted away and wanted me to be at the service. After the funeral, his daughter was very much appreciative of my friendship with him including his wife. Apparently, by buddy always talked about me to his family and especially helping him save his retirement money during the 2008 crises which he would have lost everything if it wasn’t for my recommendation to see my financial adviser.

    The point I’m trying to make is that I could have easily walked away from him and/or many other people that cross our lives, but by being humble and showing compassion as it was instilled by my parents, it really resonant much greater than one could image because in addition to this, the other lesson learned while being at the funeral and walking through the various tomb stones – most of them don’t say how much money you make or how titles your earned, or accomplishments completed; they all primarily revolved around simple facts such as: “Loving Husband, father, brother, uncle”….

    I didn’t think i was going to ramble this much, but once again Skp; this post and you sharing your story certainly has brought some reminders of how fragile life is and how much compassion is needed in all aspects of life.

    • Skip Weisman

      Francisco,
      Your story is touching and a great fit for this article paying tribute to my brother.
      Compassion and empathy are powerful emotions that in too short a supply these days, it seems.
      There is another I’m going to be writing about sometime soon, probably next week, on “presuming good intent,” which also is related to your story and giving people the “benefit of the doubt.”

      In my learning through Anthony Robbins, one statement around communication I’ll never forget is that all communication is either a “a loving response or a cry for help.” And, in both instances we need to apply Stephen Covey’s 4th Habit of Highly Effective People, “seeking first to understand.” If we all start from that perspective, presuming good intent, wouldn’t the world be a much easier, happier, more fun place to live in?

      Thank you for continuing to be part of my community and adding value here once again.
      All my best,
      Skip

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