In the grand scheme of things, something unremarkable happened to a remarkable man this past Sunday. He died.
I first met Dale Dawson in 1981 as I moved away from home for the first time and was starting my career in radio. He served as a mentor in my early and formative years. I won’t bore you with the usual eulogy people speak and write about when someone important in their life passes.
This is the part I want to pass along.
Our time is finite and precious on planet Earth. So often we just talk about getting together with people and having a reunion of sorts. But, there’s always something that comes up. Please, at my urging, when the idea is suggested, follow up on it. In fact, don’t wait for the suggestion. Be proactive and visit with those important in your life.
In March of 2014, after years (lots of years) of discussions, suggestions and emails of getting together for a visit, Dale and I finally set a date to have lunch. It was almost 30 years since we last saw each other.
As early March is in Ohio, it was a cold and grey day. Dale, getting up there in years, was uncomfortable driving any long distance from his home in Northern Ohio. For me it wasn’t much as issue. I hopped in my Mustang and drove the three hours to Mansfield for lunch. He was unsure where to meet. I suggested the exit and told him there were numerous restaurants right off I-71. Applebee’s seemed like a great place. “See you at noon,” I told him. I sent him directions through Google Maps.
Arriving first, I got a table and waited. Soon my phone rang and it was Dale. He could see the Applebee’s sign, but couldn’t figure out how to get there. He was on the other side of the interstate. I told him there was an underpass and to turn down the street with the Steak and Shake on the corner. The Applebee’s was right behind it. He said his GPS needed to be updated and I replied, “I sent you directions with Google Maps! No update needed.” We both laughed.
Soon he arrived.
Dale had a hamburger with fries and I had my normal Caesar Salad with grilled chicken. We began to talk about life, family, my son. He asked how I met my second wife, her health issues and how she was doing. We talked about our radio careers, successes and failures, the future of the business and a website he started. I had no idea he was so politically active in conservative causes. I found that fascinating since I don’t ever remember him speaking about politics. I gave him some advice about social media for his website. We talked about his deep devotion to his church and his spirituality, again something I was unaware of.
One hour turned into two and two into three. The conversation was easy as if we’d been in close contact over all those years. It was as if 30 years was just 30 days. Dale made note and alluded to that being a sign of true friends.
Finally it was time to say goodbye. He was unsure on how to get back on I-71 north. I told him to follow me and “I’ll get you on the interstate.” As we said our goodbyes, he said let’s promise each other it won’t be another 30 years before we see each other again. Morbidly I joked, “If it takes 30 years, we’ll both be dead.”
This past Tuesday morning, I received a note on Facebook that Dale was gone. He died Sunday on his way to church. Someone who attended the same service with Dale each week noted they had a bad feeling and knew something was wrong when he wasn’t in church. They noted he was always there.
Dale was a kind, gentle and caring soul. He was someone who taught me not only about radio, but now that I reflect on it, mentored me on life and being an adult. He befriended me as I moved away from home for the first time, knowing the issues I would face and helping me during those trying times.
Dale died just 5 months after we met for the first time in three decades. We won’t have the opportunity to meet again at the Mansfield Applebee’s in 30 years, three years, three months, three weeks or three days.
Time is precious on Earth. Please make the time to spend with those important to you, be it family or friends. The next opportunity to meet can be taken away in an instant.
Rest in peace my friend.
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