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My Last Visit with Rev. Ken Whitwer

January 29th, 2014

It was in February 2003 that I joined the staff of UCOM in the newly created position of Executive Director. Among the first people to give me encouragement, counsel and unwavering support was Ken Whitwer.

Admittedly this blog is way too personal to share in this space. Ken was such an integral part of UCOM--from being one of its founders, to 25 years of service as a volunteer leader, to being to date it's only Board Member Emeritus--that I want to share with many of you who knew him and worked with him through the years some of the wisdom of one of my most beloved mentors.

Here is my journal entry made as I sat vigil with him shortly before his going on ahead of us. Special thanks is due to Judy Furman and Ken's wife Rev. Judy Whitwer for inviting me to take a turn with other friends sitting with him on those last few nights.

Journal--with Ken Whitwer

Friday, October 4, 2012, 8p: Sitting quietly in near darkness with Ken as he sleeps and waits patiently to die.

Ken, you taught me so many things in the short times we spent together over the past 10 years.

No such thing as little

Right now I am remembering most your sage advice to me that long ago when you told me to eliminate the word "little" from my vocabulary--even when talking to myself. There is no such thing as a little gift, a little talent, a little light. Any light dissipates some of the darkness; every gift is valuable judged on its own merits rather than compared to other gifts; every talent is great when put to use for a good purpose.

Effort, not perfection

You taught me to look at outcomes more than inputs. You worked to teach me that perfection is not the ultimate virtue, effort is. When I really screwed up you were the first to defend me--measuring the good I had done, not my recent mistake.

The Elder Statesman

We have never sat quietly together until tonight. You always had something wise to say and I always hung on every word. Your advice always rang true with the tones of experience.

Even tonight when you can't speak to me, when your breathing is fairly labored in your sleep, you are still instructing me with the kindly voice of the elder statesman.

  • Be kind.
  • Do your best.
  • Don't let others' opinions of you affect your understanding of yourself.
  • Measure your best by the good you do for others.
  • Be present no matter what.
  • Overcome the obstacles of life with calmness, compassion and perseverance.
  • Don't be afraid to try.
  • Use every tool in your possession. If you need a tool you don't have, find out how to get it or collaborate with someone who has it.
  • Risk.
  • Above all be gentle with others and with yourself.

Action and gratitude

I wish I were better at putting all these things into action. I wish I had made more time for you the past few months when my world felt upside down. I am thankful for the opportunity to sit here with you and hear your wisdom again.

Please leave a comment below.

A memory of Ken?

Who is one of your mentors and what words of wisdom stands out from that person?

Comments

#1 Linda Looney said:

Ken was a very wise man. I had a difficult time with one person in particular on the Church & Ministry committee years ago. Ken was on that team at that time. We met after a particularly disastrous meeting. He asked me why I had lost my temper. During the conversation and sorting out, he basically gave me the same advice that you stated above: don't let someone else's opinion of you get in the way of how you feel about yourself. Over the years, that has become an invaluable piece of advice.

#2 JD Sullivan said:



"Present, Ken always was and he drew this out in those around him. His courage and persistence is a witness to what people can achieve when they have faith."


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