Tribute to the Whitakers

I attended the funeral of a friend earlier this week—Doran Whitaker, who was in a coma for the past four months after a terrible bicycle accident in early June. I have to say that Doran was one of the most positive, kind, and principled men I’ve ever known. From the first time I met him, some 25 or so years ago, I’ve admired Doran’s character and goodwill. He’ll be greatly missed by his family and all who knew him.

I wanted to blog about Doran and his family for a number of reasons. First, we never know how much time we have.

None of us is guaranteed tomorrow. I saw Doran not too long before his accident, as buoyant as ever. His passing reminds me of the urgency to live our best lives now.

A second reason I wanted to write about Doran is that he is a great example of a man who did not leave his emotional state up to chance. His eldest son, Tandy, spoke of that during the funeral. One of Doran’s deepest beliefs was that he could choose his state of mind. He could decide how to think, feel, and act in the face of any of life’s circumstances. And his daughter, Amy, spoke (actually sang) through tears and laughter, some words that her father used to sing to wake the family in the mornings. Something like, “The sun is shining, it’s a beautiful day…” I’m not sure I got the words right. I couldn’t tell you the tune. But I was moved by the attitude. Doran chose to experience each day as a beautiful day. He touched other people by his optimistic, steadfast, and loving spirit.

I think about Doran’s family, his wonderful wife (Joye) and their four adult children (Tandy, Amy, Angie, Jon). No doubt they’ve been through a tough ordeal these past months as they’ve sat by their father’s bed, praying and hoping for his recovery, gradually realizing it was not to be. Grieving together the loss of their husband and father. And emerging from this experience with an increase in faith, love, optimism about life, and even equanimity about his passing.

I was touched by watching the children during the viewing and funeral services. I felt their love and support for each other. I saw sadness but also brightness and Joy(e) in their faces. And I realized that they learned well. Perhaps the greatest gift a spouse and parent can give is more than their physical presence. Doran would/must be pleased to know that what we admired most about him lives on in those he admired most.

Roger K. Allen, Ph.D. is an expert in personal transformation, leadership, and teams. His tools and methods have helped hundreds of businesses and tens of thousands of people transform the ways they work and live.  To learn more, visit www.rogerkallen.com.


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