I was recently down in South Carolina spending about a week vacationing and another 3 or 4 days working. To my delight one of my old college friends had moved to where I was staying in Aiken, South Carolina, and we had a chance to meet up and spend time together.
As we progressed in our reacquaintance, we realized that one of our professors meant a great deal to each us and had a lot to do with us pursuing our careers as seamlessly as we eventually were able to do. My friend was also in the television business.
As we talked further we said that we never really had a chance to thank him for his massive amounts of kindness and patience he had with these young ambitious men. When I got home, my friend had looked up the professor and sadly he had died just four months before. My friend said we missed our chance.
I read his obituary, and as you may know, funeral homes have started putting up websites for the departed.... So I read what people said about him and decided even though in a way it was too late to tell him directly, I could use this indirect way to thank him and here's what I wrote.
“Bob Carswell to me was a remarkable man and just about every way… He ran the TV station at the University of Tennessee at Martin during my time there, and what I learned from him was incalculable in terms of understanding the business I would go into which would be television, film and advertising. After he left Martin, I somehow lost track of him but always wanted to have that conversation with him that went something like this…”
"Bob I owe everything to you .. you prepared me for this business like no other and enabled me to enter it running in my first job that was so exciting to me and in some ways would shape my career ... Working in TV news at WPVI TV in Philadelphia. ... Your kindness and patience knew no bounds... You were a prince of a man who always included everybody you could in the process. The answer was always let's do it, yes yes and yes. You were a positive influence in so many ways… You taught me to do the same to other young people on their way in our business. Your stories about working in New Orleans were fabled with wisdom and knowledge. I shall never forget your love of University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and their TV station. Many times I wanted to try to track you down; I googled you a few times to tell you this in person on the phone or drop by and say thank you but to no avail.... As I write this I find tears welling up and it is a little hard to see the computer screen ... Bob Carswell you were above all a dear man full of kindness, sweetness and always pointing your students in a positive direction… There have been many people in my life that have helped me in my career many of them are famous, Academy award winners Emmy award winners and Cleo award winners ... I've had a wonderful career, but there was no one like you Bob… Godspeed on your way my friend, you were a champion"
What was remarkable to me about this experience was how powerfully touched I was thinking of this man all these years later and the things he did for me. I’m sure at the time I thanked him and let him know I appreciated him. Maybe I did. Good manners were part of who I was, but it was only later that I realized his impact. Also in this posthumous thank you note, his children will read it, perhaps his wife. They may understand a little bit more about who their father or husband really was. That kind of understanding is never bad.
In thinking about it, there are so many people in my life and probably your life too that took the time to help us when we needed it. Most of them did it with great modesty, and it was just one
of the things that they did. It was part of how they operated in their lives. If you can find some of these people, you might want to consider trying to find a way to thank them just one more time.
~ Damon Sinclair, Vestry Member