An exceptional man has died. You will not hear about this on television for he was not a celebrity to anyone but those who who knew him well. I was only briefly acquainted with him. He “friended” me on Facebook last June. I accepted his invitation immediately because I was had worked with his son for years. I suspected that I already had a very good idea of what kind of man he was from the many interactions I that I had with his child. I believed that I would like this man very much, and I did.
Donny Wilkins has died. I did not realize that he was waging a battle with cancer during the brief time that he was my friend. He was an optimist and a faith-filled man who spread a message of love and tolerance every single day. I began to look forward to his inspirational posts because they were uplifting in the midst of a world filled with so much anger and hate. I found that I felt a bit better each time one of his entries found its way to my wall. It was as though he was ministering to all of us who were lucky enough to be among those he had chosen to be part of his world. I felt deeply honored to get to peer inside his heart.
I was lucky enough to meet Donny Wilkins because his son, Shaun, attended the high school where I was a Dean. I was the Grade Level Chairperson for Shaun’s Class of 2010 and I tried to become acquainted with each of the students in that group. They were known for possessing an independent spirit and a special sense of justice and Shaun was unafraid to be a warrior for all that is right. He was loved by his peers as well as his teachers. I noticed immediately that he was a brilliant student and a deep thinker. He had a smile that was both innocent and charming. I now know that he inherited that dazzling countenance from his father. He was open and caring, also traits from his dad. I immediately liked Shaun very much. As most teenagers are apt to be he sometimes faltered here and there but mostly he was continuously driven forward by a goal of truly making a difference. This past May he graduated from Wiley College with a degree and high hopes of demonstrating his excellence. I was quite proud of his achievement but understood that he is only at the beginning of what will surely be a remarkable lifetime. Not long after I wrote a blog about Shaun his father asked to be my Facebook friend. That is when I truly understood how Shaun had become the wonderful person that he is.
Shaun is the physical image of his dad. Like his father he works hard and strives to always bring a high level of morality and ethics to any situation. He loves God in much the same way that his father did. I have little doubt that he will continue to make his dad a very proud man as he looks down from his heavenly home. Sadly Shaun will know the deep sadness that the loss of a man of such great influence leaves on the heart. He will also have memories of the lessons that his father taught all of us that will sustain him forevermore. His father wisely demonstrated with his every example what it means to be a man of God, a person of honor.
Donny Wilkins was by all standards a great husband, father, grandfather, brother, uncle, friend. The tributes to his character have filled my wall and I love reading them even though it pains me to know that he is gone. If a line from The Wizard of Oz is to be believed then the measure of his love is inestimable because so many loved him. I know that in the very short time that I had the pleasure of being listed among his friends I grew to admire and respect him more and more each day. He possessed a wisdom that is all too rare. His was a selfless way of viewing the world. He worked hard to care for his family and seemed to always place others before himself.
I am going to miss Donny Wilkins. He was one of those rare individuals who bring sunshine wherever they go. I know that the members of his family are grief stricken, especially his son Shaun. There are no healing words other than those that Donny himself recently used. “Dear God, I bring my burdens to you and you know my situation. You know I can’t make it without you. Comfort my heart, give me strength, and help me carry on. Amen.”
Donny has more than earned his wings. He is already watching over those who loved him. I am the better for having known this man as are all of us who had the privilege of “walking” beside him. May he rest in peace and may his family take heart in knowing just how special it has been to have such a man in their circle of love.