As many of you already know, just a few short weeks ago my father passed away. It was a very sudden event and definitely unexpected. Amazingly, our family seems to be doing very well coping with the loss. At his celebration service I spoke last and really struggled for a while with what to say. It’s hard to put into words what to say about someone you love, care about, and well without them you would never exist. Finally at around 3:30 AM the day of the service I was awakened from sleep and started to get the words.
Friends and family that we talked to the few days leading up to his service kept referring to the “legacy” that dad left behind. The more I kept hearing that it made me realize that he did leave a legacy behind that touched the lives thousands all around the world. He was one of the most intelligent, loving, and giving people you could ever meet. When he was a young teenager his musical talents helped him excel as he began to teach piano lessons for a local music company in PA. I still to this day have the image of someone in their mid 40’s coming into his room for their lesson and being greeted by this scrawny 13 year old. In college his musical abilities garnered him a brief stint traveling with the group Chicago.
So when it came time for me to share, I decided I was going to share the principles and things that he taught me growing up. These are the things that I feel led to the legacy that he has been left behind and how he touched the lives of so many people.
Here are the 9 things he instilled in me that I try to live my life by each and every day:
1. Be willing to help others- When you see a friend in need, reach out. The smallest acts of kindness can change someone’s life. No matter how busy he may have been, Dad would stop the world to help others at any time and at any cost.
2. Be a man of your word- If you say you are going to do it, you do it no matter what. This was his foundation to building trust. Everyone knew that if they asked Dad to do anything and he said yes, there was no reason to worry again. He would finish what he said he would do, even if that meant working on the task till 4 AM.
3. Build up others to be better than you. Dad was a constant mentor, teacher, trainer, and helper to all around him. He would always say he wanted to raise up those around him to surpass him one day and he meant it. In February 2013, he called me one morning all excited on the phone. As I answered the phone he said: “Jeremy guess what! Brittany Brewer just won rookie of the year!” I congratulated him and asked if he won any awards, to which he replied: “Yes, I got top sales, top listings, and top referrals, but BRITTANY WON!” He was so much prouder that he mentored her and she won than anything else.
4. Be a man that stands for what you believe. Everyone knew Dad was a man of faith and wouldn’t compromise it for anyone. In 2002 when our team broke a 30 year company sales record I remember our CEO asking Dad at an awards dinner what was the secret to our success. My father paused a moment, smiled large, and replied: “Well Don, that’s easy, it is prayer. We pray each and every day for our clients, their families, our business, and the things that are going on. We pray that our clients that need their home to sold that the right buyer comes so that they can move forward, and those that need to buy a house, that we can find them the right property.” Don looked at him, tilted his head and said “prayer hmmm, I like that Dennis.”
5. Love unconditionally and equally. It didn’t matter who you were, whether you were buying million dollar homes or 30,000 condos, you were given the same amount of attention & help. It didn’t matter if you drove a BMW or were homeless, dad loved everyone the same. As many I’ve heard say over the past few days, though Dad was one of the smartest people you would ever know, he never looked down upon others and treated everyone with the same. He didn’t care if you were a Doctor or a high school dropout, you all received the same level of love and attention.
6. Have Fun– While Dad really didn’t have a bunch of hobbies in life, he still would have his ways of fun. We all remember some of his 2/3rds of a Pun “P. U.” jokes that he would share with you. Things like:
His phone calls where he would act goofy and try to order a pizza from you when you answer the phone in his terrible Chinese accent. Or maybe you were lucky enough to experience the ever so popular answer he would use when asked “Is there anything you need?” He would respond “Got any large bags of hundred dollar bills?” My personal favorite was when you would ask him “How are you Dennis?” he would respond “Highly unpredictable, somewhat debatable, a little controversial, but other than that, just fine.”
7. Live a standard of excellence- The only choice for dad was the best. The cars always needed to be cleaned, the hair needed to be all in place. The pocket square had to be perfect. During the funeral home visitation our friend Jessica shared about how he spent an hour just last week to get his pocket square just right for his new professional pictures. He tried to always exceed the expectations of others with things he did.
8. Details, details, details– This is probably the biggest item that attributed to Dad’s legacy. For those of you who ever worked with him in real estate, he was a stickler for the details on a contract. I’ll never forget him saying there should NEVER be a blank spot on a contract Jeremy, at least put in “N/A”. He became infamous for his “sign here” & “initial here” stamps that were all over every single page of the paperwork. Plus, who could ever forget, We need to make a backup of the backup of the backup, “Just in case.” His attention to detail earned him the nickname AROC which stands for Anal Retentive Obsessive Compulsive. Paying attention to every detail in every aspect of life is what helped set him apart in his personal and professional life.
9. Put others first- He constantly put the needs of others well before his own. If he saw someone needing shoes, he’d walk up and hand them money to go shopping for new ones. Whenever he heard me mention about a slow month in business, or a deal falling apart, he would stop by with groceries and other essential supplies at our home just to help out. Most of the time he would go without so that he could do for others. If my mother would forget to bring her lunch to work, he would drive well out of his way just to bring her something to eat.
Now, these were the things that Dad taught me during his life, but in his passing he taught me one last key to living a life of legacy:
10. No matter what, we aren’t in control. The day after Dad passed I went by his office to pick up a few things and noticed a scripture taped to the front of his computer. It was Proverbs 16:9 which says The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps. Many that I’ve talked to referred to Dad as one of the smartest people they ever knew. When he took his Doctoral exams he set new records for Doctoral exams at Temple University. He had things planned out and was always prepared. The picture above of him in his suit and tie was take just 3 days before he went to the hospital where within three days of being there he passed. No matter how smart & planned you may have things, life is one thing we don’t get to set the plan for. God directed his steps and decided it was time for him to go to heaven.
This has taught me to live each day with purpose and meaning. Live to love those around you. Cherish family and the time you have with them, you never know when that will be gone.
My dad was a special person. He definitely lived an amazing life and left a legacy behind. One of the proudest things that I think of to help keep his memory alive is that our church has created the Dennis Blanton Music Fund. They only thought it was fitting to name it in his honor as he was the first musician of the church. This fund has been created to help assist the church’s music program in raising funds for all of the campuses that we have around the world. We currently have 9 church plants which are in South Carolina, Jamaica, and Puerto Rico. Over the next few years that number will continue to grow. If you want to make a donation to The Dennis Blanton Music Fund, it would be awesome.
I love you Dad, you will be missed but not forgotten. Just like I told a friend who was sad realizing she would never see him again at church: Dad influenced so many people in his life, you will see his thumbprint every where you go and on all those around you. This is what it means to leave a legacy behind.