William W. "Whit" Whitson
December 03, 1926 - February 08, 2018
Tuesday, January 21, 2020 9:00 PM
Hey Whit ... Learned of your recent transition a moment ago, right on the heels of the news of our mutual friend, Len Duhl, having moved on. Such memories I continue to have of our brief moments in fellowship. I had the honor of being part of that high-powered men's group to which Len invited me to join many years ago... And you were always riding point in our presence. I recall us giving ourselves the title, the League of Nominally Extraordinary Gentlemen. Humble and gregarious semi-recluses in powerful positions in higher education, healthcare, industry, government, the military, etc. We enjoyed scintillating, wide ranging discussions in the spirit of 'intellectual brutality.' 'Those were the days, my friends!' My thoughts, my prayers & my chants go with you & your surviving family, my good friend. See you later down the line, Colonel. Count on it.
Benjamin Tong (San Francisco, CA)
Sunday, January 20, 2019 2:46 PM
As I contemplate what to write in remembrance of you, Dad, passing now nearly a year ago, I am conscious of an enduring paralysis that has stymied the best of intentions. More than just my normal procrastination, my inability – even resistance - to putting into words thoughts and feelings and memories of you speaks of a deep down emptiness of spirit that I think began with Mom’s death. Time has softened some of the ache that has pervaded my soul, but grief follows its own schedule.
Still, I know that you would be very impatient with a mopey attitude! Lord knows your approach to death seemed more akin to anticipating your next adventure, for which you had been preparing all your life. How aptly termed – ‘passing’ – as if one has passed some exam, graduating to the next level of existence. Pondering such mysteries was always a pastime you delighted in, sharing your thoughts in conversation and through letters, usually with a measure of humor that conveyed a sense of confidence and ease - not at all as if the subject was a matter of life and death! And I have no doubt that as you traversed that final passage from mortality to eternity, your whole being was alight, smiling, laughing … joyfully embracing the next phase of your place in the universe.
Thinking of you in this way – of still being present in spirit – has also lessened the sorrow your physical absence created. So when a poignant memory flashes through my mind, perhaps triggered by a song you taught us, a movie or TV show you often mentioned, or the ever-evocative scent of eucalyptus, I’m trying more and more to embrace the emotions such memories evoke and let your presence in turn embrace me. And when I want to hear your actual voice – speaking, singing, or lecturing! – I have only to pop in a CD or DVD, for which I am so grateful to Judy as she understood how much the many videos and recordings you left behind would mean to us.
Your ‘written voice’ in the form of your books and letters mean more now to me than ever before, though it grieves me to think of how much I took for granted the amazing legacy of the Born For Flight series. At first it was daunting to absorb the scholarship behind those books (not to mention humbling!), and even a bit discomfiting, hearing – in a way - my father’s own story through his telling of Davy’s. But I finally read the books with less the heart of a child and more the mind of an adult, and now only wish I had done so sooner so I could ask the questions only you could answer, share my thoughts, and express my admiration. Thankfully, I think you sensed what I might never have vocalized, and understood even when I may have felt inadequate in what I was trying to say.
No wonder you did so well as the director of translation work for the Course! More than just organized, never overwhelmed by a huge project, you had that combination of knowledge, intuition and instinct that made you a remarkable editor. I am pretty sure that any accolades I received on countless essays, papers and speeches, from my kindergarten Valedictorian address (!) to a report on Chinese espionage, were owed as much to you as to my own efforts. Regardless of the outcome, what I am most grateful for are the memories of working with you to create a good product. I find I don’t even remember the papers themselves, but I cherish your comments and notes, scribbled in what sometimes seemed illegible handwriting, and the recollection of the conversations that the topic of the report would foster.
Even more, I treasure the letters and emails we exchanged. I am not, and I guess never have been, much of one for phone conversations – another thing I hope you understood as I was hopeless about calling with any frequency. Honestly I wasn’t the greatest letter writer either, though I have a few I sent to you (clearly saved because their accomplishment represented a landmark event in my mind!), and have all you sent to me. I doubt I will ever compose an autobiography so meticulously documented as yours, but I must have inherited from you the propensity to save every written note, card, letter, email … even calendar – optimistically tucked away for reference when I SOME DAY write that oft-promised story of my life for the kids.
Going over some of these in recent months initially had the effect of only further thwarting any efforts to write, evoking a feeling somewhat akin to that I have felt looking at pictures of the kids as they have grown up – a bittersweet nostalgia marking the blessings of life, the swift passage of time and the yearning to go back and better appreciate the fleeting moments as they occurred. But somehow, as the sorrow has begun to lift, immersing myself in your words and ideas has reminded me of the countless gifts you gave me –the experiences of travel, foreign cultures and languages, the love of music, songs, and stories, an appreciation for history and roots, and most especially family. I am so grateful that I had a stable family life growing up, for parents who made parenting seem easy, for brothers and a sister whom I adore because you never favored one of us over another and because you bound us together with unforgettable experiences and wonderful memories.
This poem I wrote for your 80th birthday captures some of those memories, and the gratitude I still feel.
Treasured child on Daddy’s lap,
Drinking her ‘bockin’ or taking a nap.
Mozart and Mandarin, familiar to her ears,
Formative sounds in later years.
Taiwan’s memories, a child’s paradise –
Eating backyard grapefruit or cook’s fried rice.
Brothers and sister and a big jungle gym,
Learning to live lives full to the brim.
Hong Kong was tram rides to Victoria’s Peak,
St. John’s on Sunday and curry puff treats.
Freckles and Tigger and climbing in trees,
Sailing a junk on the South China Sea.
No wonder I cried flying home to the States,
Too young to remember my own birthplace.
But new friends and neighbors on Randolph St.
Created new memories, the transition to complete.
Like watching Disney movies on Sunday night
After a weekend of making the yard just right,
Or fine gourmet dinners with you holding court, Some history lesson or news to report
The Nelson Street house was a teenager’s dream
With a yard, swimming pool, and a big trampoline –
I treasured your counsel on papers -- and on life,
Brilliant thinker and writer and healer of strife.
Our trips to Bryce Mountain to hike or to ski
Were chances to practice singing in harmony.
Those songs you taught us are still with me today,
As are the stories you told while sipping Earl Grey.
Now I tell the stories to kids of my own,
And sing all the songs on trips or at home.
You are father and Granddad and mentor and friend,
Thank you, Dad, for giving such gifts without end.
I love you Dad, and I miss you dearly, but you are ever-present in my heart and mind through your stories and songs, pictures and letters, and best of all – through my siblings and children, carrying on a legacy of love.
Shawn Bateman (Cambridge, NY)
Wednesday, December 26, 2018 10:54 AM
I too have been extremely remiss in posting on this website. I’m sure Dad is smiling right now as his son the “Master Procrastinator” shows his true colors! I think in a way making an entry for me would be a final recognition that he is gone, and I was not willing to accept that. Even as I write I still don’t feel he has left – he has always been a phone call away and I am sure if I dial his number he would instantly pick up!
My memories of Dad run the gamut. From an early age I remember having great love and immense respect for him. Dad could do virtually everything. Something broken? He could fix it good as new. Problem with someone? He knew what to do. And his voice – it could literally make you feel safe and secure one moment and then the next moment like there was no place you could hide to escape his wrath if you crossed the line! Of course as a child that line had to be crossed and boy did Rob and I cross it a lot! I will never forget one time being in Old Bess, our SUV at that time, and Rob and I were tickling each other which Mom did not find amusing. After telling us for the fourth time to stop she then used the trump card – “That is it. When we get home I am telling your father and you both are getting a spanking!” I can still feel the cold sweat that went down my back that day.
Thankfully I eventually started to grow up and then one day when I was in my mid-teens I had a turning point with Dad. We were at Bryce Mountain on vacation and he asked me to go for a walk so we could talk. Usually that meant a one-way conversation but this time it was different. He spoke to me not as an equal, but not as a child any more. For the first time I felt like my opinion mattered, I mattered to him. My relationship with Dad only grew from there and to this day I wonder if he ever knew how much that one talk meant to me.
With Dad living in San Francisco and my career in the Navy focused on the east coast our conversations were mostly limited to phone calls. Traci tells me I get the gift of the gab from Dad and I am sure she is right. Dad and I could literally talk for hours, but it felt like mere minutes and I remember always wanting to talk just a little longer. His advice and wisdom on any subject were spot on. And when I called just to talk, it seemed like he was always available, always willing to drop everything on his busy schedule to hear my voice.
That is what I will miss the most – his voice and our talks. I love you Dad!
Andy Whitson (Virginia Beach, VA)
Sunday, December 16, 2018 3:21 PM
I have put off an entry to this site for months and for many reasons: perhaps because I still feel an acute loss, perhaps because life has a habit of getting in the way, and maybe because every time I try to start I am flooded with so many memories that I’m not sure where to start.
At a very early age dad told me that I was born old. I wasn’t sure what he meant at the time but I remember him holding me responsible for all actions taken by my brothers and sisters. This was usually not all of the good things they were doing! If I wasn’t already old my siblings were going to get me there mighty fast!
When I was ten years old dad basically handed me the keys to the city of Victoria, Hong Kong. I remember like it was yesterday coming off the Blue Star ferry and Dad giving me 50 HK dollars and saying, “the city of Victoria is your playground.” Aside from having to call in every three hours there were no other caveats to my new freedom. Our mother thought he had lost his mind ... I know because I asked her years later and she vividly remembered being convinced that this was not going to end well.
When I was fifteen dad started me on flying lessons and sent me off to boarding school. He also learned to fly and was sent to Sewanee Military Academy during his high school years. We both had successful military careers and spent time in emergency management. There are many other stories, all connections to this amazing man, and at each turn I can remember his quiet and thoughtful advice; never directive but usually with a subtle lesson. In retrospect almost everything I can remember about dad had a lesson. In his later years we spoke often about how our lives paralleled each other in so many ways. I could listen to my dad speak about any subject, but most of all about the journey we are each on to better get to know Holy Spirit.
No matter where I was I always felt at peace when I needed his council. Even when I couldn’t reach him directly I’ll never forget his advice. “When faced with a decision and uncertain choices, choose the path that brings you peace. You will invariably pick the path you are supposed to follow.”
I am enormously grateful to Holy Spirit for the opportunity to have you as my father. I miss you terribly but know you are always there and that we are always connected.
Whit Jr Whitson (Williamsburg, VA)
Friday, August 10, 2018 4:08 PM
I compulsively delete all my emails, but there is one that I have held onto since 2016. This email is a response from Grandpa (Whit) to a letter I had written him as thanks for a present. In his response, he wrote "We have been together many times, exchanging roles and motives the better to empathize with all characters. I thank all the gods for giving me that time to live near you from your birth, yet once again." Grandpa, I could not know with more certainty that we will be together again, because although we may not have been related by blood, the bond we had was stronger than most. I continue to think of you almost every day and feel as though I were truly the lucky one in getting to live near you for my entire life up to this point. I love you with all my heart, respect you with everything I am, and am looking forward to seeing you on the other side and meeting you in our next lives.
Lije Morgan (New York, NY)
Tuesday, July 24, 2018 7:38 PM
Whit Whitson was an Angel who looked like a General. The times I was with Whit I was overwhelmed by his love and caring. When I was last with him, Whit told me that he was going to pray for my healing. And I know he is still praying for me. I still cannot let go of missing him or wishing things were different but that is my journey. I love and miss you Whit and always will-
Sandy Glading (Mill Valley, CA)
Monday, June 18, 2018 7:54 PM
A kind, intelligent, wise and interesting man.
I was honored to meet him on the path of life.
Tuesday, June 12, 2018 3:28 PM
Whit taught me that fathers can be present, healthy, always learning, interested and caring. For me he was a fabulous and blessed mentor that my children truly benefitted from. His dedication to breaking the cycle of purposeless suffering is exemplified by your collaboration to serving the dissemination of the Course. Thanks be in haleluhia!
Dr. William Wulsin
Wednesday, April 18, 2018 12:12 PM
Dear Judy, he's in the wind. I will sorely miss him.
Take care of yourself.
With all our love.
John Torpey (Oakalnd)
Wednesday, March 21, 2018 9:12 PM
As you know, I am so very sorry about Whit's "trip to the next Village." He was a wonderful man, a true gentleman who will be missed by all of us who were lucky enough to know him. As I said yesterday, Whit was perhaps the most grateful patient that I have ever known--- grateful for the "big' and "little' things in life, for our care and especially for you. He told us that on many occasions.
While we mourn it is good to remember that he was not scared or even worried about dying and, as deaths go, this was one of the more "beautiful" ones I've seen.
I learn something from every patient. I learned more from Whit than most. I miss him.
Al Oppenheim, MD (CA)