They say you can judge how a person lived their life by how many people show up to their funeral. Of course this statement should be left out if there are only 5 people out here. But that’s not the case, so moving on.
I’m sure by now most of you have read Dr. Applewhite’s obituary, if not, consider it your last bit of “green material”. His obituary was the cliff notes to his professional career. Imagine trying to summarize “Gone with the Wind” in 1 page…it kind of can’t be done. However, we are not here to talk about everything my father did, not the hundreds of thousands of lives he saved, nor the infinite amount of lives he influenced. We are here to talk about how he lived.
Imagine for a second you had the power to play God… you get to pick who dies and who gets to live by way of your scalpel and instincts as a surgeon. Of course 20 years of grueling training might help a little too...be that as it may, imagine you had the skill to quite literally bring someone back from the brink of death, and the knowledge to do it confidently….well here is a stereotype: most neurosurgeons are jerks, as one of the most highly trained physicians they’re just a different breed altogether. But not Dr. Applewhite…
As a very close friend of his once said when she first met him, “Ok, so here’s a guy with a pony tail, a lizard on his ear, a hippie shirt, hemp bracelets and Jesus sandals??? Yeaaaa right he’s a neurosurgeon…but that was really him…he never passed a nurse, a security officer, or an Operating Room tech that he didn’t know by first name.
Here’s something probably none of you know…during the pinnacle of his career…YOUR teacher, that humble man that would roam around the hallways preaching A&P all day long and would go out of his way to make his class fun and interesting, was considered the top neurosurgeon in the country in his field (microvascular neurosurgery and head and spine trauma), but he would’ve never confessed that. Only his peers and a handful of people ever knew that. Because glory, fame and fancy cars were not what he was about. Pro bono work in 3rd world countries (like Angels of Mercy), cave exploring, scuba diving, riding bikes, camping and a strong bond with family is what motivated him.
It was quite evident the happiest chapter of his life began when he initiated a teaching career at St. Johns River State College. This was his true love. He retired from the Operating Rooms and went straight into the Classrooms like he always dreamed. Guiding and shaping young minds was most gratifying to him. His 3 sons can vouch for his teaching style. He made you understand things. Throughout his whole life he said, “The more you understand, the less you have to remember.”
Much like Angels of Mercy, operating on brain aneurisms in the jungles of Panama, he believed in “no child left behind” way before Governor Bush did. Very frequently he would donate his time by leading study sessions at Barnes and Noble well after office hours were over. He really had a passion for educating and guiding students, young and “Non traditional” whatever that means...age is just a number.
Words really can’t describe the legacy and positive impact left everywhere he planted roots. Again, Gone with the wind in one page. He always loved St. Augustine, living the Salt Life, humble, simple, appreciating those finer aspects of life. He was a real road warrior, a true biker, not a “trailer your bike and then ride 5 miles”…oh no, he didn’t even own a trailer…he rode around the country for 3 weeks every summer and took multiple shorter trips all over the place year around. He loved kayaking, camping, off roading in his Jeep nick-named “Babaloo”, and of course spending time with family.
The essence of his philosophy is very well appreciated in a quote he had posted on his office door, “Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractiveand well preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways,rum and coke in one hand, a Cuban cigar in the other, body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming WOO HOO what a ride!", and that’s definitely how he lived his life.
Ultimately, he died exactly how he wanted, maybe not when, but certainly how, with his 3 sons, and only his 3 sons by his side, comfortable and quiet in the middle of the night. He lived a great life and urged his family to be sure to celebrate it after he left. He insisted his ashes be spread in the ocean so that he could be returned to Mother Earth. So please remember him, love his memory, have a drink or two in his name and celebrate his life. That is why we are all here today. This is our final assignment by the best teacher to ever live. So, remember the good times, feel joy and pride to have been a part of him, and lastly do not weep, for this is the circle of life.