by Brian Davis
Age 50. La Grange, IL
It was 2012. Many of us in our close-knit neighborhood were pushing 50 when several male friends and neighbors died suddenly…these were terrific, fun-loving, community-minded people in an idyllic suburban community in Chicagoland. At one of these funerals, we got a bit of a shock. Three of us were asked to speak, and we shared our stories about Bill. Later in the same ceremony, three of Bill’s California friends spoke. We had heard of these guys — people Bill and his wife had befriended in Orange County in the 80’s when they were young and married without kids. As the three spoke to the mourners, it was different. They reminisced a bit about the old days, but then then shifted to a discussion on a more spiritual level. They talked about praying with him over the phone on Sunday nights during his long battle with cancer. They talked about their relationship with God, and Bill’s relationship with God (how on earth would they know, right?!). They talked about flying into Chicago before one of his major surgeries and anointing him — a quick plane trip in and gone the next day.
The night of Bill’s funeral we drank many Guinnesses. A group of locals, including me, kept coming back to the same topic, beer in hand: How had we not realized that Bill had such a spiritual side to him? We had spent so much time with him at kids’ games, playing golf, going to events, drinking beer. But he had something deeper with the California crew.
A few days later one of our circle of friends, Jack, had the courage to send an email to a group of about 50 men who we knew well (or thought we did). His message: How come we didn’t know Bill was so close with these guys and had such a close relationship with them on a deeper level? And why can’t we do that now with each other? He invited us over for an hour of fellowship — to talk about being a better husband, better father, better community member…and to talk about our weaknesses, our relationship with God, etc.
Fast forward to 2015. Our every-other week fellowship meetings are going strong. Any where from 12 to 20 of us show up. We talk about deep topics — from mental illness to our relationship with God to how to have meaningful vacations with our kids. We’ve gotten to know each other at a much deeper level. We still drink a beer or two.
And we took it one step further. We started a non-profit in 2013 (www.TheLegacyGuild.com) to provide college scholarships to any student in our school district who has lost a parent. This year we’ll give away more than $80,000 in scholarships to 34 students — including Bill’s son.
What’s our purpose? To go beyond ourselves. To dig deeper into who we are. To support each other during difficult times. To never forget those who have left us too soon.