Advocacy in action

Some personal thoughts

I know this column is supposed to offer you some insight into issues about advocacy, but I wanted to deviate from that topic this month and offer a personal message. As I write this, we have just completed a record-setting annual meeting in Dallas. These meetings are always memorable, but this one was a little different for me. As many of you know, my father passed away the week before the meeting, following almost a month in the hospital. I wanted to take this opportunity to thank everyone who took time to offer their condolences and kind thoughts during the meeting.

We had Dad’s funeral the Monday before my arrival in Dallas on Thursday. So, needless to say, I was tired and somewhat melancholy when I arrived at the Sheraton. I soon found out there’s no way you can stay in that mood around our staff and members! It’s amazing to me the level of compassion and caring evident throughout our association. Tom and Sue graciously allowed me to work from Dad’s home during the month he was in the hospital, which gave me the chance to spend a lot of time with my dad and my brother, Bill. I am very thankful to have been able to have spent those last few weeks with him.

I have to say it was very refreshing to have the annual meeting to occupy my thoughts at that time. I appreciated all the kind words from our staff as they arrived and we began unloading the van. Sue’s husband, Lee, had expertly packed the van literally to the roof with everything we needed to manage the meeting and the foundation auction. I have to say I was much more aware of the family influence during this meeting. Tom’s son, Joey, was able to make the meeting and spend a little time with his dad (that is, when Joey wasn’t sleeping or taking advantage of the hotel amenities). And, it was great to see John Waddell with his sons at the reception. You can tell those are both great father-son relationships.

It all got me to thinking about the circle of life. For the first 9 months following conception, we’re totally dependent on our parents (mostly our mothers). Most of the rest of our early lives are spent becoming more and more independent. The first few years, you are quick to seek out the comfort of your family and relish the hugs and kisses. Then, somewhere in early adolescence you start trying to find some way to get Dad and Granddad to stop kissing you, settling for a handshake instead because you’re a “big boy” now. Sooner or later, you start your own life and move away and spend less and less time with your parents. That’s the way it’s supposed to be. When I’d go home to visit, my dad would always meet me at the back door and hold out his hand to say hello, giving me a firm handshake. But what I found over the last few years was that this life really is a circle. After those visits home, it got to be that a handshake goodbye just didn’t feel right and I started giving Dad a hug and a little kiss on the cheek.

During my first visit with him in the hospital, Dad asked me to take his wallet home with me because he said it contained “all of his important papers.” After he passed away, Bill and I were going through his things and I looked in his wallet. It contained all the usual trappings of life we can’t live without, but in the very back, I found an old tattered piece of paper the size of a business card. When I turned it over it simply read “Harry Snelson, DVM.” I recognized it as the card I’d received at graduation, and I had no idea he’d kept it all these years.

My mom was easy to love. She was energetic, fun-loving, out-going, and quick to laugh. Dad was much less effervescent, more reserved and serious. Often described as “a man of few words,” he loved having the family around him and laughed the hardest at the stories he’d heard a hundred times. I credit them both with the opportunities I’ve had in life and I miss them both. They gave my brother and me everything we needed growing up and most of what we wanted. I hope we were able to give them something back.

You don’t need me to give you a lesson about life, but I offer this as a reminder, especially to those of you just starting out in this profession, that time really is short. Set aside a little for the really important things. Thank you again for your caring and support.

--Harry Snelson, DVM