The perfect person to help others
Sometimes people come into your lives who make you a better person. For me and so, so many others, one of those people was Duane Dennie.
He made me want to try to be a better person. A better husband. A better father. A better grandfather. A better Christian. A better Gamecock. A better cusser.
He set a bar, a standard that was so high. So hard to attain. But trying made me better and I’m so grateful to have known him for the past 20 years.
Duane and I share grandchildren. You don’t know pressure until you’re the other grandfather to Duane Dennie’s grandchildren. You can forget being the cool granddaddy. You just hope they will remember your name most of the time.
Brock and Marett were at our house some during Duane’s illness. If I had a dime for every time I got called “Papa” (Duane’s name), rather than “Pop,” I’d be wealthy.
Every time they called me Papa, I would remind them, sometimes not so gently that my name is Pop. I’d spell it. Offer to write it on their foreheads.
Duane and Joseph got back together Thursday, Oct. 26, sometime between 8 and 9 pm (not sure how involved the check-in process is in heaven. In this case, it probably took awhile).
I imagine Joseph RAN up to the pearly gates with that big smile on his face – the one he inherited – and said, “Where you been?” Duane would have replied, “Hop on my Harley and let’s ride.” They are now two weeks into their eternal joy.
In May, Duane and Laura took a week-long, first-class trip to New York City. Duane planned the entire trip. There was a picture at his visitation of Duane standing outside the window of The Today Show behind Matt Lauer and whoever the woman is.
I can imagine all over America that morning, people turning on their television sets and saying, “Hey, who is that guy sitting in front of Duane?”
Duane didn’t have the normal big ego of so many football coaches. He was self-effacing. He was the butt of most of his own jokes. But, you always laughed with him. Not at him.
He went through pain – physical and emotional – that most of us can’t imagine. I can’t imagine what it was like for Duane and Laura and Elizabeth to lose Joseph 10 years ago. He never got over that. How could he?
At the end, Duane was in terrible, terrible physical pain. But I never saw him give up. I never saw him question the Lord. He would sometimes say he didn’t understand why it hurt so bad, but he never asked why he was the one hurting.
Near the end, he depended on others more and more. And people who loved him were there – glad to offer what help they could. He was always grateful. He would look the person in the eye and mouth a “thank you.” Without fail.
I am grateful to Laura and Elizabeth for allowing me to spend some time with Duane since I retired in June. I am in their debt.
He missed our annual family birthday/anniversary dinner earlier this year. We always get together at a place in downtown Greenville to celebrate a lot of birthdays and anniversaries in June and July. But mostly, mine and Duane’s birthdays. Mine is June 28. His is June 29.
He couldn’t make it this year because he was in too much pain. It wasn’t the same. How could it have been?
One of the speakers at his memorial service said Duane was the epitome of the Wounded Healer. Not perfect as a person. But the perfect person to help others because he had suffered and survived.
I will miss him. More than I can say.
(Larry Franklin is retired publisher of The Chronicle.)