It is difficult to express the depth of loss we all feel at the untimely death of George N. Parks. No one feels that loss more deeply than his wife and children, and his family. A dear friend used the word “visceral” the other day and I do believe that begins to scratch the surface. For the rest of us, we lost a teacher, a role model, a friend and a colleague. We are heart broken. We are angry. We are confused. We are lost. And above all we are desperate for guidance.
For me it is simple: he took part of my soul with him when he left this world. That wound will one day scar over but I suspect it will never fully heal. But that is mine—not anyone else’s. I own it and will not burden others with it even though I may want to. I write today not to wallow in a pit of selfish loss but perhaps to help each of us move forward, including myself.
George (he was never Mr. Parks to me, he was always just George) believed in the good in people. He never gave up on anyone. No matter how difficult a situation might be, he found ways of bringing out the best in others and making them part of the solution. He was not perfect—no one is. He certainly had his flaws. But in the grand scheme of things the flaws were simply part of who he was, and not part of what he believed in.
George believed in goodness, strength, courage, and perseverance. George believed in cultivating the smallest of seeds and then standing back and watching it flourish. And then he would push himself to grow more so the other person would continue to grow. That cycle never ended.
George believed in love and friendship, loyalty and devotion. He never turned his back on anyone. And Heaven forbid if you ever tried to pull away from him—he yanked on that rope so hard you had no choice but to snap back, say you were sorry and “get back at it.” (Trust me, I tried.)
George enjoyed nothing more than having the house loaded with people. The more the merrier until it seemed the house would burst. He loved lots of people doing great things. But there was another side few saw: he cherished sitting in the stillness of his basement watching a movie. He would lose himself in the film and find meaning in it for every day life. I do not believe that was a conscious choice—I believe it “just happened.”
At his 30th anniversary celebration at UMASS I remember telling the crowd about the three-pronged lesson he taught us, perhaps the most important one of all: “George, you taught us to love. To love what we do, love each other and love who we are with complete and total abandonment.” I work every day trying to live that lesson.
I could write for years telling stories from our days in the Buccaneers, at UMASS, at DMA, at Bowl Games, or any single day out of our lives for we spoke almost daily. But those are for another time. For now I leave you with this one thought, a quote he loved very much and I believe he tried to live up to every day:
“The essential conditions of everything you do must be choice, love, passion.”
Rest my dearest friend, rest. You did good. I look forward to the day I see you again—there is so much to tell you.