OPINION – It was an honor to be invited to say a few remarks at Abraham Neighbor’s funeral. He and I had become friends a few years earlier and we shared a common passion for liberty.
But I didn’t fully fathom the depth of our friendship until I opened the funeral program and saw myself listed as his “adopted son.” That’s the moment I realized what an incredible mentor this man had become to me.
We first met on July 4, 1997. Abe had invited me to speak at the Veyo Independence Day flag raising ceremony. I had only lived in Southern Utah for about a year, but his voice was a familiar one calling into my radio show.
As Abe and I visited that day, he asked me what I liked to read. The question caught me a bit off guard and I listed off a handful of popular authors like Tom Clancy, Michael Crichton, and Stephen King. Over the next few years, Abe would ask me this question several more times.
Eventually I came to realize that he was gently helping me evaluate what I was doing to increase my understanding of the world around me. Abe was the friend who introduced me to the power of the classics.
Every inch of available shelf space in his Brookside home was filled to brimming with books that challenged and enlightened the reader.
Often, he would share with me a favorite quote from great thinkers like Cicero, Jefferson, or Bastiat while we talked about current events. Abe’s grasp of history and philosophy was impressive. But he never lectured me.
He preferred to use the Socratic method of asking questions that led me to ask questions that, in turn, led to new insights.
As a burgeoning talk show host, I was full of passion, but lacked depth and breadth in my understanding of liberty. Too often, I leaned on partisan platitudes instead of the principles at stake. Abe took all of this in stride and encouraged my studies without ever making me feel like I was his project. He inspired by example and by being as true a friend as I’ve ever known.
He made it a point to include my little family in his own family get-togethers. This gave us the opportunity to rub shoulders with his sweet wife Edna and their amazing kids and grandkids.
One August day as I was leaving work, Abe’s daughter-in-law stopped me in the parking lot and informed me that he had suffered a major stroke. She told me that if I wanted to see him, it would be best not to wait.
When I walked into his home a short time later, Abe was resting comfortably on his couch. His eyes lit up as I came into the room and he reached for my hand. The stroke had robbed him of his ability to speak so I sat and held his hand while he quietly smiled. I thanked him for his friendship and told him how I would miss him. He was still smiling as I left.
Two days later, I got an early morning call from his daughter informing me that Abe had passed away.
As a family, we have remained close to Edna and still regularly attend their family parties. His sweet widow from time to time has given me some of Abe’s favorite books. These books contain a hidden treasure that I discovered the first time I sat down to read them.
Abe had not only read them cover-to-cover, but also had underlined his favorite passages and written notes in the margins. I understand that this flies in the face of everything our mothers taught us about not writing in our books. But, at the risk of incurring their wrath—they were wrong.
When I read Abe’s books, his annotations and remarks are like having a conversation with my old friend. They give insight into what he considered of greatest value as well as whether he agreed or disagreed with a particular idea.
Following Abe’s example, I have become a firm believer in marking up my own great books by underlining key sections and making notes or asking questions.
My hope is that one day my kids or even their children will be inspired to discover the power of feeding their minds by feasting upon the classics. And like my old friend, I hope they’ll continue to feel my love and influence even when I’m gone.
Bryan Hyde is a news commentator and co-host of the Perspectives talk show on Fox News 1450 AM 93.1 FM. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
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