Guilford County District 3 Commissioner Pat Tillman lost his father in early February and, at the Board of Commissioners meeting Thursday, Feb. 23, Tillman offered some powerful comments that made those watching think about life and death.
At the end of each regular county commissioners meeting the agenda calls for “Comments from Commissioners” – a time when the commissioners can talk about anything they wish to talk about.
This was the first time several commissioners got a chance to publicly offer their condolences to Pat Tillman and also praise his father’s life and public service.
Archdale-born Jerry Tillman, Pat Tillman’s father, served nine terms in the NC Senate before retiring in 2010. He represented the state’s 26th Senate District, serving the people of Guilford County and Randolph County. For much of his life he worked in education as a teacher, coach and school administrator.
After other commissioners spoke about the late state senator, Pat Tillman –one of the last commissioners to speak during the commissioners’ comments section of the meeting– spoke about his father.
Tillman was understandably emotional as he remembered the man who meant so much to him.
“He was a force – but, number one, he was a dad,” Tillman said, before recounting fond memories of the joy that his father got from his family.
Pat Tillman said that, though Jerry Tillman was highly engaged in politics, it never eclipsed the love for his family.
“The family was the most important thing to him,” Tillman said. “There’s a light in a child’s eyes and he never wanted to see it go out – and I try to embrace that every day.”
Tillman added, “There’s a great poem that I really love,” and said that he’d like to read it.
The commissioners at the dais and the audience members watched and listened intently as Tillman read.
Here are a two passages from the poem, “Death is Nothing at All,” by Henry Scott-Holland:
Death is nothing at all.
It does not count.
I have only slipped away into the next room.
Nothing has happened …
Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes that we enjoyed together.
Play, smile, think of me, pray for me.
Let my name be ever the household word that it always was.
Let it be spoken without an effort, without the ghost of a shadow upon it.
The poem concludes with the lines: “One brief moment and all will be as it was before. How we shall laugh at the trouble of parting when we meet again!”