I was standing in the doorway of my father’s hospital room. He was asleep. He had been there most of the week,so I had become familiar with the nursing staff. His room was just outside their station. I found myself listening to a conversation they were having about favorite patients. It was a delightful diversion from the stress of the week. It was especially nice to hear them sharing a few minutes of cheerfulness in what was usually a busy and serious cacophony of male and female voices. I was under the impression that with so many people coming and going, that they would never specifically remember anyone at all, but to my surprise, they did indeed. They remembered quite a few, and what struck me is that every patient had something in common. Something that had made an impact on the nurses. Something that left a mark on their hearts and in their memory.
They remembered the patients who were nice to them. They spoke of the ones who were kind, patient and polite. The ones who smiled and were positive. They remembered them by name. Of course, their names meant nothing to me, they were strangers, but then one of them said something that suddenly made me part of the group. She said, ” But you know who was the best patient we ever had ?” And without out missing a beat, in unison they said aloud,
” Mr. Dawson!”
” Oh yes!” said one.
“He was so nice!” said another.
“I loved going into his room”- and before she could finish, again they said in unison,
“For his stories!”
She continued, “I learned so much from him!”
Another remarked, “He made you think.”
And yet another, “He taught me things about the Bible I never knew. He was such a good listener too. I felt like he really cared about me.”
A new voice asked, “Who are you talking about?”
“Mr. Dawson!” they replayed.
“Oh!” she said,
“You know, I had a conversation with him about something when he was here the first time and when he came back, he remembered me and asked me how I was doing. I never had a patient do that. He was a nice man. Always positive and happy.”
“Which we don’t see often,”” said a male voice.
“Yes, he was,” they said in unison. Then a single voice said, “I wonder if he’s okay.”
I wanted to leave the privacy of where I had been eavesdropping and join in the conversation. I wanted to share in their admiration of the man I knew as a deeply respected man of God and a pillar of strength that so many held in high esteem. I wanted to tell them everything I knew about him, but I didn’t, because if I did, I would also have to tell them that he had died of the cancer that had brought him to this hospital floor. So I kept silent. It was better to leave them with their good memories and happy moment because they deserved the peace he left in their heart and I wasn’t about to spoil what was so characteristic of him, that warmth and enthusiasm he left behind, well, most of the time.
My family first met Mr. Dawson as a young man when he knocked on their door in 1946. He was with his father and was offering a Bible study. My family agreed and learned how to quit bad habits and started living a lifestyle that was more pleasing to God. My parents were engaged then and Mr. Dawson presided over their marriage. Though my father did not continue to live by Bible standards, my mother did, and raised her children in the same way so that when it was our turn to be married, Mr. Dawson, or Brother Dawson, as he was called, presided over our weddings as well. I asked him once how many weddings and funerals he had presided over and he said he had lost count, but while the weddings were joyous, and the funerals grievous, the funerals were more memorable because it is ” Better to go to the house of mourning than the house of feasting, for that is the end of every man, and the living should take heart.” ( Ecclesiastes 7:2) And ” A good name is better than good oil, and the day of death is better than the day of birth.” ( Ecclesiastes 7:1) Then he asked me,
“Why do you think it says, ” the day of death is better than the day of birth?”
I said, ” Because when you are born, you have not made a good name with any accomplishments yet, but when you die, you leave behind a legacy, hopefully one that has made a good name with God.”
That smile could light up a room. As did his laughter and tremendous love of God. He never lost his excitement over The Word, even the most subtle nuances were like finding priceless treasures. He couldn’t wait to share his newly discovered gem with everybody. He’d tell you and then get a big grin on his face and say, ” Isn’t that neat? Don’t you just love it?” And he’d laugh with delight!
I remember working on a volunteer building project in Johnstown after they had a flood. He was a bricklayer on the job site. I was a teenager and I spent the day with dozens of others passing bricks to the bricklayers. While we were laughing, talking and singing as we passed bricks, we were also watching the men work. I had never seen him do hard physical labor before and he went after it with the same zeal as he did in his ministry. This was also a part of his ministry and he made sure that every brick was laid properly. It was, after all, God’s House.
As much as I admired him for those things, there was another side of him that I loved just as much. He was fearless, courageous and bold. During World War II, Mr. Dawson was working as a research chemist, so he was exempt from military service. A war bond drive was introduced at his job that required all employees to buy a bond for $20.00. But because of Mr. Dawson’s religious convictions, as a man of peace, he declined to support the war. His manager thought he’d make it easy on him by offering to pay all but ten cents of the bond for him. Mr. Dawson refused. He said, “If you can afford $19.90, you can afford the other ten cents! You don’t want my money. You want my principles!” It cost him his job. This lead to his being called up in the draft. And so, in spite of his activity in the ministry, he was sentenced to five years in a federal prison. While in prison, his wife had to raise their baby daughter alone.
After prison, he went back into the ministry and took work as a bricklayer. He raised a family and took on many, many overseer and teaching positions that glorified God. These assignments had far reaching effects and resulted in a worldwide network that saved countless lives through education. His goal of, “communication instead of confrontation,” was a motto he ascribed to and it proved to have immediate and long term success. He was a humble man who ended up being loved and respected by not only his fellow believers, yes, but he also had the respect of authority figures and decision makers. At anytime of the day or night they would call upon him for help and advice.
Throughout his life Mr. Dawson was well known for his love of Jehovah God, his family, hard work and of course, for people in general. He loved learning and was open to new information. His love, warmth, and enthusiasm was endless and like I said at the beginning of my story, he never stopped being concerned about others even in his final days. When he died, over 1500 people attended his memorial service.
Brother Dawson’s warmth and exuberance lives on in my heart and mind. He had such a beautiful energy about him that it was privilege to be in his company. Everything he did, he did with gusto. I look forward to the time when I will see him again in the resurrection. I have no doubt his joy will fill the very earth.
” With that I heard a loud voice from heaven say, “Look! The tent of God is with mankind, and he will reside with them. And he will wipe out every tear from their eyes and death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore. The former things have passed away.” And the One seated on the throne said: “Look! I am making all things new. Also, he says: “Write, because these words are faithful and true.” – Revelation 21:3-5.