Time is a measure of past, present, and future. Someone once wrote that it is just one darn thing after another. Personally, I have always hated watches, ticking game clocks, Excel columns, the last cast, the final day of vacation and goodbyes.

Time — or more specifically what we do with it — is the measure of life. We seek permanence and perfection in our yards, family life, jobs, health, and creations. It has been said that this is the reason humans constantly seek a God. Our faith gives us faith in something glorious…and permanent.

Here on Earth, the only thing that is permanent in life is change. Change shakes us up like the damnable alarm clock that pulls us from our comforting dreams of quiet beaches, lost loves, revenge, and winning seasons. Life is more like a swirling inlet than a placid lake.

There was a large brass ship’s bell that used to dictate my life in military school. It was hated—yet every year when alumni return to the school’s beloved archway it captures their attention once again.

This week two souls left this Earth that were living examples of what can be done with the time we have. They were both friends who entered my life through work and now only reside in cherished memories.

One is John Driggers, a gentleman I first met decades ago while writing a feature story on multiple sclerosis and the other is Charles “Dude” Settle, a 93-year-old musician, who often played guitar for the senior citizens club I coordinate for Culpeper Parks and Recreation.

Both men loved all aspects of life, faith, family, music, and friendship. Both men provided valuable lessons on how to live life to its full potential.

John Driggers was a man who had it all — health, a beloved family, excellent career, the love of his life — then a life-changing disease struck like a bad hand of cards. Unfair, unexpected, and life-altering. 

Each year actions became more difficult, simple pleasures of walks, playing guitar, and freedom of movement were cruelly taken away. Yet despite this disease he never let it define him — he never surrendered who he was at heart. His love of faith, family and friendship never faltered.

When something was taken away, he adapted and endured, turning losses into pillars of strength. John’s love for life was an inspiration, as was the love he shared with his wife, Janet. They lived their vows of marriage.

When I read the sad news of his passing, Janet wrote that she knows that John would now happily exchange his earthly body at the pearly gates for the strong one he once possessed in youth. Life put many obstacles into John and his family’s life and their family had the strength and heart to carry it. When I heard the sad news, I thought of a drawing I once saw of a wheelchair bound child rising to touch the hand of God — once again free of the chains of hurt.

I will miss our discussions, John. I will miss your humor and wisdom.

Please know how much your life inspired me and made me appreciate all of life’s changing tides.

As for Charles “Dude” Settle, he showed us all that advanced age can still be meaningful and fun. His band the Country Troubadours brought toe-tapping happiness to so many people. He could play a surf-guitar with the best of them. He used to smile when I would chair surf to his rousing riffs. I was always captivated to hear his stories of honky-tonks, performances with notable musicians, travels and his strong faith.

His band always closed with a signature song that proclaimed, “Loving God, loving each other…making music with all our friends.” Boiled down to the bones that was his foundation.

As we gather with family and friends this Thanksgiving, let us take a moment to reflect on the people we are truly thankful for in our lives. The ones that leave permanent stamps on our lives in an imperfect, beautiful, and tumultuous world. Life is what you make of your time.

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