Cask & Barrel

Bill Wightman: A Life Remembered

When I found out my Grandfather, Bill Wightman, had passed away February 28 I was shocked. It wasn’t completely out of the blue; he was nearly 88 years old and had been battling pneumonia for the last few weeks. But anyone that knew him knew he had a lot of living left to do. To me he was a man of great dignity, integrity, and heart. It wasn’t until his passing that I realized how much he meant to so many people outside of our family. For a thorough recollection of his life I refer you to the obituary posted at Ainsworth Funeral Home here. For a more detailed look at the cause nearest to his heart in his later years, there is an excellent article from the Wellington Times available here.

I can’t think of a better way to memorialize him than through his own words. The following is from a letter he gave to me one Christmas, along with the book “State of Fear” by Michael Crichton.

Dearest Kirstyn,

Among other things, this book has been described as thought provoking. I am certain you will find “State of Fear” both thought provoking and a good story.

I hope to live many more years to proudly watch and encourage you. Even if I do not have much longer to go before I die, this book will help you to understand why I have often worked for causes which were unpopular in the minds of many people.

I do not like to see people coerced, therefore I have opposed the coercive aspect of compulsory unionism.

I do not believe politicians, no matter how well they are motivated, can make better decisions than those which individuals should be allowed to make for themselves, therefore I have opposed when it monopolizes such personal matters as health care and education.

I do not like those who use fear rather than fact as a means of motivating people to accept a point of view, therefore I have opposed what has become conventional wisdom whether it related to the “science” of eugenics or, more recently, global warming.

Shakespeare wrote wisely when he had Polonius say to his son, Laertes, “Above all, to thine own self be true, and it will follow as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man”. That advice, along with Victor Hugo’s story of redemption, “Les Miserables” and a poem by Leigh Hunt, title “Abou Ben Adhem”, have informed my thinking since I was twelve years old. The poem goes as follows:

Abou Ben Adhem (may his tribe increase!)
Awoke one night from a deep dream of peace,
And saw, within the moonlight in his room,
Making it rich, and like a lily in bloom,
An angel writing in a book of gold:—

Exceeding peace had made Ben Adhem bold,
And to the presence in the room he said,
“What writest thou?”—The vision raised its head,
And with a look made of all sweet accord,
Answered, “The names of those who love the Lord.”

“And is mine one?” said Abou. “Nay, not so,”
Replied the angel. Abou spoke more low,
But cheerly still; and said, “I pray thee, then,
Write me as one that loves his fellow men.”

The angel wrote, and vanished. The next night
It came again with a great wakening light,
And showed the names whom love of God had blest,
And lo! Ben Adhem’s name led all the rest.

Kirstyn, whatever you decide to do in life you will do it well. Just follow your heart thoughtfully. Not long after you were born your Grandmother, Chow Soon, looked at you and said to me, “There’s a baby who knows she is loved”! Wherever you go, whatever you do, I pray you will always know my love goes with you.

I love you Grandpa.

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