A couple of songwriters penned the questions:
What’s good about goodbye?
What’s fair about farewell?
The truth is, the goodness and fairness in leaving — a special place, people, a job — is knowing that the stay was not just enjoyable, but fulfilling.
So it is with me on this day.
By the time you read this I will have retired from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the place where I began my journalism career more than four decades ago. And, after a 20-year absence, it was the place that I came “home” to and where I complete the journey.
For some, this will come as sad tidings. But I’m sure for many who have so strongly disagreed with my opinions over the years, it will be as joyous as the Munchkins receiving the news that the Wicked Witch is dead.
So be it.
Any regrets I carry with me are in the things I couldn’t get done, but they pale in comparison to the full range of experiences I had along the way.
The contrast of emotions that came with watching one man being executed and then helping to stop the execution of another is hard to articulate.
Again, the regret is that while we’ve made tremendous progress in this state and country on the issue of capital punishment, we have not been able to completely abolish it.
I reflect on the number of times I’ve watched two mothers crying, one because her son was dead, the other because her son killed him.
Yet, I also think about the number of young men and women I’ve been able to assist in some way, and to share their stories of accomplishments that helped others.
While I’ve been able to witness many historical events in my career and talk with some of the most powerful and influential people in the country, the real joy came in being able to write about extraordinary people who were not famous, but whose lives, conditions and achievements begged to be written about.
I particularly think of the high school math teacher who needed a liver transplant, and our readers rose to the occasion; being able to prove the innocence of someone wrongly charged with a crime; raising funds to buy thousands of fans for prisoners suffering from the heat in Texas penitentiaries; and becoming involved with a young boy who discovered his mother murdered in her bed, watching him grow into manhood.
One emotional, painful and yet rewarding task came in 2000 when our publisher asked me to be the administrator for the Wedgwood Victims Fund, a campaign started by the paper to raise money for the wounded and families of the dead shot while they attended a youth rally at Wedgwood Baptist Church in 1999.
Larry Gene Ashbrook killed seven and wounded seven before killing himself. And we raised $250,000 for those families, a large chunk of it coming from the Texas Rangers baseball organization and individual players.
One of the small things I take pride in is leading the fight to save the “Angels of Justice” sculptures that adorned the old Civil Courts Building downtown. Now standing four stories tall on the soon-to-open new court building, they look like they’ve always belonged there.
And I was honored to select the site for the Mark Twain sculpture in Trinity Park, where I often go to visit one of my literary heroes.
I do regret that I couldn’t answer all the mail from prison, make it to every classroom where teachers wanted me to speak, write about every story that needed to be told, or solve the race problem.
Then, there’s another small matter of the three rings. After writing columns that reconnected people with lost high school rings, people sent me rings they had found and asked me to locate the owners.
I still have three of them: from Paschal, 1963, with the initials “JWJ”; Irving High, 1983, initials “RG”; and Justin F. Kimball in Dallas, 1973, initials “JLB.”
Oh, well, it seems I have some unfinished business to attend to.
So, I guess I should say fairwell.
Bob Ray Sanders has retired. Twitter: @BobRaySanders