Life’s Mantle

Intuition, Faith, Responsibility, and Tenacity


My father’s recent death has prompted me to think deeply about the mantle that falls upon each of us as we are left to lead our families. The mantle is a hefty honor and responsibility to lead and care for those we love. I have been asking myself the question, “When do we realize the responsibility we have to spend time with our parents before they die?” It seems like an easy answer: as often as possible, the older they get. But when they seem fine, other duties and distractions interfere. In my case, I kept getting intuitive messages that his time was near. My father and I had spent countless days fishing together, and he loved to float fish on area rivers. Two knee replacements had left him unable to canoe comfortably, so I bought a drift boat and we were able to return to the river for several trout fishing trips. For every time we got to go, I wish we had gone ten times, but I am so thankful for those days fishing and shooting the breeze about just about everything. That was the tone of my entire life experience with my dad.  He gave his very best in every moment to everyone he met, willing to give or share anything he had to anyone he knew who was in need or simply if they asked. This and his love for our family was his way of being valiant, and I am thankful that he chose to share those qualities with us all. Despite my intuition, I thought we had a decade or more left to share. He was healthy and had no major complaints. And then he was gone.

My father, Richard Sparks, (left) and his best friend Bill Opengary
canoeing on the New River during one of our many float fishing trips.

The value of this experience is in learning to move beyond the urgency of everyday affairs and listening to that intuitive inner voice speaking to us about our important responsibilities. I share this to encourage each of us to invest the time while we have the chance. I am glad for the moments I shared and regretful for those where I allowed things to get in the way. How we respond to life’s intuition calls us to action and helps define our character.

Take Chris Blue, the subject of our cover story. As a young man, his faith enabled him to see that, in order to achieve his goals, he had to see things differently and to take on new responsibilities. As you will read in the interview, he listed them and took them seriously. He made a decision to take responsibility for his desire to become an actor by taking acting lessons, for his desire to improve his body by devoting time to exercise, for his desire to become the best singer he could by working with the best talent he could find. He did not say, “I just don’t have time.” He allowed his faith to guide him instead of allowing fear to impede him.

Chris’ mentor, Hallerin Hilton Hill, is an uber-successful Knoxville entrepreneur we hear on the radio almost daily. It seems beside the point to remark upon his successes, but the Hallerin Hill we have come to know is someone who has taken responsibility for his success. In June 2003, we named him “King of the Hill” and devoted our cover to him. We suspected the greatness he might achieve. He has grown his small-city celebrity status into a renaissance of enterprises, comprising Grammy-nominated songwriting, wisdom coaching, and public speaking, amongst other ventures. What impresses us about Hallerin in this story is that he saw it as his responsibility to share the abundance of his own success to help someone else on the road to their own.

Chef Bruce Bogartz has had a rich and varied experience within Knoxville’s culinary community. He has owned and operated several restaurants and has been head chef at a few others. Life is not always kind, and those ventures didn’t always work out. What I admire about Bruce is his willingness to take charge of his life. That is the very essence of tenacity. I’m really proud of the Bruce I know today. He’s started eating better, has lost considerable weight, and continues humbly to create fine Southern food. He has landed at, of all places, Moe’s Market on Northshore Drive. You might not think of fine dining at a gas station, but think again. Pairing up with gifted Yemini cook and owner Moe Alasry, together they provide the very definition of excellence: their place is where the locals go. Make no mistake, our Cityview staff eats there all the time—come join us! It’s always a delight to get to experience his colorful culinary creations. I’m proud of the Bruce that is once again on the path to success.

These are just a few of the people I have had the pleasure to meet or visit with recently, who remind me how to follow through with life’s responsibilities. I truly admire these qualities in others. Their deep inner strength, absolute faith, and indefatigable resolve is evidence of their true willpower.

I believe that intuition informs us of the correct path we should follow in life. We must be responsible in our choices to honor intuition and act with faith. And we must be tenacious in the pursuit of our goals. Lack of time is never an excuse. We can only fail by attempting to manage time, which will tick forward regardless of our human endeavors. Rather, when we manage life, it offers us rich rewards as we grow accustomed to wearing the mantle of responsibility.

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