Someone once stated, “We will all die one day. The goal isn’t to live forever, the goal is to create something that will.”
That statement played through my head today as I attended the funeral of my friend and colleague, Dennis Shields. Dennis, as many may know due to the inability of the media to let his family grieve during a horrific time, passed away last Friday.
Since that day, article after article has been written, more specifically because for a time Dennis dated reality TV star, Bethenny Frankel. Each magazine, newspaper, blog or entertainment website has published statement after statement of meaningless information. What is completely disturbing is none of these articles talks about the man, the father, the husband, and the visionary. The real Dennis Shields. They all sensationalize the relationship, which is a fight for headlines, but none of them discusses the real person they are referring to. How could they in actuality when they didn’t have the privilege of knowing him.
Many people spoke at Dennis’ funeral about him and how he single handedly touched so many. It was absolutely amazing to see and hear not only by the number of people who attended, but by the words they said. I found myself completely engaged in each speaker’s point of view. You see, Dennis had touched everyone he had ever met. Now, I wasn’t friends with him from childhood and I most certainly wasn’t his closet friend by any stretch. But we had known one another what felt like a bit more than the almost twenty years since we had met.
Ever since that time we would talk about many different topics. Not unlike stories shared by others today. We would always discuss business and most often always talk about investment structures. Dennis was fascinated with the structures I had been involved in creating and always wanted to discus how they worked and what made them unique. He would always sense my reaction to these discussions and would preface the conversation saying “ I was thinking about the…..” and he would trail off into a description of a structure he had been thinking of and how it compared or contrasted. But it wasn’t just the talk of investment structure or strategies that intrigued me when we spoke, it was the energy Dennis had. He seemed to have boundless energy and always be embarking on a new journey that seemed to engulf his being.
Throughout some of the hardest times in my life, when people turned their back on me and/or didn’t want to even say hello to me; Dennis walked right up to me and started to ask about the situation. He would start every conversation by asking the most simple question of all, “How are you?” Now, Dennis Shields did not have waste his time talking to me. We were friendly but we weren’t the best of friends. But Dennis sought me out if we were at the same get together. He would motion to go sit at a corner table and talk about the situation at hand. He would give advice. He would listen. But most of all he would remind me of my fortitude and how I needed to continue the good fight. Dennis would offer help although I never took him up on it, even though he continually thought of different scenarios.
Of all of the people I had ever known throughout this horrible time, Dennis was the only person who made sure to remind me about me. Someone today mentioned that Dennis had the ability to see people better than they saw themselves. That one could never be as good as a person as they were in Dennis’ eyes and we should try to be. But moreover, Dennis always reminded me of what I had accomplished. He had no reason to blow smoke at me based on who he was and what he had accomplished. But when I was down, Dennis wouldn’t have it. It was as if it was a foreign language to him and he wasn’t interested in learning it. He quickly reminded me of the journey I had taken and the new beginning that lay before me. Dennis saw the best in me that I didn’t even know to think about anymore. He had the amazing ability to look past the rhetoric and see true potential and talent.
What is so uncanny is that there is no one else I have ever known that was at Dennis’ stature or held the positions he held that took the time to cultivate relationships with people who had lost there way or had faced adversity. Dennis had a laser vision focus and could cut through the layers that slowed others down. He broke down complex structures in moments and then always wanted to discuss how they fit into the balance of life. While we often spoke of business concepts, anyone who knows Dennis, understands that there were many tangents in our discussions. We spoke of life, family, children and the overall meaning of it all. Dennis always acknowledged that his view of the world, his relationships and decisions weren’t something most would understand. But it worked for him and who was I to judge. Dennis never judged me so I was not about to question him. It was actually refreshing to have a relationship with someone where judgment was not a thing.
Dennis touched me in a way most people had never and it wasn’t until we were both further a long in our lives that I began to realize just how in tune he was. He was already brilliant and used to make observations about things in my life and compare them back to his. But he always tried to make sure I was ok and that I realized just how special I was. That was so rare in life that I think I have only met another couple of people like that. The interesting thing is, Dennis didn’t have to be my friend, he chose to be. He didn’t have to care about my well being, he chose to. He didn’t have to make sure I realized what I had the potential to accomplish. He chose to.
There are times in your life when you remember where you were for a certain occurrence. Or you know what you were doing. I can tell you I was so dumbfounded that I lost track of the time and my day as a whole when I found out Dennis had passed. I was literally in shock, as I could not believe someone so good had been taken from us so soon.
So if the goal is not to live for forever, but create something that will, Dennis Shields was a champion. He had created an amazing family, an extensive group of friends old and new and built amazing businesses from the ground up. Dennis was so fond of his kids he always got them into a conversation even if it was something business related. While he has created multiple businesses that will endure the test of time, he most shining achievement is that of his children who will each continue where he left off.