He smelled the flowers

A few years ago, I looked down a sidewalk at my local zoo to see my father leaning over to smell the blossoms in front of him. He was alone and not affecting any sort of illustration of a peaceful man. He was living in that moment and that moment alone. He had literally stopped to smell the flowers. He was a man at peace. After a full lifetime of chasing dreams and making them real, he had slowed down to enjoy all that he had earned. He had cheated death in 2003 and lived through an experience most people would not. From then on, he laughed from his gut, expressed love with ease, and settled into a real life he deserved.

I am as far away from him as I’ve ever been tonight. It’s three in the morning in Macau. I’m getting ready to pack so I can go home and tell my dad one last time that I love him. I love him for being the man who worked so hard to make my life what it is. I love him even more for taking the last eight years to be the man who slowed down to smell the flowers.

Brad Willis

Brad Willis is a writer based in Greenville, South Carolina. Willis spent a decade as an award-winning broadcast journalist. He has worked as a freelance writer, columnist, and professional blogger since 2005. He has also served as a commentator and guest on a wide variety of television, radio, and internet shows.

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31 Responses

  1. G-Rob says:

    We love you Brad. And your dad was a very good man.

    Travel safe.

  2. Jen says:

    Brad, this is a wonderful picture. I’m so thankful you had these last eight years to watch him learn the ability to smell those flowers. Be safe.

  3. I celebrate your love for your father as I sorrow for your loss.

  4. Lonnie Joe Willis Sr says:

    My Dear Brother John died today,, and to describe how I feel at this time would be almost impossible. For he meant so much to me and all his family. Just to say that he was a good man would not even begin to describe his life. If I was to give him his just dues that his life has so greatly earned, I would have to write a book. So just let me say Thank you John, for all the times you helped me and many others and you did your greatest deeds so anonymously, not wanting anyone to know of your gifts except for The Lord in heaven.. Thank you my Brother you did your Family proud

  5. gobbomom says:

    So nice; I feel like I’m smelling those flowers right along with him. It’s been hard to be a man who enjoys beauty in this world. Your Dad has set a wonderful example and I’m really happy for you both for having the opportunity.

  6. Michele White says:


    I am deeply sorry for your loss & touched by your beautiful tribute to your father. He seems like a wonderful man. Thank you for sharing this story & photo. I will remember your family in my prayers.



  7. BadBlood says:

    Ditto to Grob’s comment.

  8. Jillene & Tom says:


    We so enjoyed your Dad, getting to know him, talking with him when he and Jo came to visit. Our prayers are with you and your family. Please let us know if there is anything we can do…

    Jillene & Tom Van Hoy

  9. Thanks for stopping to let us know. Good examples, both of you. Our thoughts are with you and family, friend.

  10. Wes says:

    People strive to be remembered like this. You were lucky, as was he, to have each other. I grieve with you, but have great joy that you had the chance to realize the great gift you were given. God keep you and your family safe and in peace.

  11. Sooner sleeper says:

    Brad. You guys are in our prayers. Have a safe trip

  12. iggy says:

    A wonderful tribute in the most difficult of circumstances. Thinking of you and your family. Be safe getting home.

  13. gracie says:

    Oh Brad, I was out of the country when I lost my dad and I know the difficult journey that lies ahead for you. My thoughts are with you and your family. I’m so sorry.

  14. Tiffini says:

    So sorry for your loss Brad. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family. This is a beautiful tribute. I feel very lucky to have had the opportunity to meet your father this year and know for myself what a wonderful spirit he has.

  15. Nigel says:

    My prayers are with you all. Much love my friend. I feel your pain.

  16. Jason says:

    I’m so very sorry for your loss, Brad, and at the same time very glad for you that you had those extra years with him that you didn’t expect.

  17. SCSue says:

    So sorry for your loss, and happy for you and your family to have had him in your lives.

  18. I’m sorry for your loss, Brad, but happy for you that he had those extra years to see the man you grew up to become, and to know his grandchildren. My thoughts are with you, Jeff and the rest of your family.

  19. Michelle says:

    Normally, you make me cry with words. Today, the tears are just for a friend who has experienced loss. You are fortunate to have had a life and time with him; he has lived a life well to leave a legacy like you and your family behind.

    We love you.

  20. Maigrey says:


    I am so sorry for your loss, and my thoughts and prayers are with you.


  21. Astin says:

    My condolences for your loss. He sounds like a good man who obviously did a good job. Safe travels.

  22. April says:

    So sorry to hear this news my friend. Thinking of you and sending lots of love to you and the family.

  23. April H. says:

    That photo is a beautiful reminder for all. Thank you for sharing and I am truly sorry for your loss.

  24. change100 says:

    Such beautiful words, Brad. Peace to you and yours.

  25. Julius_Goat says:

    As usual, your post stirs deep things within me.

    Sitting here quietly beside you. Peace.

  26. Brian says:

    My prayers go out to you and your family. As cliche’ as it sounds be thankful that the lord gave you the time that you had with your father.

    Peace be with you.

  27. Drizztdj says:

    Very sorry for your loss Brad. My thoughts and prayers are with you, your family, Jeff and his family. Get home safely.

  28. Michele says:

    A beautiful post, Brad. Thanks for always sharing your gratitude and reflections.

  29. Bryan Polcyn says:

    I didn’t know your father, Brad, but I can see you and Jeff in the pictures of him. I can only imagine the pride he must have felt for his sons, their successes and their beautiful families. My dad was born three days after yours (Dec. 27, 1946). His death five years ago had a profound impact on my life. Still does. It’s never the same without your father. Still, it was on the day of his funeral that I truly came to understand what a great man he was, because it was that day when literally hundreds of people – some I’d never met before – approached me to describe the impact he had on them. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself laughing and smiling as friends, former coworkers, and distant relatives recount the things that made your dad great. It is a powerful experience and an amazingly uplifting one.

  30. Bob Kallberg says:

    There are no words…..

  31. Sarah says:

    That is one of the most beautiful pictures I’ve ever seen to embody a person.