My Grandaddy was a great teacher. The very best teachers don’t teach by lecturing. They educate through example and experience.
By example, my Grandaddy taught me that mistakes can be blessings in disguise. When he joined the Air Force, an error was made in his paperwork. Transposed numbers resulted in a career path change from a telephone line repairman to a photographer. Instead of getting angry or fussing, Grandaddy went with the flow. That small mistake changed the entire course of his life.
By example, my Grandaddy taught me that the old saying is true. It’s nice to be important, but it’s more important to be nice. As a child, I eagerly awaited his frequent trips to visit out family in Maryland. He always had a list of activities in mind – local restaurants, of course, but also visits to landmarks and monuments. He would always stop and take pictures of people we didn’t know. I was confused, and he explained to me that pictures of entire families are priceless treasures, and if one member of the family is taking the picture, they aren’t in it. As I grew older, I followed his example. I get strange looks sometimes, but I usually get the shot.
While walking through a parking lot once, Grandaddy went over to an unfamiliar car and opened the door. Before I could say anything, he was in, out and closing the door. “They left their lights on,” he said. Although he was a highly respected, decorated war hero, he never expected better service or different treatment from anyone else. He didn’t brag. He was kind and respectful to all people, unless they messed up his change, forgot his receipt, or skipped him when he was waiting in line.
By example, my Grandaddy showed the importance of not wasting your life. My sorrow at his passing is tempered by seeing the lives he touched and listening to stories about the things he did – and wow, he did a lot! He wasn’t referred to as the Energizer Bunny for nothing! When asked how he managed to do so much, he explained “I just never sit down. If I sit down, I won’t get back up.” I will strive in life to say yes, accept unplanned detours in the road of life, and to do my best to show kindness to everyone.
This week, my Grandaddy taught me one final lesson. By example, my Grandaddy taught me that death isn’t scary. Death, to me, had been shrouded in mystery, usually heard of by a late night or early morning phone call. As his body grew weaker, I hesitated before answering an early morning phone call from my mother. I was honored to be with the family as my beloved Grandaddy left to be with the Lord. His passing was peaceful and as dignified as he always was.
My Grandaddy lives on through his wife, his three children, 6 grandchildren and great grandson, as well as other generations that will follow. How we live our lives, the choices we make, are the parts of him he left behind. Though I am heartbroken by his passing, I know that now he has truly “slipped the surly bonds of earth...put out his hand, and touched the face of God.”