He took on life with unprecedented zest and gumption. He was the ultimate family man while somehow simultaneously managing to become enormously successful and respected in his community, throughout the state of Georgia and indeed the nation. What other accomplished editor, civil servant and war hero could you find beginning each day whistling a song with such contagious joy in his heart? None but my grandfather. He touched peoples lives in a way most never dream of. I will never forget the enormous turnout for the visitation and memorial service held over the weekend to honor him. Standing room only in the church; cars spilling over into the streets from the parking lot. Hundreds upon hundreds of lives genuinely touched by just one man.
Successful, respected, heroic and strong- all these great things he certainly was. But I simply knew him as Grandpapa. The man who loved the color red, girls in dresses and his granddaughters. He was married to my precious granny for nearly 70 years and truly loved her with all his heart. Yet somehow, that wonderful man made me feel just as cherished and adored as she. I'll never forget his enormous grin, the patience with which he taught my sister and me to ride horses, his whistles, hugs, and expansive library. The birthday songs he would sing to me so gleefully with my granny every year, ending with his deeeeep voice declaring "we love you... Oh yes. We. Do."
Grandpapa taught me respect, generosity, compassion, kindness, patience, honor, selflessness and priority. He showed me the value of a good education. He taught us the importance of family. He showed me incredible love that can only be felt from an adoring, wonderful grandfather. He lived as a man of God. He taught his children and grandchildren how to live Christian lives with dignity, honor and humility.
Today would have been my grandfather's 91st birthday. How I wish our family could gather round and sing with gusto to this great, great man, "happy birthday to you!" but alas, his earthly life is through. Today is most certainly a day for celebration. We are celebrating a life very well lived. Truly lived, with zest and love and respect and impact and generosity and humility and dedication and service. So much to learn from his incredible life.
My grandfather's ability to paint a picture with words was unmatched. My sweet mother describes him as a "master of words." Over the past few days as I have reflected upon his life, I realized his passion for writing and words somehow got passed down to me. My sister and mother were always the writers in the family, yet here I sit creating a tribute to one of the best writers I've ever known as a post for my blog. Perhaps there is more of him in me than I realized. I certainly pray so, for his legacy is most certainly great and just being able to say that I knew and loved such a man is humbling.
Alongside all his great deeds, all the lessons he taught and the examples he set, the biggest legacy my grandfather leaves behind in my heart is his love. My Grandpapa made certain that I felt more love than I could ever deserve. He told me and showed me every single chance he got. I only hope the love he showed me throughout his life can reflect outwardly in my words and actions going forward. For I think to this great, accomplished, heroic, successful and loving man, the greatest of these was love.