my grandpa carried a picture of me in his wallet.
and when we used to go to mcdonald’s for breakfast in that small texas town, he would pull it out and show it to the cashiers. “she’s going to graduate from college,” he’d say. and when he had the chance, he would introduce me to the people he knew and and even the people he didn’t. “my granddaughter is real smart,” he would tell them.
and when i graduated from college, he wrote an article about me and had it published in his local newspaper so that his entire town would know. he (with the help of my family) wrote about what i did in college and where i hoped to go from there. he told his community about my volunteer work and travels abroad. i didn’t go to any form of schooling in texas and i didn’t know anyone outside of my family that lived there so i remember laughing and half-rolling my eyes when my mom told me what my grandfather wanted to do.
i used to think it was silly, but now i realize that he was proud.
and not just of me, or because it was me, but because that is the kind of person my grandfather was. forever warming your heart. and forever making you believe that anything was possible.
when my grandfather passed away a few weeks ago, i learned that he helped raise the money needed to build the church where his memorial service was held. i learned that he was the called a guadalupano- the first and only male to be included in the guadalupanas, a group of women in the church who dedicate their time to serving their community. because none of the women had drivers’ licenses at the time, he used to drive them around to ensure they made it to where they needed to be. he was a giver, a doer, and a believer that all things were possible. the absence of my grandfather in the days following his funeral was surreal. a sadness that overtook you in the most unsuspecting of ways; like when i walked into a room and didn’t hear his normal “hallo jesse” greeting. like the silence of my grandmother’s house because my grandfather was hard of hearing and no longer had the television blaring in the background. it was a feeling in your stomach where you knew that something was missing that could never be replaced.
and when my grandfather passed away, that picture of me was still there, in his wallet.
my grandpa was my biggest fan and ultimate cheerleader. he was the kind of person that made it possible for you to see a better version of yourself. the kind of person that made you want succeed, just so that he would be able to see it. and the kind of person that knew how to make everybody feel like they were special. so much so that when he looked at you, you knew that you were. he made up ‘rap songs’ and sang them to us just to hear us laugh. and his life was an example of what it means to serve others in whatever way that you have to offer. through music, hard work, kind words, and simple actions, his life was one of giving. and his life was a demonstration of daily celebrations; he always wore his nicest suits, shiniest shoes, and little top hat– a reminder that life is now and not the days that have yet to come.
my grandfather showed me what it means to cheer someone on, to believe in someone so much that they start to believe in themselves. and in your lifetime, you will have the opportunity to be somebody’s cheerleader. and i hope you remember what an honor that could be. i hope you help someone learn that within themselves, they have everything they need to succeed. and i hope you lead by example, that you demonstrate self-discipline, commitment, and hard-work. i hope you that you celebrate someone’s small successes and that you choose to pull someone forward long after they have wanted to stop. i hope you walk into the room and make every single person feel noticed, special, and worthwhile. and i hope you teach others that someday is now. that today is a reason for your best hat and nicest smelling cologne (or perfume). and i hope that one day, you can be part of the reason that someone decides to keep going.
my grandfather cheered for me in the quietest of ways. in small interactions that took place at the check out line and in the little flicker of his eyes as he glanced my way. he cheered for me in his smile and in the words he spoke. and he cheered for me in the way he lived his life. my grandfather built a family. a church. and a community. he taught me that the things we build will outlive us when we are gone.
today was meaningful because i will live out my life through his example.
today was meaningful because even through this terrible sadness, i’ll continue to cheer.
what i know is that you never know how much you will miss someone until they are gone.
and what i know is that grandpa, it’s a whole lot.