There aren’t many people in life that you can truly admire from every single aspect of who they are. But I can tell you with all of my heart that my grandaddy was a person that I strive to be like in every single way. And I hope to live a life as full as his.

We lost my grandaddy last Saturday. And it’s been since that day that I feel like a piece of my heart is missing. My family and I are very close. I spoke with my grandparents often. Although we live far from one another, with the wonders of technology, we’ve been able to see each other as often as we’d like. I’d always FaceTime my granny (because grandaddy never got around to recent technology) and every single time we’d talk I’d see grandaddy’s head peek over the phone with a “who’s that?” Once he saw it was me, he usually greeted me with a joke and then we’d exchange stories of what was going on in our lives. There was never a phone call that I had with him when I didn’t hang up the phone with a smile.

And it’s been that way my entire life. You could never not smile around grandaddy. It was his mission to have everyone happy and smiling. And he succeeded. Whether it was him bouncing us on his knee when we were little doing “ride the horsey” or taking us on adventures across the country in his motor home, he wanted to make sure we were happy and having fun.

Grandaddy was always the playful type. He’d be the first one my sister and I would run to when we wanted to go outside and play on his four-wheelers. He’d be the first one that was on the floor rolling around with us or outside on the swing set pushing us on the swing. If grandaddy was near, we wanted him right by our side. And he was. Every step of the way.

When I was 10 years old my mom underwent brain surgery. My sister was nine and my brothers were both less than two years old. While my mom and dad were both in the hospital, my granny and grandaddy came down to Tampa to take care of us kids. At 10 years old you don’t know how to process your mother possibly facing death. And while I felt it was my responsibility as the oldest to take care of my brothers and sister, it was my grandaddy who reminded me that I didn’t need to bear that responsibility, what I needed was to be a 1o year old little girl. It was in some of those darkest days that grandaddy was there making me smile, laugh, and put my mind at ease. It was through his relentless jokes, his funny stories of when he was a child, or just making funny faces, that he’d make sure we knew that everything was going to be okay.

The last time I saw my grandaddy was last summer. I drove up with the kids on our way home from our time at my parents in Florida.  During our stay we laughed and joked the way that we always did, but what stood out to me the most was how much fun my kids had with him. Macks was the first one to run and jump on GG, as they referred to him. While he wasn’t quite able to get around like he used to, that didn’t stop him from joining in on the rambunctiousness that my kids were taking part in. They used his knee as a horse just as I had done in that very same living room 30 years before. They sat in his lap while he told them stories to make them laugh just as he’d told me when I was a little girl. And the look that I saw on my kids faces as he made them laugh, was the same look and laughter that I took part in for my entire life. And that’s the memory that they will have with their GG.

As we left my grandparents house that afternoon before heading back home, my grandaddy asked me to come up and hug his neck just as he always did. “I love you Lauren,” he said with tears streaming down his face. “I love you too,” I said as I wrapped my arms around his neck and squeezed him tight.

I had 32 of the most wonderful and joyous years with a man who walked right by my side when I needed him. And even though he’s not with us here on earth, I know that he’s still walking next to me every step of the way.

One of the greatest gifts you have in life is love. My grandaddy taught me what true love is. It wasn’t just the way that he looked at my granny or how he insisted that we hugged his neck every time we saw him, but it was the selfless kind of love. It was the kind of love that would walk up to a stranger and invite them into his home. The kind of love that made sure he went up to every person in a crowded room so that they would feel welcome. My grandaddy was full of love and he made sure that everyone around him had a piece of it.

So today I want to give you a piece of that love that grandaddy gave me throughout life.  Go and do just like grandaddy did and pass it along to others. Because what an amazing thing that would be if we all shared love the way grandaddy did.

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