The last time I saw him was in Surfside Beach, South Carolina. Many of my happiest memories were from those times at the beach with my Granddad and the rest of our family. He was standing on the deck, looking out at our whole family- aunts, uncles, cousins, children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren playing in the idyllic orange light of the setting summer sun as the surf rolled in- and he said to me, “There it is. There is my contribution to humanity… My contribution to humanity.”
Monday was Veteran’s Day Observed. It was also the day the world lost a great veteran airplane pilot from World War Two. Today I honor the contribution to humanity that was my grandfather. The man who inspired me to grow tomatoes, find peace with the world around me, and remain calm in the center of a storm.
A man who was raised on a farm in rural North Carolina, whose own father was a preacher, Granddad never lost faith. Even when he was ill and facing a recent surgery. He was always brave, kind, strong, and thoughtful. He loved a good football game and long discussions about the stock market. He loved to grow tomatoes and cucumbers in his backyard. He never killed bugs because, as he told me, “They didn’t want to live any less than I do.” He seemed to find many of the truths early on that the rest of us search our entire lives for.
He didn’t hear very well in the last few years of his life, but I know he understood that I loved and admired him very much. I felt an unspoken kinship with him and his generous, quiet heart. He helped my own father to become who he is and, in doing so, shaped who I am. I am part of his contribution to humanity. All of my aunts and uncles and cousins are, too.
What a contribution it was. Thank you, Granddad, for giving us all so much.