Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Everyday Hero

One year ago today, the world lost the perfect example of an Everyday Hero. While trying to figure out a way to honor and remember my Grandpa, I decided to pledge this week after Memorial Day as a time to recognize all of those "Everyday Heroes" in my life. We don't always take the time to recognize those people that go above and beyond every day to make this world a better place. Whether it is helping a neighbor, saying encouraging words, volunteering, being a positive role model, taking the time to help without expecting anything in return...the list goes on and on. So, I am going to start by remembering a man that fit all of these things and so many more. I encourage you to take a moment to recognize those people that strive to make this world a better place by being your Everyday Hero...

Because I always want my children to know the impact this man had on the world, I am sharing the eulogy I wrote for his funeral...

It’s hard to know where to begin when talking about the legacy Grandpa left on this world. He was a man that touched so many lives. His smile, love, and compassion will never be forgotten. He lived his life to the fullest and will be missed terribly by us all.

There are so many memories I have of my grandpa, as I am sure each and every one of you sitting before me has as well. Anyone that knew my Grandpa couldn’t help but feel connected to him. That is probably the reason all of my friends, my cousins’ friends, and every other kid that saw him at the school or the ball field called him Grandpa Ross. The twinkle in his eye, compassionate smile, and words of encouragement made everyone feel special.

And it wasn’t just kids that looked to him for advice and guidance.  After reminiscing last night, I learned that many looked to my Grandpa when times were tough. There was something about his calm nature and words that could leave you with the feeling that you could get through anything.  

Grandpa was always making sure everyone else was taken care of. He never thought of himself first.  This was especially true in all the work he did for his community. His job as a fireman and fire chief was not something he took lightly. I remember being so proud to say that my grandpa was the fire chief.  As a child, there were countless occasions that grandpa and my dad would be sitting in our living room and the pager would go off. To watch them gave me butterflies in my stomach.  They never said a word, just jumped up, raced to put their shoes on, and ran out the door. They were almost always the first ones to check in at the hall. I was so proud of the job they were doing and the honor they took to do everything they could to help. 

Grandpa also took care of his community with his work for the DPW.  If anyone needed a well dug, they called on my grandpa. There was something remarkable about the way he could tell just where to dig to find water.  And we all remember the countless weekends he gave up to go to the well house to make sure everything was working so the people of the town didn’t have a disruption in their water service. Squeakers and Grandpa would come driving down the road in his silver truck and we all knew where they were going and what they were doing. He even took us kids with him sometimes for the ride.  Speaking of going for rides with Grandpa, I will always remember the way he could get us going by revving up his engine and getting to 55 as fast as possible.  But. On a more serious note,  I remember hearing the story of Grandpa saving a man’s life because he took the time to notice that something wasn’t quite right with the way the man was walking. And sure enough, Grandpa’s quick actions did save that man that day.

Not only did Grandpa take care of his community, but he also made sure his family came first. I don’t recall Grandpa and Grandma missing any of our ball games, events, or birthdays. They were a presence we could all count on. I will forever be grateful for them dropping everything they had going on to take me to AAU tournaments for entire weekends. Without them, I wouldn’t have been able to play.  And it wasn’t uncommon to see their big white and teal van packed to the brim taking kids to events. And Nick and I will never forget the countless times he came to our rescue to fix one of the church windows that got in the way of our basketballs and baseballs.

Grandpa always carried a 50 cent piece around with him just in case someone lost a tooth or even a fingernail. The story  was that he always saw the tooth fairy when he was down at the well house and she would give them to him. And it is the very reason that I always got 50 cent pieces from the tooth fairy and why those same 50 cent pieces show up when the tooth fairy visits my house today.

I am sure my cousins and siblings can all remember the famous cookie jar Grandpa had. I remember being at Grandpa and Grandma’s and waiting patiently for Grandpa to come home during his lunch break or after work. He would sit down and eat his chicken noodle soup, bologna sandwiches, ice tea, and coffee  And we would wait until he was done and he would reach up in the pantry and get us all Fig Newton cookies. As time went on and the great-grandchildren came, that cookie jar turned into a Tootsie Roll jar. Now both generations have a special treat to remember grandpa by.

We all saw the love he shared with Grandma too. They were in sync with one another—knew what the other was thinking, could complete each other’s thoughts, and together shared a love that most others can only dream about having. We all learned what love is through watching them.

The thing that I miss the most is seeing Grandpa on a daily basis. Seeing him in his blue uniform, driving the lawn mower, working on the roads, mowing the church lawn. And everyday Grandpa would stop by our house to deliver the newspaper.  And we would all sit around on the bar stools, mom would give him whatever dessert she had baked that day, and we would just talk.  The same things happened every Sunday before Grandpa and Grandma would go to church. I will also miss stopping by their house and watching Wheel of Fortune, Mayberry, Grandpa’s Toys, or Andy Griffith with him. And any day that Michigan State football was on, you better believe we all watched that with him, whether it was at the actual game or sitting in one of our living rooms.  It is those little moments that really mean the most to me.  He was such a big part of my daily life.

You see, my grandpa wasn’t just my grandpa. He was so much more. He played the same role in my life that his son is now playing in my kids’ lives. The bond that is shared can never be broken. Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, but love leaves a memory no one can steal. Grandpa, your spirit lives on in all of us through the amazing life you chose to live and the relationships you made. All of our lives are better because you were a part of it. The example you set and the love you shared made all of us the people we are today. Your smile, your carefree nature, and selfless attitude is something that will never be forgotten.  Thank you for being you and for taking the time to make me, me.