When I was 23 years old I picked myself up off the bathroom floor, bleeding, and made a vow to myself to change my life. I knew then that I was becoming a person I wasn’t very proud of, and I knew that I could do better; that I was smarter and stronger than the circumstances I found myself in, even though there were things that happened in shadows and behind closed doors that had lead me to that very moment.
I don’t know how long I lay in that position but I do know that everyone I had ever loved lay there with me. Some people had caused me to be there, while others had already walked away because they didn’t want to witness it. However, the majority of those that I loved had no idea I was struggling.
Yet, one face rose above all other’s and it was my Grandfather’s. The man who had loved me since birth; who read me the Sunday comics and told me any dish I didn’t want to try was especially made for Samantha. Who tucked a giant Mikey Mouse in his bag when he returned from Florida so I could leap at it’s obvious discovery.
The man who filled photo albums of every silly play that I was ever in and who kept his old baby blue 1950 Thunderbird for years so we could drive around in it. Who special ordered clay for our art projects and who gave me my first camera.
He was the one who made me a necklace with one of his prized coins from the 1800s and was the first person who taught me the meaning of volunteering, taking me to the preschool where he gave his time and then filling with pride as the children, “followed her around like ducks.”
He was the one who celebrated my love of books with recommendations and special editions and kept every letter I ever sent him.
His love for me was unquestionable, but even more importantly, I knew he believed in me. It wasn’t that I felt the weight of his expectations, but that he had so continuously nurtured my curiosity, creativity, intelligence and passion for life.
I knew that I could not give into lying on the floor or any challenges that life had gifted me; that I had to get up because I could only face my Grandpa by looking him in the eyes standing up – even if I couldn’t at that very moment.
So I crawled out of the bathroom, and into the very slow, and humbling, process of transforming my entire life. A month later I was on a plane, in a new city, and everything was so much harder than my 23 year old self could have predicted, but naivety is one of youth’s blessings.
Suddenly it’s years later, and I’m at another, less dramatic crossroads. Again my Grandfather flashed through my mind.
Per usual, he was telling me a story about a young man who rode his bicycle through France. He said that, “he always wished he had done something like that,” and I knew in his way he was giving me advice about what he dreamed for me.
I hadn’t realized that I had carried that story with me for years, and when it came time to make a decision, deep in my heart I knew leaving SF and traveling was the right answer.
But now he’s gone and I’m so far away that I can’t attend the funeral. A part of me cannot help but see this as meant to be because it was his stories, his traveling of the world, his sense of adventure that he cultivated in me that got me here in the first place.
So this is what I can do for him. I can tell all of you that my Grandfather was the type of man that got people up off the floor; that gave them the support whether financial, or otherwise (though volunteering) that they could make something more of their lives.
That he opened up the world for others, through his art and stories,and that he fueled those he touched imaginations.
That there was no question of his love, integrity or friendship, and that he was easily loved and respected in return.
That the world is less without him and more for having him here. And I know that any good I have inside of me, any inner strength, or anything that I achieve has been nourished by the person that he was and the gift of his love that I will always carry with me.