With the passing of Memorial Day, my thoughts have been traveling back in time in remembrance of one of the greatest men in my life.
From the time I was a baby, I was completely captivated by this man. My eyes lit up when he entered the room, and my heart skipped a beat. Even back then, before I knew what a hero was, he was my hero.
Rev. Jesse Dale Richardson, better known to me as Grandpa, was truly a man of integrity. The words that Grandpa preached to his congregation at church, were shown in his actions at home. He was a rock for me to cling to during my youth. Growing up, my life held many tragedies and struggles, but Grandpa was there for me through it all.
It didn't seem to matter how far away he was. If I really needed him, he and Grandma would jump in the car and come to my rescue. On one such occasion, my grandparents traveled all the way to Virginia to come to my aid.
One thing that I loved most about Grandpa was the way that he loved me. When I was a child, he would look at me with a twinkle in his eye and a smile on his face and say, "How's Grandpa's little doll?" I knew no matter what mistakes I made in life, he would love me just the same. His love for me was unconditional. It would never change, and I loved him all the more for it.
Anyone, who knew my grandfather, knew what a strong man he was. This strength not only encompassed physical activities, but it also included his ability to remain strong in the midst of trying circumstances. A true man of God, Grandpa possessed Godly wisdom that allowed him to guide his family through life's many struggles.
The joy that Grandpa displayed was constant, there were no trials or difficult circumstances that could diminish the rays of sunshine that he emitted from his spirit. I can still hear him singing praise to God or whistling a lighthearted tune.
Sometimes Grandpa and I would find time to sit outside with cups of coffee in hand and gaze up at the celestial creations God created. This quality time meant a lot to me. Sometimes we would visit about life's circumstances; at other times, we would simply enjoy each other's company, saying nothing at all.
I remember standing at the foot of the hospital bed, watching Grandpa as he took his last breath. It was so hard to believe that my hero was dying. In all my years growing up, Grandpa seemed so invincible to me. Now, he lay lifeless, gasping for breath. My heart broke.
At Grandpa's funeral, the large church was crowded with people, and the minister spoke about Grandpa as if he were a celebrity. It was at that moment that I realized I was not the only one who thought highly of my Grandpa. I was sitting in a church full of people who had been in some way touched by the life that Grandpa had lived.
I remember sitting up a little straighter in my chair as I realized that although many lives were enriched by him, those people only knew who he was. I didn't just know Grandpa. He was mine, and I was his little doll.