I'm going to try to get these words out of my heart, but I can't guarantee I can finish this. Tears are hitting my fingers as I type.
I'm not even sure where to start. There's a lot that hasn't been said out loud, but it's not necessary because I know how you feel. More than anything, I want to say thank you and I love you.
You embraced my mother, a Kenyan, and accepted her relationship with your son in a time when interracial relationships were frowned upon. You were supportive of their relationship from beginning, and through the end.
It couldn't have been easy to watch your son and daughter-in-law go through a rough marriage, and then a devastating divorce. As a parent, you probably wanted to help, but when your children are adults, there's only so much you can do. Despite the circumstances, you determined to be involved in my brother and my life no matter what.
I remember how exciting it was when my mother let us spend the weekend at your house. It was like Christmas morning. You ran around with us crazy kids and you were very patient when we tore your house apart. When we settled down, you told us so many cool stories about your travels in Europe and serving in World War II. You painted a picture of the world that we would go home and dream about.
Every year you sent us a book for our birthday. We were young and didn't fully appreciate it, but we did read and fell in love with books. During some of the toughest times in our childhood, we would turn to those books as an escape.
As we grew older, our father wasn't around, he was battling his own demons, but you stepped up and were there for us in the true definition of a father.
You taught us not to accept complacency in our life. You taught us to chase our dreams and never look back. You didn't just teach us with words, you taught us by the example of how you lived your life. Those lessons stuck in our head and hearts, and although it took a little longer to manifest, they are the reason we're living our dream today.
Every time we struggled and wanted to give up, we remembered what you taught us and kept pushing forward. When it was too much to handle, we called you. You always knew how to talk us off the ledge.
I don't know if you saw the future when you gave us those books, but to walk into Barnes and Noble, and see your grandson's book on the bookshelf had to be a fulfilling moment. Seeing your children and grandchildren doing so many amazing things in their lives is a testament to the example you set.
You have dealt with so much in your life, including the unexpected death of your wife and son. No parent should have to outlive his child, and I can't imagine how hard it is for a husband to outlive his wife. Yet, during all the times when the rest of us wanted to fall apart, you were the glue that held us all together.
You have lived an amazing 88 years in this world. You have seen so much. You lived a full life.
You have dealt with some serious health issues in the last year, and the doctors say time is running out. Before your time on this earth has ended... I'm going to need a minute before I can continue, my hands are shaking and I'm crying out of control.
Before you go, I want you to know that your memory and the legacy you left behind will continue on. Even though we may not be able to talk to you and hug you, we know that you will always be watching over us.
Thank you for how you molded our lives. Thank you for teaching us what it means to be a man. Thank you for not walking away. Thank you for planting the seeds. Thank you for being an example of a life well lived.
I can't imagine life without you, but I know you want me to continue to live, love, and embrace life. I will honor you by doing just that. I will honor you by not just existing in this life. I will honor you by not living a life of regret.
I love you grandpa,
This article originally appeared on the Good Men Project.