Like most people growing up was full of ups and downs. I grew up in a house full of turmoil. My parents fought every day, my dad drank daily, if not hourly, and wasn’t home too much, and I never felt like I fit in too much anywhere.
I don’t remember a lot about my childhood (I tend to block memories that aren’t great) but one thing I do remember quite well is my Grandmother.
Throughout my childhood, no matter what was going on, my Grandmother was always my rock. Her and my grandpa would take my brother and I on weekend trips. Whenever I would visit, she would cook meal after meal with me teaching me every single thing I’ve ever learned about cooking. She built in me a love of reading and every trip she would take me to the bookstore to get the next book in the Animorphs series. She taught me how to use Microsoft Word and Excel, and had me make my own business cards. She was the person I wanted most to like my now wife. But most of all my grandma was my cheerleader.
Every single visit to her house she told me how special I was. She told me how much I meant to her. She told me that no matter what anyone said, I was going to do great things. And as I child I believed her. I felt like I was the most important person in the world every moment I spent with her.
Growing older, into high school and college, I continued building a relationship with my grandmother. I would call her every time something great happened in my life and she would celebrate me! She made me cut out every article I was mentioned in or every good thing I did at school. And then she would take that article or item EVERYWHERE she went and would tell people how proud of me she was. Every single trip outside of the house with my Grandmother she would make sure to tell someone, “Do you know who this is? This is my grandson, Todd. And he’s going to change the world.” Part of me was embarrassed, but another part of me was exploding with pride inside because someone was so proud of me.
As I started to accomplish great things in my career, my grandmother would be the first person I called to tell good news. She always told me how proud of me and excited for me she was, even if she had no understanding of what great thing I had accomplished. And when I visited she would always ask me “What amazing things are you doing and changing the world with now?”.
Almost two years ago my grandmother was diagnosed with Pancreatic cancer. Now if you knew my grandmother at all, you would know she is a fighter. She didn’t put up with crap from anyone. And when diagnosed she vowed to fight with everything in her, and she did.
Then after fighting for almost a year and half, she wore out. She got tired of fighting. She refused to eat, and stopped taking her medicine. I can still remember the last time I saw her alive. My grandfather called me and told me he’d taken her to the hospital because she refused to eat or take meds. He didn’t know how long she would have and that she wasn’t talking to anyone. I drove up right away. I remember sitting by her bed, holding her hand, and telling her how much I loved her. I remember her laying there with her eyes closed breathing slowly. The hardest thing I’ve ever had to do, was tell her goodbye that day. And as I went to give her a hug and tell her goodbye, I saw her eyes open, and she whispered to me, “goodbye Todd. I’m so proud of you. I’m sorry.” It took everything in me not to break down and fall apart on the spot, but I was determined to stay strong, but walking out of that hospital room was so difficult.
That was the last time I saw my grandmother alive. About a week later she passed, and when planning her funeral, my grandfather asked me if I would do the Eulogy. How could I say no? I wanted to honor my grandmother. I can remember that day like it was yesterday. Standing in the front of a church full of people, and talking about what an incredible woman my Grandmother was, and breaking down crying half way through, which is something that I NEVER do in front of people.
But the most important thing my Grandmother taught me is the importance of each of us having someone to cheer us on. To be our cheerleader. My grandmother was always that one person I could go to who I know would celebrate me and build me up. There are still times when I catch myself grabbing my phone to call her and tell her my good news, but then I remember she’s not there anymore. I miss her often, but I want to continually carry on what she taught me. I want to celebrate those around me who are doing great things. I want to remind them of how important they are in this world. How much I believe in them. How much I care. Because that’s what my grandmother would have done for me.