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Remembering my grandfather

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By Calen McKinney

It's hard to believe it's been a year since we lost him.

My grandfather died on Oct. 13 last year after a stroke left him not really knowing who he was.

He remembered me sometimes, but most of the time he didn't. He might have seen my parents and me as people who visited him occasionally, or more of the people who were just around him all of the time. We will never really know.

He was my last living grandparent. That made his death especially hard for me.

I thought about my grandfather a lot during the anniversary of his death and ever since. I thought about how happy and loved he made me feel. And I thought about what he and my grandmother haven't seen in my life. It's even sadder to think about what they will never see.

I am planning a trip to visit my grandparents' graves this weekend. Since they are buried more than three hours away from me, it's sometimes difficult to go as often as I would like.

In the past year, I've found myself wanting to call him and tell him what's going on in my life. Sometimes, I even listen to a message he left me on my answering machine before he had his stroke. His voice is so full of love.

And, as odd as this may seem, I still haven't deleted his phone numbers from the address book on my cell phone. I just don't want to.

This past year has taught me several life lessons. And even though I miss all my grandparents, one who died before I was born and another only a few months after, my grandfather's death was the most difficult for me.

I think the realization that I no longer had any living grandparents was difficult to swallow. It's still a struggle.

But now, after the past year, I have come to understand that my grandfather is now in a better place. He no longer wonders who the people are around him. He is with my grandmother and they are happy.

I believe he has two arms again and walks with a quicker step. And I believe he still loves his family with fierceness.

I learned a lot about life from my grandfather and can only aspire to live the kind of life he did.

He never let anything keep him down. He beat prostate cancer. He lived with only one arm. He survived losing his wife and one of his sons. And he never, ever gave up. He could do anything and encouraged me to believe that I could, too.

I can only strive to live my life with that kind of drive and hope. And each day, I realize that he wants that for me, too.