Forever Thankful

When my grandfather passed away recently, I struggled to cope, but the memory of his generosity has helped me deepen my understanding of Thanksgiving.


photo courtesy of Harris family

Madeline, her grandfather Bob, and her brother spending quality time together.

Maddie Harris, Arts and Entertainment Editor

I remember the moment like it was yesterday. The moment when my world shattered, and one shattered piece would never again return to its rightful place.

My mom called the family into the kitchen for a “family meeting,” which is not something my family usually does. The look on my mom’s face was calm yet troubled, and I realized that something serious must have occurred.

“Your grandfather had a stroke.”

As soon as these words escaped her mouth, the room grew silent. My sister began to cry, and I sat in silence, beginning to process what I had heard.

Still to this day, I am processing what I heard, in utter shock and disbelief. Maybe it’s because I live so far away from him and I never saw him regularly. He lived in South Carolina and we met in person three times a year on average. Or maybe I am just mentally avoiding the situation and simply choosing the route of disbelief.

photo courtesy of the Harris family

For all of my life, I have been lucky when it comes to family and friends. My parents are happily married, I live in a nice house, and my family is very close with one another. I have never experienced the death of a close family member. I now see that my good fortune was the root of my issues when it came to processing the news I heard that day and the events to follow. 

Through the end of summer and the beginning of the new school year, my senior year, my mom was seemingly constantly flying to South Carolina to visit my grandfather as he was in and out of nursing homes and hospitals. 

But his health improved temporarily, and so did my spirits.

“He’s going to be okay,” I told myself. “All will be normal soon.”

We FaceTimed, and he seemed like good old Bob that I grew up with, not a man recovering from a stroke.

photo courtesy of the Harris family

Bob and I had always had a special bond. We were very similar, in our witty humor and love for writing. He wrote and edited for The State in South Carolina, where he received the rarely given Publisher’s Award for Distinguished Service, and I owe a lot of my journalistic style to him. 

When I was younger, he would take me to the grocery store, where we would stay for hours (no exaggeration) on end, talking to strangers and making new friends. His personality played a major role in my development as a child, teaching me the social confidence I have now. Bob hated no one and would spend all of his time meeting new people if he could.

Bob and I joked with each other all of the time, and I credit a lot of my humor to him. In my household we call these jokes “Bob jokes,” our spin on “dad jokes.” Each Sunday, we would have “Webcam” with Bob and Grammie V, my grandmother, at 8:00am sharp. We would crack jokes, talk about our week, and catch up. Every time I wrote a new article, I would text Bob so he could read what I had written. 

photo courtesy of the Harris family

I believe that my closeness with Bob, even though we were not physically together often, is why I have not been able to fully process his death. I have never dealt with such an event regarding someone so close to me — it just doesn’t feel real to me. What hurts the most is the realization that I never got to give him a proper goodbye, never got to share one last laugh with him. 

We knew the day was coming for quite some time, but just not when it finally happened. It got to the point where nothing more could be done. The fight was over. It pains me that I was not there–I was 500 miles away, getting ready for Halloween with my family, oblivious to what had just happened.

As I sat in the visitation room for the funeral the Saturday after Halloween, I watched as people I had never met filed in, looking at photos and offering their condolences to my family.

“I’m sorry for your loss.” These words filled my that day and escaped in the form of tears. I just felt so empty. Someone was missing from my happy family, and no amount of tears could bring him back.

photo courtesy of the Harris family

Although this has been one of the most heartbreaking experiences of my life, I believe that I have learned lessons about myself and life throughout this experience. I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason; however, corny as it sounds, it helps me cope with unfortunate events and situations. It helps me look for the good in the bad events that happen to me, so I can learn from them and grow. 

I wouldn’t say this has all happened for a beneficial reason; death is, as we all know, a part of life. But this has definitely emphasized the short amount of time on earth we all have, and that we must cherish every moment. You never really know when the last time you will do something or see someone is, so you must live each moment like it’s your last.

The funeral itself brought my family together from all over the east coast, which was very comforting during this time. I can’t think of another event that would bring all of these people together, and allow us to spend time together and show our love and appreciation. Family has always been a very important factor in my life, and now more than ever, I am so thankful for the family I have surrounding me. 

This event in my life brought so much pain, pain that I am still trying to process and break down. However, Bob’s passing has also uncovered so much love, love from far and wide, bringing my family together and showing me how many people’s lives a single person can have a role in influencing for the better.

I will always have Bob with me in spirit when I meet someone new in public, when I crack a witty joke, and even while I write this article. And from now on, I have a newfound appreciation for every moment of my life; never taking anything for granted and being thankful each and every day for the moments I have experienced.