By Shawna Brown

My grandmother—caring and selfless. My father—logical and supportive. My mother—strong and opinionated. These are the people that surrounded me at the grave site of my grandfather’s funeral. We reflected on the life of my grandfather—stubborn, yet warm-hearted, always there for that extra nudge.
My family surrounded me: those who aren’t tied to me by duty, but are instead tied to me by love.
I remember riding behind my grandfather on his big green tractor, giggling with the thrill and excitement. I remember thoughtfully feeding the local quail and then later heading to the pond to toss the fish their food too. I remember eating vanilla wafers until my heart and my stomach were content.
I hold all of these memories close to my heart, but even closer is the memory of my grandfather being beside me the entire time.
Through every laugh and every inch I grew, he was beside me—positive, encouraging, patient. He was a supportive husband, an incredible father, and to me he was the best grandfather a little girl could ask for.
I will never forget all of the times I spent with him: laughing, loving, and growing.
As we reflected on his life, laughing, crying, remembering, I noticed a placid calm among those I was surrounded by. Seeing him die was difficult for my family, but what remained with me long after the service concluded was the element of unity.
It is always hard to lose a loved one, but looking back on his life brought all of us together, reminding us that sometimes, it is not about the awards, not about the achievements, or the accomplishments in a lifetime. Instead, it is about all of the little moments that make a difference, not only in our own lives, but in the lives of those around us.
I can still remember the way he approached life: with unselfish regard and an attitude of determination in even the littlest of tasks—the things that, while seemingly insignificant, made all the difference in our lives. I regard his life knowing that for him, life wasn’t about the riches or the prestige.
I realize now that my future will not be based on promises of material possessions, or on meaningless labels. Instead, I will aim for the selfless—and often subtle—acts of kindness that, in the end, can make all the difference.