To The Grandpa Who 'Never Met A Stranger,' A Tribute

To The Grandpa Who 'Never Met A Stranger,' A Tribute

Until we meet again, my beautiful guardian angel.
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December 3, 2017, Donald Charles Anderson, veteran, son, brother, father, uncle, grandfather, great-grandfather, and friend, went to heaven after battling lung cancer off and on for the past 10 years. We all knew that the time would be soon, but nothing can prepare you for the loss of a loved one. Absolutely nothing.

I wish I could have made it to the hospital to see him before he passed away, and I wish I could have gathered the strength at the viewing to have shared a memory with the crowd.

He was a family man. He loved his wife, 6 children, 17 grandchildren, and 3 great-grandchildren. He never failed to instill it within each and every one of us that family comes first. Back when my mom, aunt, and four uncles were kids, he worked two jobs and came home afterward to coach Little League, attend wrestling matches, football games, etc.; You name it, he was there. I can confidently speak for my family and say that he was the full package. He was loving, devoted, hardworking, spirited, humorous, and smart! I cannot stress enough how intelligent he was. His mind was sharp up until his very last moments.

My grandfather took me as his own daughter when my father left me. He helped raise me, and will forever hold a special place in my heart. He was the type of man that would do anything he could to help. The love he exhibited for who he would always refer to as “His Bride” was pure and real. He didn’t let a day go by without saying “I love you” to her. He was always thinking about everyone else, even when he was sick in the hospital. I can only hope that someday I will raise the kind of family that he has, because this family is one of a kind, just like he was. His humor, his amazing stories about traveling, his advice, and his support and encouragement will never be forgotten. The memories I have shared with him are indeed special in so many ways.

I remember when I was about 6 or 7 years old I would always sing at the top of the staircase, and he would call me a star even though I couldn’t sing for the life of me.

Before I left for school every day he would stuff newspapers in my backpack so when I opened it to take out my lunch they would all fall out.

When I was a little girl and I would go with him to the store, he would always let me pick out a pack of gum.

He would always freak me out by popping out his dentures when I least expected it.

He did his crossword puzzles every day with a pencil that had been sharpened way too many times.

I will always remember him as the man sipping black coffee out of his train mug who wore the faded blue jeans with his flannel, suspenders and L.L. Bean slippers.

On his 86th birthday, which was just last month, I said to him, “Wow, the big 86 this year Pop!” and he said, “Yeah, I might be old in age but I’m young at heart.”

He was seriously the best. Every time I called home from college and he answered, he would always ask if everything was alright. He cared so much and I am forever thankful for a grandfather who loved me the way he did. What I would do to have one last conversation with him. I’ll always be your little girl.

Until we meet again, my beautiful guardian angel.

Cover Image Credit: Christina Shehata

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An Open Letter to the Best Friend I Didn't See Coming

Some people come into your life and change you forever—thanks, bestie.
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Dear best friend,

I wasn't expecting you when God placed you in my life. I had my friends. I had my people. I wasn't exactly open to the idea of new meaningful friendships because I had the ones I needed, and it didn't seem like I really needed anybody new.

Thank God that was false. Sometimes you meet people and you just know that you're going to be good friends with. Sometimes you meet people and you realize that there is no such thing as chance. I think God has a funny way of making it seem as if the things that happen to us are by chance, but honestly, that’s a load of crap. If the biggest moments of our lives were left up to chance, then I believe that would make God out to seem as if he didn’t care. It would make it seem as if He was truly abandoning me and making me face some of my most important seasons fully isolated. But you, best friend, are a true testament to the fact that God doesn’t just leave such important aspects up to chance. Thank you for taking a chance on our friendship, and thank you for allowing me to take a chance on what I didn’t realize would be the most impactful friendship in my entire life.

Thank you for being real with me. Thank you for not sugar coating things. Thank you for telling me when I have a bad attitude. Thank you for loving me through my mistakes. Thank you for supporting me in my decisions, even if it isn’t always the decision you would make. Thank you for wanting the best for me, and for making that your true intent behind the words that you say to me, whether they be constructive criticism or encouragement.

Thank you for being a goof with me. Thank you for putting me first. Thank you for seeing the importance of our friendship. Thank you for making time in your schedule for us to just sit and do homework, eat Mexican food, or sit on the porch and listen to music that emotionally wrecks you.

You’re one of a kind. You’re a shoulder to lean on. You’re a safe place. You’re a free spirit. You’re rough and tough, but your heart melts for the people you love and it’s obvious. You’re more than meets the eye. You are worth getting to know. You are worth loving. You pursue people. You are passionate about your future. You are everything that a person needs, and I really thank God that for some reason you continue to choose to be in my life. Thank you for literally dragging me up my mountains of fear when I want to stay exactly where I am at and wallow in the sadness. You bring joy—true joy—wherever you go. You are my best friend, confidant, and biggest fan. You will be the Maid of Honor, Godmother, and fun Aunt.

I used to think lifelong friendships weren’t really a thing. It just seemed like people always grew apart and forever was never a point that was attainable. Best friends forever is a cliché phrase that is continuously overused nowadays (sometimes, I even used to make light of it), but thanks for making that a reality. You are truly the best friend I could have asked for. So thank you for it all. You make life more fun, and I couldn’t thank God more for making an incredible human, friends with me.

I love you, pal!

JQ

Cover Image Credit: Julia Dee Qualls

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The Lessons I've Learned From The Amazing Grandmas In My Life

A tribute to two women that have molded me into what I am today.

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I have been blessed to have two amazingly strong women as grandmothers and every July when their birthdays come around I reminisce about the times I've had with them and what they've taught me.

1. The importance of religion

Both of my grandmothers are very religious, one being Catholic and the other Lutheran. My Catholic grandmother attends church every Sunday, even if on vacation, prays the rosary every day, and lives in a Catholic nursing home. She has taught me how to be structured and whole-heartedly devoted to my religion and to surround yourself with those of similar values. My Lutheran grandmother is involved in women's groups at her church and attends Catholic mass with us whenever she comes to visit even though that is not her denomination. She has taught me to find friends with a similar faith as your own and to appreciate and support other religions that differ from yours.

2. Strength in times of sorrow

It has been 10 years since both of my grandpas died back in 2008 and I miss them to this day. At my paternal grandfather's funeral, my grandma (his wife) comforted me as I cried. I was astonished that she had the strength and humility to comfort another at her husband's funeral and have always admired her because of it. Now when I experience hardship I think back to that time and try and emulate her strength.

3. Comfort in uncertainty

My maternal grandma is about to turn 95 years old and has suffered from dementia and Alzheimer's, as is common for that age. However, despite not always knowing what exactly is going on around her or whom exactly she is talking to, she has a relaxed attitude. She knows that the people around her love her and she loves them too and that's all that matters. I greatly admire this quality and her faith and comfort in the love our family has for each other. She has taught me to take comfort in uncertainty, knowing that total knowledge isn't required to be joyful.

4. Small acts of kindness

My paternal grandmother lives farther away from my family and often will stay multiple days at our house when she comes to visit. Ever since I was a kid, I've always looked forward to these visits and all of the special treats that come with them. However, the best thing came after she left. Once she was gone, my sister and I would run up to the guest room and look under the pillow to find a note. The notes always thanked us for being such good hosts and detailing how much she enjoyed all that we did together. I've kept every one of these letters through the years and have already planned to do the same with my grandchildren one day. Through these letters, my grandma has taught me that simple, small acts can make for loving memories.

5. Unending love

This last one is mostly the same for every grandmother. Their love is abounding. I have never seen either of my grandmas unoptimistic and the amount of love they have for all the numerous children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren is amazing to see. It's truly astounding that two single women have so many people that admire and look up to them as they do.

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