February 24, 2017 the best papaw in the world went to be with the Lord. My papaw, Thomas O'Bryan was not only an inspiration to myself, but to many others. Anyone who knew him knew that there was a coffee mug within reaching distance and a bible even closer. Sometimes we really take our grandparents for granted, and I certainly did. The saying "home is feeling" comes from going to see your grandparents in my eyes. Going to my nana and papaws house was a way to escape reality, not only because there is zero cell service, but because they just provide the sense of relaxation. My nana and papaw did not have fancy cellphones, they didn't even have texting, they had cable TV and a car to take them wherever they needed to go. I was papaws girl, at his side wherever he went, and he took me everywhere.
My papaw was sunshine on a cloudy day, the hardest working man you will ever meet, and so full of wisdom. Many days of my childhood were spent sitting in my papaws office watching him write poems and read through his bible, and occasionally play pool on the Nintendo. In this day and age, many grandparents sit on their phones while their grandkids played on their tablets or sat in front of the TV, not mine. My childhood consisted of helping papaw chop wood for the wood burner, dig out the lake with a shovel, mow the grass, pick up sticks, or my personal favorite, exploring. Anything that needed to be fixed, take it to papaw. He even built all of his grandkids boats out of a log. A LOG. Softball game, motocross race, school play, grandparents day, my nana and papaw were there. Not only were they there, but they were my biggest fans (Especially my nana, she loves costumes). He loved every one of his grandkids with his whole heart and each one equally, they were his world. Everyone from his house to the grocery store heard about his grandkids. A day at the lake was not complete if nana and papaw weren't there.
As I grew older, I not only realized how great my grandparents were, but how much they loved each other. My nana and papaw were married when my nana was 16 years old, and they moved to California because my papaw was in the army. My papaw would leave little love notes around the house to my nana all the time, and never let her forget how much she meant to him. He was one heck of a man to put up with all my nana's skits and outfits. My papaws motto seemed to be "take life one day at a time" and that is exactly what he did. Although my papaw had the biggest heart, his physical heart was not exactly the best. Five heart attacks and two failed kidneys later, I was almost positive that my papaw was superman. His last heart attack stopped his kidneys and rendered his heart to 5% function, doctors said that he would be on dialysis for the rest of his life and that he didn't have much longer. A few years later and his kidneys were working on their own and he was at the lake cutting down trees and mowing the grass. So everyday that he lived, he made sure to make the best of it and that his wife knew how much she meant to him.
With his last heart attack, he was in intensive care for a while and we were told he would probably never make it home. I was about 18 at the time, I had a boyfriend of 4 years, and hopes and dreams of my papaw preaching my wedding service. Once he pulled through, he stated that there was just something left that Jesus wanted him to do before he took him to heaven. When it was time for me to get married, I asked my papaw to preach at my wedding. It didn't matter what color the bridesmaids dresses were, what flowers I had, the cake, any of that. The most special part of my wedding is that I not only stood with the love of my life, but my papaw was right by my side. When I asked my papaw he asked me if I was sure, because he didn't know if he would be around that long, but I was sure. The day of my wedding right before the ceremony was about to begin, my papaw found me to tell me that he made it, this is what he had left to do and that he was so happy the lord gave him another day so that he could marry me and my husband.
When someone so special to you passes away, you sort of stop and think about your life and were it's going, It's not about the newest cellphone, the biggest TV, the nicest car, it about who you spend your time with. I am so blessed to have been able to spend every day of my childhood with such a great role model and hope to live in his footsteps. Live life one day at a time as my papaw would say. After my papaws passing, I was looking through photo albums to find photos for his slideshow and I noticed something that I had not realized before. You could literally feel the love that my papaw felt in each photo. In the pictures of him and his grandkids he had a smile so big, and the ones of him and his wife you could see the love in his eyes. My nana had taken pictures of every moment. While she took pictures on her flip phone and the quality was terrible, none of that mattered. It was all about the moment. That is my inspiration. To capture moments, not pictures. To capture that love and happiness. To capture feelings instead of time.
So here's to you papaw. Thank you for showing me what it's like to love one another, to not judge people based on their pasts, to forgive and forget, and more importantly to live one day at a time. Every moment, no matter what is going on, is special for it may be the last time. What I wouldn't give just to sit on the bench and look over the lake one last time, or listen to him sing to my nana again. Sometimes the greatest life lessons come from actions, and sometimes those are not realized until its already too late. Make the moments and cherish them, take pictures to remember the feelings and the joy. Leave notes around the house to let your significant other know how much you love them for no reason at all. Take the time to go for a walk, even if you don't have anywhere to go. And sing from the top of your lungs no matter who is listening. Put down the phone and take a look at the beautiful world around you. Don't pick the flowers, admire their beauty from afar. And visit your grandparents more often that just the holidays.
All of this I've learned from my papaw. And from my nana I've learned to keep my camera close, you never know what beautiful moment is going to happen next.