On the Anniversary of September 11th, I find myself reflecting on the many Heroes who have passed through my life.
For some of us a hero may be someone who physically saved our life. For other's perhaps it was a person who helped or supported us during a difficult time; or maybe it's someone we admire who lives their life in a way that inspires us.
For my part, my Hero was my Grandfather.
Leo W. Gravel was born in Stockholm, a small town in Northern Maine near the border of Canada. He was the oldest of 10 children and at the age of 11 he was taken out of school to work in the woods with his father.
At 14 he was sent to Houlton, (the closest "City" back then), to work as an apprentice for a carpenter in a mill, and at 18 he entered the Civilian Conservation Corp. A few years later he joined the Navy and served in World War II. He returned from the war and he and my Grandmother had 5 children; 4 boys and 1 girl (my mother).
All of these things though wonderful, aren't what made him my hero. He was my Hero because he loved me and gave me the most precious of gifts... his time.
I followed him everywhere carrying his tools, painting "clapboards" and tending the garden. He took me fishing and hunting (even though I couldn't catch anything and couldn't keep quiet), and he taught me the importance of keeping my word; that a handshake was more binding than any contract, and that you always follow through on a promise.
But the most important thing I learned from my Grandfather, was that I mattered.
There are many people in our lives that influence us and impact us in many different ways. And while I am grateful for too many people to list, no one has impacted my life the way he did.
My Grandfather passed away my freshmen year of college, and My last memory is of him waving to me from his front porch as I rushed back to college in the pursuit of my dreams.
I'll never forget the comfortable silence we shared sitting in the front yard watching the stars come out, or the stories he would tell about the war and his life as a young boy or how he would always try to make me laugh.
Sometimes I wish I could go back one more time to that moment on the porch and tell him how much he meant to me... how important he was. But I can't do that. What I can do is celebrate him and honor his memory and remember all that he taught me.
So today as we reflect on the good that can come from tragic or difficult times, let's celebrate those Heroes whose presence in our lives left us that much better for their visit; however long, or short it may have been.