4. William Bybee, my grandfather
My grandfather is one of the most encouraging people I’ve ever known. I don’t think I’ve ever met a more gentle, loving man in all my life. We’re not sure how old he is (his birth certificate reads one year, yet his mother told him he was born in another) but his life stands as a testimony of faithfulness.
As a young man, my grandfather lost his parents and he spent months at a time living with various relatives. I don’t know much about his early years, but he dropped out of school in the 7th or 8th grade to work. After marrying my grandmother, the Bybees had two sons, James (my father) and Roger. I was the final grandchild to come along in 1976. “Grandaddy” was always a warm, smiling figure, quick to dole out hugs and kisses. I wish I had a nickel for everytime he implored me to “Be smart.” Saying goodbye to Grandaddy takes a good half hour. He’ll say “I love you” at least 25 times. Lane, do you remember when your Dad excused us for being tardy one morning because Grandaddy was saying goodbye to me? He reminds me of the Apostle John with his sweet admonition, “Little children, love one another.”
Grandaddy was always a small, little man but his faith has always been great. One of my grandfather’s most endearing qualities is his sincerity of spirit. His love for family is trumped only by his love for his Lord. I’ve said this before, but some of the best sermons I’ve ever heard are my grandfather’s prayers. He is truly a humble servant of the Lord. His faith has been constant, in spite of adversity. He lost a son in 1987, his wife in 1994. He misses them dearly even now. Yet, he remains faithful in the hope that “someday” will come soon.
Grandaddy, I’m pretty sure you won’t be reading this, but know that I will forever claim you as one of my primary influences. I will proudly bear your name in all I do. I will teach my son to be the kind of man you are. And although my heart hurts for you and your longing to be with those of our family who have gone before us, I join you in the hope that we’ll all be united again on that far distant shore. In that moment, as your descendants gather round, I hope you beam with pride as the patriarch of our family. You are a great man and I’m proud to be one of your grandchildren.
Be smart. I love you.