Both gentle and polite, who walked with grace and loved to laugh, my grandmother, otherwise known as "Pepper," is the most influential person in my life who has helped shape who I am today. I remember her dark-red ringlets bouncing off her shoulders as she strolled through our house; her old-fashioned fragrances highlighting her every step with joy and happiness. As a child, my siblings and I sprawled together on an ottoman, watching as she dealt out playing cards, listening to her wisdom; little did I know she was dealing out more than just cards -- the knowledge and importance of morality and respect. Looking back, I now realize the significance of the time she spent teaching us the little things in life because now, as a seventeen year old, I have grown to greatly value personal integrity. Through her warm hearted and down to earth character, she taught me to strive to be a respectful and selfless man of character.
Looking around the table and observing the sad and weary faces of my family -- overwhelmed with shock and grief, -- I sit and begin to compensate how to deal with the horrid news of Pepper being diagnosed "terminally ill" with lung cancer. Through the midst of anxiety, I remembered to stay positive and not shed a tear until she was gone completely. Several slow and listless weeks passed, in which my mother, an extremely brave and caring woman, took the responsibility of taking care of her mother in our home. With only the two nurses at home, my mother and myself; my sister had left for college and my Father was out of town. This was my chance to challenge myself mentally and spiritually in attempt to aid both my mother and grandmother through this trying process.
Night after night of staying up late and praying, I talked to her as she drifted to sleep; her soul grasping tight to that string that linked her to our world. As her time to leave us became apparent, I was honored to spoon feed her last meal. While taking care of my grandmother during her last days and trying to provide love for my mother, I found an inner strength I did not yet know I had. I found a sense of loyalty and depth I did not know existed in me. I discovered I wasn't afraid of death. I wasn't afraid of the dying. As "Pepper's" breaths began to shorten and become faint, I wiped the cold sweat from her forehead -- her dilated eyes never leaving mine -- and softly whispered in her ear, "I love you and I will see you again at heaven's gate." Both in life and in death my Grandmother taught me to be a better person.