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5 Life Lessons from a Purple Heart Veteran & Cancer Survivor : Episode 250

 

Hey, sister! Welcome back to a Taylored Adventure to Happiness. If you are new, welcome! If you are a regular, I love ya, I love ya, I love ya!

How are you on this lovely fall-almost-winter day? I know Christmas time is considered the magical season, and we haven’t even celebrated Thanksgiving yet, but I am feeling so much magic today! Gratitude is filling my soul, and I can’t wait to see what the last few days of 2020 have in store for us. 

Within the last few weeks, I’ve had to say goodbye to my grandfather. He was one of my best friends and the most amazing men in my life. Grieving his loss has been challenging but so transformative because I can’t help but think of all the happy times I had with him and the lessons he taught me. In so many ways, he shaped the woman I have become and laid the foundation for the work I do today.

Because of that, I’m taking today to share with you five powerful lessons that he taught me. Not only is my granddaddy’s life impressive, but so is the way he navigated the world with kindness, confidence, and humility. If you want to live a life that oozes authenticity, depth, and love, practicing any of these lessons will get you there.  

Are you ready for this? Let’s dive in!

Who Was My Grandfather?

My grandfather grew up during the great depression. While serving in World War II, he was shot in the leg and was awarded a Purple Heart. After recovering in a German hospital, he returned, regained use of both of his legs, and became a farmer about 90 miles outside of Washington D.C. Before too long he became a huckster — he would take what his farm produced to D.C., set up a stand, and sell fresh chickens, eggs, and vegetables. 

Once his farm and huckster business were established, he worked for the post office. He had his own mail truck and was the main mail delivery man, all the while maintaining his farm and huckster business. He was such a good mailman that the county tried to promote him to the chief of the post office many times. Every time he said, “No, I want to be on the road connecting with the community and serving people.” He didn’t want the raise. He just wanted to love people.

As you can imagine, the entire community adored my grandfather. He was truly the kindest and most quick-witted man. He was a father figure to me, who walked me down the aisle, and the one from whom my husband requested my hand in marriage. All my cousins knew I was granddaddy’s little girl, just like my mom was his little girl.

As a girl, I would follow him around the farm all day and then sit with him by the fire at night, listening to his stories and cracking walnuts open. As an adult, I would visit him every single weekend until COVID-19 hit. I would listen to his stories and just soak up all the goodness and wisdom that oozed out of him. 

My grandfather passed away at 96 years old and was married to my grandmother for 75 years when she passed, two months before him. The five lessons I’m sharing today are compiled from all those years and stories they told me. So, if you’re ready to soak up some of my granddad’s goodness and wisdom, keep reading!

Lesson #1: Be Kind to Everyone

Regardless of what my grandfather was doing, he was always looking for how he could help someone. It didn’t matter how someone looked, what their values were, or how much money they had. If someone needed help, my grandfather helped. He even helped a cow give birth to its calf when he saw it in labor while delivering mail! How crazy is that?

But there’s one story about my grandfather that really sticks out. Around Christmas time, someone had given him $5 or $10 cash as a thank you for his work. My grandfather did not like receiving money, but he thanked them and put it up in his billfold for whenever he met someone else who needed it. 

That summer while he was delivering mail, he got to chatting with an older man and his wife. During the conversation, they mentioned that their refrigerator had broken, and all their food was spoiled. As farmers, they lived off the land, so having a refrigerator was really important. My grandfather remembered the post office breakroom had recently gotten a refrigerator, and no one used it. So he asked his boss if he could buy it. 

My grandfather used the cash he had saved in his billfold to purchase the refrigerator and delivered it to the elderly couple. 

Here’s what I want to point out — my grandfather’s acts of kindness were sincere. He never expected anything back. He was kind from a place of zero expectations. I feel like so many people are kind today, but they frequently have an ulterior motive if you dig deep enough. Sis, that’s not kindness, and that’s never why my grandfather went out of his way for people. 

So, think about the last time you were kind to someone. Did you have any expectations of receiving something in return? If so, set a goal for yourself to do one kind thing for someone TODAY with zero expectations of receiving anything back.

Lesson #2: Be Humble and Confident

If anyone had a right to be proud, it was my granddaddy. As a Purple Heart Veteran, cancer survivor, successful farmer, and beloved mailman, he was known and respected in the community. But what I loved about my grandaddy is that he knew how to receive a compliment. He understood that receiving a compliment instead of dismissing it is one of the best ways to thank the person giving it. He honored who he was but never made anyone feel beneath him.  

For example, almost every time he walked into a gas station wearing his veteran hat, someone would offer to pay for his gas. When he was out and about, people frequently thanked him for his service. Every time he would smile and say, “You’re welcome.” He demonstrated humility by not making a big deal of it, and he demonstrated confidence by not deflecting the compliment, either. 

He honored the sacrifice he made in serving our country, working hard to provide for his family, and beating cancer. Every time I watched it happen, my heart swelled with pride — the good kind — because that was my granddaddy. No matter what complement was offered, he was one with himself. That’s the best way I can describe it. He was so in tune with himself that nothing went to his head. 

So, lovely soul, how can you be humble yet confident in your life? Do you need to practice receiving compliments with a simple “thank you” and smile? Do you need to open the door for people, smile and nod, holding your head high, because your cup is so full? How can you demonstrate humble confidence through social media? Own your accomplishments and gifts from a place of humility and confidence — not ego!  

Lesson #3: Release What Doesn’t Serve You

The true art of detachment doesn’t mean you let go of any connection with the people and the world. Instead, it means you know how to love something for everything it is while you have it and let it go when it’s no longer meant for you. It’s one of the most elevated forms of gratitude and mindful presence. Whenever I think of the art of detachment, my granddaddy is the example I strive to embody and mirror because he practiced this art to its fullest. 

When it was time for my grandparents to sell the farm — the house they built and the land they raised their family on — and move into a retirement community, my grandfather let it go with gratitude. He could have been resentful and clung to a lifetime of milking cows, farming acres of land, and delivering mail. But he didn’t. He grieved and released. He honored the time he was a farmer and all the experiences it provided for his family. And then he moved on. 

He detached from it because he knew that the memories were never gone. The lessons and growth and beauty from the farm could never be lost because they were in his heart and mind. All those things had made him the man that he was. To be fair, he and my grandmother missed the farm every day of their life after they moved, but they chose gratitude instead of clinging to the past.

That’s what allowed him to be present and focus on what mattered most. He wasn’t attached to past things. He honored them and what they taught him, but he let them go. 

Sister, is there anything in your life you’re clinging to? Whether you’re hanging onto a trauma, past relationship, or physical thing, it can keep you from being kind, humble yet confident, and focusing on what matters. Eventually, all of those things stack on top of each other, and they become part of our identity. Adding those to our identity keeps us from truly being present, and we end up doing ourselves and others a disservice. So how can you detach from things that aren’t serving you anymore? How can you say, “Thank you for the lessons you gave me,” and move on as a more complete version of yourself?

Why You Need to Make Loving the People Close to You a Priority…

When the call that I had dreaded for most of my life came informing me of my granddaddy’s passing, I wasn’t filled with regret. Of course, I was hit with a wave of grief, but it was infused with a beautiful layer of love and gratitude because I knew I had shown up for my relationship with my grandfather.

I spent time with him. I listened to his stories. I told him I loved him. I wrote him letter after letter during quarantine when I wasn’t allowed to visit anymore. And when I visited to help him move to a room with more care days before he passed, my heart knew it would be the last time I would see him. I chose to be present and cherish the right-there moments I had with him. I wasn’t trying to make up for the lost time. I was just savoring every second with gratitude.

As I wrap this message up, I want to encourage you to make sure the people that matter most to you — whether it’s one person or several — know that you love them. How can you remind them one more time that you love them?

Do you need to be like me and say, “I love you” 30 times in five minutes or write a letter? Maybe all you need to do is pick up the phone and chat with them. Sister, whatever it takes to get to the place where you’ll have zero regrets when that dreaded phone call comes — do it. And, if this is the only thing you get out of all these lessons from my grandfather, this whole message will be worth it to me: Tell the people that matter to you that you love them!

Thank you for sharing your time with me. While this message was an emotional one for me to share, it means the world to me to pass on my grandfather’s legacy. If anything I shared today resonated with you, please, please, please share this with a friend. Take a screenshot of this and share it on Instagram. Tag me, @iamtaylorsimpson, and let me know how my grandfather’s life touched yours!

I’ll catch you next time. Until then, don’t forget to choose happiness, because, well, why the fuck not?!

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