In memory of my grandfather, Rev. George A. Hagler, 97, who died Wednesday, March 7.

Never judgmental. An incomparable symbol. Of what it means to be a man. To stand.

Grandpa showed us. By the way he walked and talked how to let your actions as a man speak. To be gentle, meek.

Provider. Producer. Protector. He blessed us. Never left us.

Never withheld his substance. His time. Grandpa played softball with us. Took us to the park. Embraced his family and others in kind.

Spoke to us like dear children, didn’t bark. A true shepherd’s heart in a mammoth of a man. Broad shoulders. Strong hands. Soft to the braiding of his little girls’ hair. Gentle in child care.

Vision beyond his circumstance of being grandson to a freed man born a slave, though the grandson raised would become the grandfather who would help save me. Show me a better man to be.

His eyes knew pain. He suffered shame. Withstood the rain, loss, hurt. And yet, regained. Staked his claim in life, frame by frame.

For 97 years, 35,459 days, 851,016 hours, 51.1 million minutes, and more than 3 billion seconds, he remained bathed in God’s grace. A man. In name. In heart. And deed.

A man. Without greed. Or the need to take more than he gave. Not a slave to the whims of so-called righteous men who count it not a sin to rob God.

Rev. George Hagler speaking at a family reunion in 2014.| Provided photo

At 40 years younger, I was graced to stand in his presence. As silence in awe of thunder. As a raindrop in the splendor of a perfect storm that carries the wind and the elements to fertile ground. That drenches the earth and causes life to resound as fruit and grass and emerald trees. And generations to live. Thrive. Succeed.

My grandfather was my splendid storm. My rock. My tree. The one who stood for me.

And it matters not our miscues. Or things misconstrued. Misunderstood. Or mistook … Only that he took the time to be a grand father. A grand provider. A grand inspirer. A grand man of his word in a land of men who are grand liars.

A grand man who taught me by example to stand. Without fanfare. Without pretension. Without raucous bravado.

How to stand humbly as a man …

And as I saw his strength waning, in his eyes a stare with a hope toward heaven, I felt only admiration. Deep adoration for the only grandfather I have ever known.

Saw in his eyes. Heard in his voice when he greeted me: Pride. That I am one of his own. I am his legacy. Bearer of his love of family. Caretaker of his dream: To be more than his natural father could be.

I am the understudy who, quietly in the shadows, noted his every step. Who, even amid his imperfections as a man, admired the heart of the man who loved God. I loved Grandpa for those invaluable intangibles beyond things that make a grandson’s heart sing.

And though his steps, over time, grew slower, his proud amble lighter, he never glowed less–always shone brightly. His effervescent smile did not lessen. And standing in his presence was no less this grandson’s blessing.

And though I felt the strength in his handshake without the same power as once a lion of a man, there was never slack in his soul’s stand. And while I cannot deny the dimming light I saw in his eyes, I hope he could see there was no dimming of delight in mine for the grandfather who, forever more, is my grand Oak, towering in my sky.

The wind beneath my wings. The grandfather who will forever make this grandson’s heart sing.


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