My Grandfather was a Giant. I don’t mean just in a physical sense either, though years of working with his hands had made him an imposing figure with the strength to match. He was a giant in softer ways, too. A pillar in his community, the bedrock of our family, the man possessed a heart that contained a love that knew no bounds; there was no length he would not go to, there was no transgression he would not forgive, there was no support he would withhold from his family and the people he loved.

His love wasn’t the loud kind. It was the gentle and patient kind. A knowing look to quell unspoken fears, a tight hug to remind you that you were loved, a soft “mijo” to bring a racing mind back to earth. My grandfather just had a presence that made you feel safe and secure, an aura that radiated a love that didn’t need words to be described, it was just felt. Felt like the warmth of a campfire, and just as comforting too.

I’ve been on a spiritual journey to reconnect with God through Christ, and I can’t stop thinking about my abuelito. Don’t get me wrong, I always think about him – When I see a yellow butterfly, when I feel the breeze against my skin, when I see a beautiful sunset painted across the sky, I think of him. For a long time though, when I thought of him I could only think of his death. When he was diagnosed with cancer and passed away shortly after, I turned away from God. I was so angry and hurt. I couldn’t understand how he could do that to him. How he could do that to me. I was by his side the moment he died, whispering into his ear that we loved him and it was going to be okay. I resented that God allowed that to be my last image of my big, powerful grandfather. My giant bedridden and in pain. It broke me.

I felt abandoned and powerless to do anything about it. I began to look at the world through a nihilistic hue, where nothing mattered. Not even me. I stopped reaching out, stopped visiting my family because it was just a reminder of what was lost. Doing and chasing anything that would just make the thoughts go away. I was lost for a long time. It didn’t make sense to me.

In my brokenness and grief, I missed the beauty in the tragedy. A truth that has been revealed to me as I’ve been developing my relationship with God. My grandfather’s death was painful, but his life was beautiful. When we had his funeral, people he had not seen in DECADES came out to pay their respects, all with stories about how he had helped them and that they were proud to have known him. His life was built on a foundation of faith, family, and love. When his time came? He was rewarded for that. He passed surrounded by family who loved him, his wife he spent his life with, and a boy beside him who loved him like a father. God provided strength to us to support him as he went, he sent us soothing words to ease his pain. What I thought was a burden or a curse from God, was actually a blessing.

It was an honor and a privilege to walk through life with my grandfather, and it was an honor and a privilege to be at his side when he passed. Despite all the pain and grief that came with it, behind it was a greater love and I wouldn’t trade that love or all the experiences, moments, and lessons from him for anything in this world. I thank God he let me be his grandson. So, when I think of my Grandpa now I won’t think of how he died, I’ll choose to think about how he lived and try to follow in his giant footsteps.

By Edgar Mancilla

Edgar was born and raised in Mt. Vernon Texas before moving to Tyler in 2002 with his family. He graduated from Legacy High School, TJC, and is currently working in retention at AlticeUSA.