On Friday, I sat in the stands at the East Limestone High School football field and watched Justin Wright, the oldest of my five grandchildren and the oldest of my daughter Chrissie Wright’s and my son-in-law Mark Wright’s four children, graduate. My letter to him:
Even from my seat in the stands, I could see your smile as you walked across the stage and got your diploma. It’s the same smile I saw when you were a little guy, laughing out loud and running across the living room to leap into my lap in the game we played.
It’s a special smile worn by a special young man.
I’ll admit it reminded me of how old I am when, wearing your black cap and gown, you celebrated with your friends as we all took pictures. I couldn’t help but remember the little baby that I held for the first time in 1995. It reminded me, too, of how blessed I am.
You are blessed, too. You are blessed to have parents who love you and didn’t just tell you the right way to live but showed you with their own actions. You are blessed to have two younger sisters and a younger brother who love you and whom you love. Your grandparents love you, too, and it is we who are blessed for you, Katie, Hannah Grace, Tucker and your one-month-old cousin Benny Marshall to be part of our lives.
And now the real story of your life will begin to be written. No one – not even you – can know what story will be told. But it is yours to write, yours to live. Your parents will be there to help you. Your Granddad and your Nanny will be there, too.
There will be times when you feel so good about your life that you will you want to shout for joy. There will be hard times, too, times when you look for answers and they’ll be hard to find. That’s the reality of life for us all.
You are special, Justin. You are special because you care, because you make all those around you feel like they matter, because you treat others with compassion. You are special because you work hard, because you believe in doing what is right, because you have heeded the lessons taught by your parents. You are special for so many reasons.
If you have ever had an unkind word to say to or about anyone, I have not heard it.
It’s frightening sometimes to think what awaits my grandchildren. This is a world of contradictions. There is so much good, but there is evil, too. And it is an ever-changing world. It is breathtaking to think of what you will see and experience in the years ahead as you get married and have children and one day grandchildren of your own.
You’ll do well. Of that, I am convinced. People who work hard, try hard, love deeply, believe in what is right and treat others the way they’d like to be treated always, one way or the other, find the right path.
There’ll be lots of times when you wonder if you will find that path. There’ll even be times when you take a wrong turn and feel lost. Those are tests you’ll have to pass, and you will.
If an old man can offer one piece of advice it is that you be true to yourself, who you are and what you stand for. That won’t always be easy, but it will always be right.
We love you, Justin, and we respect you. We’re proud to call you our grandson.