To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.  -Oscar Wilde

When I think back to the people in my life who have truly lived each and every day to the fullest, a few come to mind.  Trying to decide which one to write about made it difficult, as they have all touched my life and shown me the real definition of truly living. One of those individuals is my grandfather, Rev. Joe Dee Ray.

Joe Dee Ray was such an incredible man of God who never simply existed.  Several years ago, he took my brother, my sister, and me to the mall. My sister and I had gone into a store, and he sat down on a bench to wait on us. When we came out of the store, he was talking to several people like they were old friends. That’s the kind of man he is – there are no strangers, just friends he hasn’t met yet.

He had a smile and a laugh that was so contagious you could not help but smile back.  As far back as I can remember, he was always on the go talking to people, staying true to who he was, and making a difference one life at a time.  When I would go and visit him and my grandmother as a child, I was blown away by the love that everyone he came into contact with had for him.  I was always told how special he is, how lucky I am for having him as my grandfather, and what a difference he made in their lives. Hearing those stories about his selfless generosity and how he transformed their lives touched me in such a way that I wanted to be more like him. He never met a stranger. He built friendships all over the world, making each person feel important to him.  Offering the shirt off his back to anyone in need, he always went over and beyond to do anything asked of him or for anyone.

He also wore many hats.  As a dynamic pastor, he had the opportunity to touch the lives of thousands.  In addition, he was a gifted musician, playing the piano beautifully by ear. When he sang, he radiated joy. In his spare time, he was also a landlord and spent many hours repairing and enhancing the properties through renovations and additions. None of this compares to his most important role – a loving and incredible  father to four daughters and a Godly, loving, faithful, and supportive husband to his wife Jeanne. He is the best grandfather anyone could ask for, but more importantly, an obedient son to his heavenly father.  Leading by example, he did more than just exist in this world. He truly made a difference in each and every life he has encountered.

My grandfather really provided a rare treasure – living life.  It is not just getting up and doing a daily routine of working to pay the bills and hanging out with friends.  Rather, life is about living with meaning and purpose.  It’s about making each day count as if it is your last, touching the lives of people around you by making a difference through your life.  It is giving your time, talents, and giving of yourself to people who are in need.  It is waking up each day with a positive attitude and making the best of every situation that comes along, whether positive or negative. It is treating each and every person with love and the utmost respect, no matter how you are treated in return. It is forgiving those who hurt you and not holding grudges. It is going the extra mile instead of just doing what is asked. It is picking yourself up after being knocked down and never giving up, no matter the difficulties and circumstances. Finally, it is being obedient to God by doing what he asks us to do and sharing his love to everyone you encounter, no matter who they are or what they have done. Each and every one of these qualities reminds me of my grandfather and the life he truly lived.

I only hope that, one day, I can be half the person he was. I want to live my life knowing that I am truly living and making a difference in the lives of people around me.  When my time is up,  I want to have no regrets. I want to have done all I can to make the most out of the life that was given to me by making each and every day count.  I do not want to simply exist in this world. Instead, I desire to be the person God has called me to be. Joe Dee Ray passed away on his 88th birthday, which was March 7, 2012, in Denison, Texas. He is where he longed to be which is in heaven with his Heavenly Father. I’m so thankful for the times spent with him and the impact he has had on my life. Thank you Joe Dee Ray for being my grandfather. You are such an inspiration to me.