“….A Life That’s Full”: Lessons and Tributes To “Coach” (My Grandfather)

“Coach”, my grandfather is pictured kneeling down, pointing to the player.

As I sit down to write this, I am listening to My Way, written by the great Frank Sinatra. For anyone who didn’t have the opportunity to meet or know my grandfather  Bill Cunningham, and wants a window into how he lived his life, take a listen to this song…

Today, he would have turned 90 years old, and while I would much rather be celebrating with him over ice cream cake, I know he is probably having a slice up there for himself as we speak ;). And so, I feel that the best way I can honor him is to share some of his wisdom with all of you. 

As Frank Sinatra so eloquently stated in his song, 

My friend, I’ll say it clear

I’ll state my case of which I’m certain

I’ve lived a life that’s full

I’ve travelled each and every highway

And more, much more than this

I did it my way

Bill was a man that often stated his case. But what made him different, is that he always spoke it with certainty. Never with hesitation or doubt, always with confidence and an unwavering belief in himself and what he knew to be true. An admirable trait that takes courage to possess. But what I think gave him the courage is that he was a man who knew himself well. Being a father of six, grandfather of 20 grandchildren, and life-long football coach to hundreds of young men, my grandfather was always around the presence of others. As you can see, many people looked up to him. He held a powerful role as leader, a patriarch. But what is most fascinating to me, is that despite this constant role of teaching and mentorship, he truly was a master at the art of self-reliance. He knew that he could always count on himself. And in turn, he was able to be the figure that he was to so many. He never wavered from his truth and never let the influence of others steer him off coarse. My point here is that, if you want to make a difference in the lives of others, get to know yourself well.

Bill was also a man that lived a full life. My grandparents met in high school and truly shared a story of love and undying commitment to each other that is unlike any other. In their many decades of sharing a life together, they created a beautiful family, became a legacy in a small town on the East Coast through the sport of football, and most of all, created a home where their grandchildren could grow up together. The passion of his life was football, but he always made sure to leave his heart in the family room, most often spotted surrounded by at least a handful of grandchildren. Bill knew what he had and he was grateful for it. Despite being a man of often few words, it was obvious in the way he truly took pride in his family, how much he loved them. Take the time to see what you have to be grateful for and honor that. It will only attract more good into your life.

And last, but certainly not least, Bill did things his way. He lived on his own terms, and he never stepped off the path that he knew he wanted to go in. He took others along for the ride, but never got off of his own. He was so clear on his ambitions and purpose that he shot straight for the top no matter how hard it looked to get there. Don’t steer off your own course. There is something in all of us, an intuition that always points us in the right direction. My grandfather just chose to always listen to it.

And so, I will end with this. Happy Birthday to you, Grandpa. Score a touchdown for us all today. I think the world could use it.

My grandpa, dancing with my mom. They have the same smile 🙂

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