Over the past few years I have lost both of my grandfathers, as well as my father. I am the only one left in my family line to carry on our last name. All that is left of the men who shaped my life is photographs, some old records, and the stories and memories of how they changed my life.
We knew him as "PawPaw" but everyone else knew him as "McSwain" or "MACswain" (How they pronounced it) It was his last name he carried with pride as well as a nickname. Pawpaw McSwain was a strong man, could fix anything, could drive anything, would help anyone, and loved his family the most. He taught me to drive, how to fix cars, and how to love people.
He passed this honor, this example and his legacy to my father, the legacy of our family name. My father was a brilliant person. He was musician, choir director, arranger, composer, songwriter, singer, pianist. He dedicated his life to his family, the church, and excellence in everything he did.
My father spent the last half of his short life battling disease. For years we did not know what was happening, we spent years as a family in choas as he battled mental illness. He was stripped of his career that he poured his life into. His mental illness took him through a spiral of extreme situations. He was jobless, homeless, outcast, poor, broken, ridiculed, judged, sick and feared.
The last seven years of his life he spent in a INSANE ASYLUM. I say it that way because that's how people think of mental hospitals, the places we send the dangerous and "insane." This is a lie that mainstream (Hollywood) media has painted about these places. These places are refuge for the outcast, the hurt, the broken, and those that cannot fight for themselves, and are completely dependant on others for care.
Through those years my father loved harder, cared more, and instilled in me the legacy of our name. He showed me at every turn how to love others before yourself. He always talked of helping those around him even though he himself, was dying, slowly. He would ask me to help others in the hospital and bring them things, and he would tell me of others needs so that we could help meet them.
A couple months before my father passed away. In a clear mind he turned to me, looked me in the eye and told me He was proud of WHO I had become, and that I was his son.
I was blessed to have strong men in my family to teach me what it meant to be a man of compassion, caring and love. A lot of boys do not have that in their lives, and spend their entire childhood searching for a role model and someone to look up too. We can step up and love these abandoned children. They need role models, and they need a legacy whether it is tied to a namesake or not.
I am honored to carry on my family's name, and our legacy. To care for others, live out compassion, and simply TO LOVE.
Here is a poem a friend shared with me today, a year after my father's passing......
Father's Family Name
You got it from your father
It was all he had to give
So it's yours to use and cherish
For as long as you may live
If you lost the watch he gave you
It can always be replaced;
But a black mark on your name
Can never be erased
It was clean the day you took it
And a worthy name to bear
When he got it from his father
There was no dishonor there
So make sure you guard it wisely
After all is said and done
You'll be glad the name is spotless
When you give it to your son