In Jewish culture on anniversaries of significant deaths we light a yartzheit candle. Today, my family is lighting one to mark the fourth year of the passing of my grandfather, Allan Granoff (ZZ).
He was one of the founding doctors at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, TN. At the time the South was still segregated, but ZZ and the other doctors wouldn't sign on unless there would be racial tolerance and equality. So, St. Jude became the first hospital in the South to have only two bathrooms; one for men and one for women, instead of one bathroom for white men and one black men, and one bathroom for white women and one black women. It was also the first hospital that would treat and hire people of all races and religions. Everyone would eat in the cafeteria from the researchers to the janitors, and again, there was no segregation. The doctors who started at St. Jude weren't sure if they would ever make a scientific contribution (they have made huge ones over the years!), but they knew would they would make social contributions. I'm so proud to know my grandpa was a part of that. ZZ even marched with Martin Luther King Jr. during his time in Memphis.
I'm so thankful to ZZ, I wouldn't be the activist I am today without his influence. He taught me to raise my voice and never stop until I am heard. He taught me to stand up for what I believe in. Most importantly he taught me, "if you've never pissed anyone off, you've obviously never stood for anything." I know he's proud of me, because according to this, I've stood for a lot...
Even when he was having bad dementia he always asked about my health, we would have discussions about changing the world, and sing "I'll Be Seeing You" together while looking out at the beach.
I'll always cherish that.
Losing a loved one is never easy, wether recent or four years ago. But, remembering the amazing moments helps and knowing, someday, I'll be seeing you again, ZZ.
I love you.