I am so thankful for the example my sweet Gran, Jennie Mae Ayers Hood, set for me for the first 26 years of my life. Born in 1914, she was only four years old when her mother died during the Spanish Flu epidemic, leaving behind Gran and her older and younger sisters and a husband who didn’t feel he could take care of his children. To make matters worse, her father left them in an orphanage and ran off from North Carolina to Florida for several years. When he finally returned to Charlotte, he started a second family and had nothing to do with Gran, Aunt Dee and Aunt Lib ever again. She was a teenager during the Depression and shortly after she married my grandfather, he was drafted to serve in the South Pacific during the Second World War. He died of lung cancer when she was only 60 and Gran lived alone until her early 70s, when she moved to Richmond to be with us. She passed away in 2000 at the age of 86, as a result of complications from an osteoporosis-related neck injury that left her paralyzed from the collarbone down; even then, Gran tried her best to fight the raw deal life had dealt her, and her example of not giving up when life kicks you in the teeth is one I carry with me today. She taught me to handle adversity with grace and dignity and how to pull yourself up by your bootstraps when you think you can’t go any further. She could have acted like a victim but that word wasn’t in her vocabulary and she detested it when people acted like one. I like to think that along with her name, I inherited her inner strength and determination. I try my very best to live up to her example every day and I’m so glad I had the chance to share my formative years with someone who had such a profound influence on me.