A wakeup call to treasure the moments


Hunter Johnson, Commentary Editor


I’ve had a fortunate life by most standards. I’ve lived in relative comfort, never been concerned about where my next meal would come from, and enjoyed access to a good education — there are millions who cannot say the same. Of course, I have lost family members, and those times were obviously difficult. Those family members, however, were not very close to me, such as my grandmother, who unfortunately passed away before I was old enough to truly appreciate her presence in my life.

So unlike many others, I am fortunate enough to have most of my close family still with me today. However, the first real scare that I’ve ever experienced for a family member came two weeks ago.

Hunter Johnson with his grandfather, “Bubba” Johnson, in 2011. –Photo by Valeria Johnson
Hunter Johnson with his grandfather, “Bubba” Johnson, in 2011.
–Photo by Valeria Johnson

Over the course of just a couple of days, my grandfather in Mississippi fell terribly ill. Depending on which doctor you speak to, it was caused by a heart attack on Sunday, pneumonia he caught before (or after) the attack, kidney problems or the fact that he’s been dealing with a myriad of issues for well over a decade.

Whatever put him in the hospital didn’t really matter to me when I got a call that Tuesday saying I should be ready to rush home at any moment.

I didn’t really know what to think, to be honest. Despite all the problems he’s had over the years, what kept running through my mind was: “You’ve got to be [expletive] kidding me.” I couldn’t even start to eat the massive lunch I’d fixed for myself; I just went over to a friend’s place and broke down. By that afternoon, though, things seemed to be a little better. He still was not doing great but there was not as much panic as there had been earlier.

It was Thursday morning, before eight, that I got the call to rush home. I tell you, it’s amazing what driving at high speeds with your truck’s flashers on can do when you’re trying to break out of Dallas traffic! For my own sake, I won’t actually state how fast I was driving, but I made the trip from campus to Jackson, Miss. in a little less than five hours — you do the math.

I ended up staying at home for a couple of days. While my grandfather wasn’t exactly better, he was gradually making progress toward recovery.

As of now, he’s still at the hospital, still working as hard as ever. He’s taken a heck of a hit with this mess, but ask anyone who knows the man and he or she will tell you he’s the toughest guy you’ll ever meet. This is a man who has cut off a portion of his thumb at work (as a carpenter) and kept on trucking, who has had several heart attacks but won’t ever slow down, who has fallen down more times than I thought one could manage but always gotten back up. Even when they had him on an oxygen mask, he pulled the thing right off at one point, determined to breathe on his own. This is not a man to stop trying for any reason.

The fact that he is such a fighter is what sets him apart from many people, and I feel like that fighting spirit has given me as much of a second chance as it has him.

I knew that he would not be around forever, but the fact that life is fleeting never really clicked for me and I took for granted his presence in my life. Nearly having him taken from me was a jolt to my system, a wakeup call in the truest sense.

Nonetheless, he’s not out of the woods yet, with setbacks occurring that still have us on edge. I pray for his recovery and hope for the best, and I know that when he steps out of that hospital I’ll value each chance to talk to him and each one of his apple pies. If you’ve been like me and never lost someone truly close, take this one point from my story: Never take time with your loved ones for granted.


  1. He is so lucky to have a grandson like you. Mr Johnson is an amazing man. Our greatest Christmas memoirs are when we came out to the Christmas tree farm each year. We wil always cherish those years. May god bless your family and watch over him for a full recovery.

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