[cleeng_content id="247033203" description="Read it now!" price="0.49" t="article"]A year after coach’s passing, Grant family grateful for community
CHARLES TOWN – In late August, Paula Grant wasn’t sure just how she’d handle the start of Washington High’s football season, the first since the death of Michael A. Grant, her husband of 20 years and a much-loved coach at the school.
“I felt some reservation about going to that first game,” explained Paula Grant. “But football was such a big part of Mike and such a big part of our lives together.”
Saturday marks a year since the passing of Mike Grant, who was 46 when he lost his year-long fight with brain cancer.
Paula Grant said she felt happy as she watched the Patriots’ football team start their season with a win. “As hard as it was to not see Mike on the sidelines, it was good to be there – absolutely,” she said. “Seeing the game brings up memories of Mike, for us and for so many players and other people, too.
“We have so many good memories of him.”
This fall, the sport that Mike Grant loved clearly remains front-and-center for his family: 13-year-old Matthew Grant is playing for Harpers Ferry Middle School’s team; daughter Melissa, 17, is a cheerleader for All-Star Legacy and hopes to continue cheering in college; and oldest son Michael Grant Jr., who played football for Washington, is a freshman at Shepherd University where he won a partial scholarship to play football and suited up for last weekend’s game.
Soon after his diagnosis, friends in the communit, Friends of Big Mike, local schools and members of the congregation of the Grants’ church, the Roman Catholic Parish of St. James the Greater in Charles Town, were busy bringing meals to the Grants’ Harpers Ferry home, offering prayers, organizing fundraisers to help cover medical bills and to fund cancer research, and providing other support, Paula Grant said.
Paula Grant said her husband’s illness deepened existing relationships and connected them with many new friends, including hundreds of people she’d never met and many strangers who live far from West Virginia.
She recalls how the Charles Town Hair Cuttery began raising money for cancer research by donating proceeds each time a young man came in to get the “75 Trim,” which involved the stylist shaving the No. 75 – Mike Grant’s number when he played football at Georgia’s Valdosta State – into his style.
Later, she remembers, a player who had stopped for a meal as he traveled through North Carolina had someone approach him, point to the numbers visible on his head and ask, “That’s for Coach Grant, right?”
“It’s absolutely astounding the impact Mike had,” she said of her husband, a Montgomery County, Md., native who worked as a manager for FedEx. “We still have people coming up and telling us that they still think about Mike’s saying, ‘Hustle, hit, never quit.’ It’s become part of their lives now, too.”
Although she always has considered herself a positive person, getting through the past year hasn’t been easy by any means, Paula Grant said. “There are days that are hard, very tough – times when we just don’t feel like getting up and going through the day,” she said.
Counseling sessions have helped, she said, as has attendance at a brain tumor support group that meets in Loudoun County, Va., as well as her family’s strong faith.
“We have been able to find goodness in every day,” she said. “That’s no small thing. A lot of families who have been through something like this fall apart. We were always a close-knit family but this has brought us even closer. Mike was able to have peace when he passed because he knew we’d be OK and we have been able to find peace, too.”
The Grants also say they’re grateful for the community. “People tell us about the impact that Mike had on them, but we think about all the people who have touched our lives through this,” Paula Grant said. “From the time Mike’s brain tumor was diagnosed, we have felt so blessed. People sending cards, praying for us, coming by with meals, just asking how we’re doing. It’s what helped see us through.”
She said her husband remains central to the family’s day-to-day life. “When some decision comes up and one of the kids isn’t sure what step to take next, I have them stop and think, ‘What would your father say to you?’ and they’re able to think back to all the guidance he offered over the years and the answer comes to them plain as day. They know what he’d want them to do.
“We don’t feel like we’re doing any of this on our own.”