Living Life to the Fullest

(ROCKWALL, TX — April 11, 2019) I was present when my father-in-law drew his last breaths; it hurt me to watch him go. In the 30 years I’ve loved his daughter, we’ve shared laughs, deep conversations, and some good times fishing. I loved that guy, he was always good to me. Well, after that first impression at least. I’ve told the story before, but it deserves a second yarn.

Angie had explained that before we dated, I would have to meet her dad. Being from a traditional family, this was no biggie until I told my buddies.

“You mean you got to meet ‘Cornbread’ McGinnis?”

“’Cornbread?’” He’s got a nickname?”

In my mind having a nickname meant you were akin to a mobster like “Lucky” Luciano or “Scarface” Al Capone.

“Yeah, and he’s huge!”

They weren’t exaggerating; he stood 6’3” with forearms the size of hams and he shoveled concrete into some holes while I introduced myself. I couldn’t help but mentally continue with the mob metaphors as I pictured my concrete shoes resting on the bottom of the Mississippi. He asked me where I went to church, what kind of church, and about how I met Jesus. Then he asked the big kahuna, “why do you want to date my daughter?”

That was when Angie couldn’t take it and stormed off and I hemmed and hawed something about her being a great friend and wanting to get to know her better.

Nevertheless, I found Gary to not be mob-like at all, in fact, he despised that nickname. He was just protective, a deeply religious man who worked extremely hard to provide for his family. In the years after, we would laugh together and enjoy fishing. In fact, I’m the one who took him on his first real fishing trip where he beamed with pride hauling in slab crappie hand over fist.

In the days following his passing we gathered with family and talked, cried, laughed, and told stories. Gary was a funny guy, so our memories of him laced with giggles.  I also watched my mother-in-law and my mother’s looks of horror as they heard of adventures I had as a teen and adult (I thought I had told them all that?). Close calls fishing on the Mississippi River, caving adventures, white water rafting, and the list goes on, and they shook their heads wondering why Angie, or my boys, and I would attempt such things (Angie wants to skydive on her 50th by the way). I thought about all that had transpired that week. The day I first met Gary and gulped at his hulking presence, he was just slightly older than I am now. Put in that perspective, time is definitely a fleeting thing and 20 or 30 years pass with the blink of an eye. In reality, I have time to live quite a life, but it’ll be ending before I know it.  The Roman Emperor, Marcus Aurelius, once said, “You could leave life right now. Let that determine what you do and say and think.” And that is the lesson I must learn, that time and life are precious and precarious commodities. That means each morning I wake I need to be intentional about loving my family. When I work with students, I need to hold the charge of impacting young men and women with the written word as a high calling. And finally, I need to live in such a way that if I’m fortunate enough to sit and talk with my loved ones knowing my end looms near, that we can share stories together of living an extraordinary full life.

By Scott Gill is an RISD teacher, coach, and author of the book “Goliath Catfish.” Follow Scott’s blog at and read more of his “Front Porch Ramblings” at 

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