Celebrating life stories...

Memories

 

Memorial created 04-9-2006 by
Linda Lewis
Jerry "Grant" Lewis
December 19 1979 - January 17 2006

A Tribute to Grant Lewis From Jan Hamilton Everyone has memories of Grant Lewis. In all of those memories there is a plethora of emotion from one end of the spectrum to another. Many of those emotions include Grant's wonderfully supportive parents, Linda and Jerry along with Ashton and Blake and more recently, MaKayla, but they also include the many foster siblings he had over the years. Of course, there was his special soul mate, Anne, who was with him every moment possible. And then there is Grant's extended family - many of whom are here tody and many, many more who would love to be here. Over the years, but more specifically the last year or so, there have been many telephone calls, visits, e-mail, letters and an infinite number of prayers, all in support of Grant and his family. I can't even count the number of times when I have spoken with LInda - and many of those phone calls were while she was driving home from the hospital after Jerry or one of Grant's friends or siblings had relieved her - when I would ask the inevitable question - how are things today? Her answer so many times was "It's not looking good." Many people have called Grant the bounce back kid because much like the Timex products - he just kept on ticking and wouldn't give up. My first memories of Grant go back to the Ricky Ray rallies on Capitol Hill and the many stays at Justice House - sometimes with as many as 30 or more people crowded into the rooms to save money so we could make a stand for our community. When I called to tell Noel Holland Goldberg of Grant's passing, she was stunned, but laughed about the good times they had shared. Similar sentiments came from Jennifer Cross and Kirsten Duggan among others. Other memories are of Grant and his interaction with the Hemophilia Federation of America's Teen Connection in its infancy and beyond. Yesterday when I was leaving for the airport, my daughter Mary Beth said Grant was her favorite Hemo Hunk ever. She called him Granty Poo and her favorite performance of his was when he was John Travolta in the Hemo Hunk production, Grease. She recalled the year we had the HFA Symposium in Detroit and it snowed. She had seen very little snow in her life and was so excited. She and some of the teens and Debbie Chedester ran outside to play in it and she recalls she and Grant making snow angels together. She fell and Grant said - "I can't help you up, I'm crippled" and they laughed. A couple of years ago, Grant and two of his dear friends who have stood by his side through thick and thin drove to Lafayette, LA to visit our staff and another friend, Wendy Hearne, who took his death very hard. They had a good time taking the traditional touristy tour of Acadiana and were indulged with many of our culinary delights. The laughter and his gorgeous eyes are things many people will remember. When I think of Grant I try to picture what would happen if I looked up his name in Webster's dictionary. Surely this would be what would follow: Determined, stubborn, vivacious, kind, wild at times, happy go lucky, carefree, devoted, loving, strong, out going, thankful. There would probably be many other adjectives as well because Grant carries with him a piece of each of us who knew and loved him and those of us left behind will always carry a piece of Grant in our hearts. Grant will never be forgotten. Peace be with you, Grant. You more than deserve your rest.

 

THE LOSS OF A YOUNG MAN, A VERY UNIQUE YOUNG MAN Pondering the loss of another life, so early in life; so very premature. A loss that was absolutely preventable and unnecessary. This is how I begin the process of getting my arms around the loss of Grant Lewis on Tuesday morning, January 17th, 2006. A young man with a strong sense of self which allowed him to get up in front of a room full of strangers and proudly assert, "I'm Grant Lewis from Licking, Missouri and I have AIDS". Grant was a young man with strong opinions that were still evolving and informing his growing convictions about the world around him. Confronted by ignorance and intolerance in southern Missouri, Grant and his mother, Linda Lewis set out to create the understanding necessary to generate tolerance and empathy. This was a difficult task for Grant, Linda and the entire Lewis clan. Grant became the face of AIDS in Licking and in southern Missouri. He spoke to young and old about AIDS and the difficulty of being a young person and living with this deadly and misunderstood killer. A decade of passing through airports on their way to this meeting or that conference, educating and teaching thousands of Americans about living with AIDS. All this, while simultaneously demanding justice from an indifferent and hostile federal government. On Jenny...Montel and Phil, this courageous young man proudly announced, "I'm Grant Lewis from Licking, Missouri and I have AIDS". Their story riveting... their commitment unwavering. Grant was a very private young man who was most comfortable at home in Licking being one of the boys. He loved to hang out with the guys and just be... this was his root place and where he felt most at ease. His friends, a motley and wonderful collection of young men, characters each in their own right, but to a man, dedicated, committed, empathetic and always present to help and support Grant and the entire Lewis family. Grant understood that we, at the end of the day, are all human beings and ultimately cut from the same physical and spiritual roots. Throughout his life, Grant was subjected, first hand, to the results of avarice and greed. He understood how that greed could lead to terrible and deadly consequences such as the AIDS/Blood epidemic. He witnessed the medical indifference and silence that accompanied the destruction of an entire American community and was outraged by a society unwilling to open its heart to those whose lives were shattered by the worst medical disaster in U.S. history. Grant saved some of his toughest feelings for those who medicated themselves into acceptance or submission...those who made their peace by identifying with those who perpetrated this nightmare we call the hemophilia holocaust. In Grant's worldview, people did not profit from the misery and suffering of others. He possessed a small town persona that was honest and straightforward; what you saw was what you got, no smoke and mirrors, no false pretenses, just Grant Lewis from Licking, Missouri. Throughout all the adversity and all the suffering, Grant retained a vibrant and sometimes wicked sense of humor. An ability to laugh at one's self and others, even in the worst of times. At varying times we all have been the butt of Grant's humor. A humor rooted in love and friendship, a friendship that I will sorely miss. A young man I was honored to call my friend and fellow traveler in this nightmare of AIDS and blood. A beacon of light in a sometimes too dark world, Grant helped to illumintate the truth of what occurred and what was important, human beings. He became a young man with a mission and those of us who knew him can proudly state with out hesitation....mission accomplished. As we gather today to celebrate the life and time of Grant Lewis, it is important to remember how he was in life and in passing. And to the entire Lewis family also, a job well done under the most difficult and adverse conditions. This family demonstrated what is possible when you decide to take a stand and right a wrong that calls out for attention. This wonderful, charismatic and strong young man had impact and influence well beyond his years...in fact it is not possible to gauge his effect in terms of his 26 years of life. Grant's impact can only be gauged by the many, many human beings he touched and changed. Grant was the living example of the saying, "what does not kill me makes me stronger". In fact, the Lewis clan has demonstrated the true meaning of this statement by their grace and strength in this very difficult time. I can only ponder the loss of one's child. I know it might destroy me if I were to lose my daughter who was also close to Grant. It is a constant reminder of the precious and precarious nature of life and how important it is to live life to its fullest. I can say without pause that in 26 years, Grant lived life to its fullest. He resisted the victim label and lived for today...always in the present. However, like us all, he was human and confronted the difficulties posed by living with such a killing and debilitating virus. He struggled with his medications and how hard they were to tolerate. Sometimes he did better than others...but through it all he lived and continued to be Grant Lewis from Licking, Missouri, a young man with AIDS who chose to make a difference. Corey S. Dubin President, Committee of Ten Thousand Grant with Corey and cousin Mike 8/05

 

Grant and Corey's daughter, Labua August 2005 "A hero is an ordinary person who finds strength to perservere and endure in spite of overhelming obstacles"

 

From Angie Hendrickson (Wisconsin) I met Grant and his family while traveling on a journey down a long and often lonely road, a "road without a map": the journey through the obscenity of hemophilia and HIV/AIDS. It was through our mutual and common struggles that our hearts and love for one another grew into a bond that can never be separated. It is without end. I first came to know Grant as a child and learned to love him as a mother loves a son. The years passed and that child became a young man that became my equal and a beloved friend. It is in this stretch of time that Grant and I grew even closer. It was the sharing of all those years between the child becoming the man that our friendship blossomed and in these later years it has helped me understand some of Grant's most passionate causes, wishes and desires. My son, Brandon, was a friend of Grant's. They grew up apart, yet together; at Camp Heartland, at NIH and in the hemphilia community events, just hanging out being guys together. Brandon died in 2002. Losing Brandon opened some very special doors between Grant and myself. We talked of sons and mothers and about life and death. He gave me strength as a mother by being the voice of a son and helped me have the courage to carry on in a way MY son would be proud of. I know he is counting on me to do the same for all of you. Let's talk about sorrow and tears. It's okay to cry. Don't fight or hide your tears. Heartfelt tears from the depth of our souls are one of the greatest gifts of love we can give to another. They are honoring and healing. But remember also that Grant would not want you to mourn too long or let your grief consume you. That would really *&%@ him off! Remember to ask youselves, What would Grant want me to do? How would Grant want me to be? Grant would want you to honor his life by making the most of your own. He would want us to take all the parts of himself that he planted within each of us and go out into the world and become the best people we can be. He would want us to be happy and have joy. I know becaue that's what he told me about my son.... and now I am giving his words back to you. Grant, the politician, took a lot of razzing about his conservative GOP stances. When Grant would start beeping and squawking his politics to his mother she would tell him to "Call Angie with that stuff". And he did call and I am soooooo glad he did because we had so many wonderful conversations. We talked about politics, current events, gold and many other subjects. Grant grew into a man and grew closer in his relationship to God. Because of his own life, he came to care very much about others and the world we live in. He was often disillusioned and disgusted from what he saw happening; the indifference, the immorality, the lack of action and of people complaining but never doing anything to make changes. No doubt, Grant was a leader in many ways, but I think he could have been an even greater leader in his political beliefs. Grant was a teacher, he wanted to make a difference in this world and he did and through each of us he can continue to do so. He would want you to follow your own hearts and make a stand for your beliefs. I believe that what mattered most to Grant was that we learned from his life, that we will continue to learn from his passing and that each and every one of us take those lessons and become teachers ourselves, continuing to plant the seeds that Grant left for us. Grant was a person who lived every day acutely aware that he walked hand-in-hand with death and he would want us to remember that we only get one shot at life and this is not a dress rehearsal. He would want us all to keep-on-keeping-on, having good lives and be happy and find joy. If we do this we will honor Grant greatly and he will be smiling down on us all from heaven. He is an angel now and his loving spirit will always be with us. Watch and listen for him as he will make his presence known. Grant, Brandon, and countless others gone before us are now all Angels in the arms of God. So, congratulations on your new promotion: Angel 1st Class, Grant Lewis: Deployed and stationed in Heaven. Active duty service, Angel. Grant, as I said before I left your home, "There will be no goodbyes from me. I'll be watching for you and I will see you later." All my love, Angie PS Grant, you better have a tee time booked when I get there!!!

 

My heart is broken, yet filled with hoy for having known Grant. Hmmm, funny, what brought us together and still binds us. Know that I love all of you, always will.....and am here for you, for all of time. Through the laughter and sorrow, I will always count myself blessed for being allowed in your family circle. One of my fondest, life memories will be Grant's mischievous eyes and that brilliant smile....surely he was sent to inspire us! I have a warm and tender spot in my heart that I know he occupies....couldn't feel this much love and tenderness if it wasn't Grant. Better still is the peace my heart and soul knows because Grant's spirit has left such an imprint on all our lives. I know Grant, this wonderful gift from God, was sent to grace all of our lives and I will be forever awed at the impact he had on my life. I know you hear me, Grant. I love you baby! Denise Maloney -- New York

 

Grant was the bravest young man that I have ever met. It was a great privelege to me to have known Grant and I will always feel blessed for the time that I had to spend with Grant. I'll never forget standing on the steps of the Capital with Grant and Labua. That was my first speech and there is no way I could have done it without them by my side. Grant and your whole family will always hold a special place in my heart and I can't put into words how much I will miss him, he was a very special person Love, Wayne Swindlehurst

 

I have seen the news paper article and video clip from KY3. It brought tears to my eyes. Another hero had gone to his heavenly home. Grant is truly a hero and because of him, many people with AIDS and hemophilia associated AIDS are living. His pioneering in clinical trials, his endurance, his message of hope for young people living with AIDS and to those young people needing to implore wisdom in avoiding transacting AIDS is a legacy in its own. I am sorry I was out of touch for this time in the transition of his life. I keep you all in my prayers. My sincere condolences and prayers. Dana

 

During our inagural year in 1993, Grant was among Camp Heartland's first campers. Soon thereafter Grant joined us as a speaker at countless Journey of Hope programs including our first national tour in 1994. Despite the fact that Grant lived in the very small town of Licking, Missouri he was open about his HIV status. Through his HIV education and warm, engaging personality, Grant was accepted and embraced by his community. Grant was a devoted and true friend with whom laughter came easily. His smile, generosity of spirit, and zest for life will be his lasting legacy. Camp Heartland is emptier today as a result of his loss, but I will still hear his laughter for decades to come. When the late camper Ryan Chedester was near death in 1996, Grant flew to Louisiana to be by Ryan's side. Despite the difficulty in doing so, Grant wanted to be by Ryan's side. Inherent in Grant was a strong sense of compassion and empathy. I take great comfort in knowing that his compassion was rewarded at the end of his own life as Grant received love, support and visits by countless family and freinds, including months of support by his great friend Andre. I feel extremely privileged that I had the chance to know him. Neil Willenson Camp Heartland CEO & Founder

 

From the first time I met Grant I knew he was special. Not only was he articulate and bright, but seemed wise beyond his years. His kind yet fiesty way made him instantly likable, and to a reporter listening to him openly discuss the fate he was handed, he quickly became a person I admired and respected. He was just a sweet little fun loving boy with hi life ahead of him, but one full of challenges that no child should have to endure. I was deeply impressed by the lack of bitterness, not only from Grant, but from his loving and supportive family who inspire me to this day with their ability to find the good in even the most cruel, unfair and unfortunate circumstances that were handed to their son. Their tireless efforts to educate their community, advance the fight against AIDS, while going on with "normal lives," to me seems extrodinary. Who knows how many lives Grant and his family touched with their story and their ability to never lose hope. I feel lucky to have known Grant and feel certain he has left an unforgettable mark on this world. I pray he is at peace. Leanne Gregg NBC News Affiliate

 

Despite the many patients we have seen in our clinic over many, many years, ther are some memories that will stay with us forever. Grant is a source of many of those. Grant was adorable. He had a contagious smile and would look at you with those incredible, piercing eyes that danced with mischief. And most of the time that meant trouble with at capital "T". He thrived on excitement, fun and keeping all of us on the tips of our toes, all of the time. Grant loved his friends and his friends loved him, especially the girls. When it came time to make returning appointment, it was not uncommon for the other kids to ask "When is Grant coming back?" before they would commit to a return visit, especially the girls. They would giggle when they saw him and blush. He really made them smile: an "American Idol" of the 13th floor clinic before the TV series was even a thought. It is an understatement to say that Grant had a mind of his own. He knew what he wanted and what he didn't want. He would also only do things if he wanted, when he wanted and how he wanted. One might say he had "Attitude". Although he could be oppositional and "difficult" (ball of fire comes to mind), he was also one of the sweetest and most insightful young men we have ever had the privilege to know and work with. Grant was a fighter with spirit, spirit that kept him going no matter what the adversity and helped him cope with all that he couldn't control. His energy lit up a room and he used that energy to educate thousands of people. From his words they learned about life as a hemophiliac, a boy living with AIDS and about how to be a true friend. Grant was a great kid who matured into a wonderful young man and became and inspiration for many. He will forever be remembered and loved by everyone at NIH who was blessed to have known him. Thank you Grant for allowing us to be a part of your life journey. Rest in peace. I am so incredibly sad, as is the entire HIV population who knew Grant or of Grant (almost every girl in this clinic had a crush on him, which I am sure you knew). You allowed him to live with such dignity and to die with such dignity. You are an inspiration to me. Your friends, Drs. Lori Wiener and Lauren Wood

 

TRIBUTE TO GRANT LEWIS FEBRUARY 6, 2006 Grant Lewis and his family have touched hundreds of lives in Northwest Missouri since 1995, when he and his mother, Linda, first came to visit our community. They educated several schools, churches and groups in an effort to change the way we viewed people living with HIV/AIDS and to also provide needed prevention information that could save countless lives. Grant was an exceptional young man and his courage and spirit will certainly live on in the many lives he touched during his time with us. My fondest memory is from the program at Savannah high school when a big, strong football player asked Grant if he could hug him when it was over. It was a moment I will never forget! We will always remember Grant's ball cap, his awesome and loving smile, and his spirit for enjoying life and giving of himself to help others. And we will never forget his courage and determination even in the face of illness and death. What a gift to know both Grant and his family... Linda, Jerry, Blake, Ashton and MaKayla....may your blessed memories of the times you spent with Grant give you all comfort and peace.... And to Grant, may you rest in peace and serenity in your new life! With much love, Mitzi Teliczan and your friends in Northwest Missouri

 

Graphic of memorial T-shirts to honor Grant's life and memories. Front of shirt has a red AIDS ribbon with his name. For more information to obtain a shirt please email me directly. linlew72@centurytel.net. All proceeds from the shirts will go to the CampHeartland Grant Lewis Fund, established in his memory and a fund that assists family members of CampHeartland with funeral expenses.

 

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