By Mac McCall
With the University of Georgia football’s opener against Clemson quickly approaching, August 23 marked one year since my grandfather’s death. It’s unsurprising that his passing occurred in the last weeks of August, when college and high school football seasons are gearing up across the country. A quarterback at Davidson in his undergraduate years, he nurtured a love for the sport which lasted his entire life. He became strong friends with Vince Dooley and often served as team chaplain when the Dawgs played between the hedges. His impressive memory gave rise to an almost-superhuman ability to recall games from decades ago. Mention the 1969 Sugar Bowl and he’d be able to tell you the teams playing, the weather and often the final score. Although I haven’t seen him in well over a year, as I trawl through these memories of my grandfather it doesn’t feel like he’s fully confined to the pages of the past.
Dan McCall lived a life that was emphatically not about himself. Working in sales after the completion of his military service, he was sitting in his car one day when he heard a voice telling him to go to seminary. Service to God, which in earthly terms translated into service to his fellow man, would define his life from that point forward. Whenever and whever you encountered him, the focus was always on you: your cares, your tragedies and your triumphs. An excellent listener, he was always genuinely interested in your mental, spiritual and physical development. He was there by every sick bed and graveside, at every wedding and baptism. In my life and those of his seven other grandchildren, he was your greatest cheerleader, a ubiquitous presence at football games, graduations and academic competitions.
I have, in contrast, often lived a life centered on my own existence. I have drifted in and out of cities and social circles, often allowing the pursuit of my own dreams and aspirations to trump the needs of others around me. In many cases, I’ve left scorched earth and smoldering bridges in my wake, marching ever onward, in a quixotically American quest to grasp the flickering light of success, always driven by the unshakable belief that one more degree, one more mountain climbed, can finally deliver the meaning and fulfillment that I so desperately seek.
My grandfather helped positively shape the earthly trajectories of thousands. He was there at every critical juncture in the lives of his charges, always comforting the afflicted and reveling with the joyous. I cannot count the number of times in the past year that someone, often previously unknown to me, has related an anecdote about Dan’s salutary presence in their life. He, along with my grandmother, raised four children and eight grandchildren, now enjoying prosperous lives across the country. He planted seeds in fertile soil. Instead of charred earth, Dan left behind him tilled fields awaiting warm rain under a kind sky. The impact of his life will continue to be measured for decades to come, as those he cared for continue to reflect his kindness into the world. I cannot imagine a better ambassador for the Kingdom of God on earth.
As my life circles through the years, my grandfather’s memory will always be tied to sweltering August days with a faint promise of fall in the mornings. Every football season now comes with a reminder of his selflessness and how much I still have to learn from him. As I prepare to watch the Dawgs take on Clemson, I’ll think about an old man in a straw hat standing on freshly-cut grass during golden Friday evenings, praying for the safety of my high school football team.