Beards Behind the Brand is a new content series that features empowering stories from our community to encourage and inspire each other to be the best we can be.
It's all about doing better every single day, and these stories unite us in that mission. This week we're featuring longtime Live Bearded customer Ray Peppers and his story of growing a beard to honor his late son.
“Adam,” Ray Peppers said to his son. “What do you think of my scruff?”
It was Christmas Day. 2017.
Adam, age 41 at the time, had always sported some type of a beard.
“Looks great,” Adam replied. “You should let it grow for a year!”
“Ain’t no way,” replied Ray. “I’m just keeping it short.”
“I love it,” Adam said. “Here’s my challenge to you, dad; let it grow for a year. Give it a shot.
One month later, Adam passed away from a rare and dangerous cancer called Synovial Sarcoma.
Adam’s prognosis had never been promising, but his death left a gaping hole in Ray and their extended family.
“I hadn’t had a beard for 30 years,” Ray said. “I didn’t really have an interest in growing one. But Adam’s words rang loudly in his heart.
“So I grew a Yeard,” Ray stated with pride. “It’s going on two-and-a-half years now.”
We all have our own reasons for growing a beard. It’s more personal to some than others. For Ray, it started as a way to honor his son’s two-year battle with cancer... but ended up transforming his life.
“Adam was a goatee kind of guy and had grown his to about 10 inches before he was diagnosed,” Ray remembered. “I know he’d love how mine looks. Growing a beard during this difficult time gave me a personal confidence and respect that I never really had before. And it came at a point in my life where I desperately needed it.”
Adam was an incredibly special person. Not only a loving father and son, he was a veteran who was stationed at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan. Upon his return back to America, Adam became an advocate for the prevention of veteran suicide.
He later went back to college at age 37 at Maryville College in Tennessee.
“He finished two years and made the Dean’s List every semester before he got sick,” Ray said. “He was very humble and didn’t talk about it much, but he was also President of the Student Veterans Association there. We didn’t realize it at the time, but Adam apparently made a huge splash at the college which paid a rare special tribute to him as one of their sons. Along with a proper ceremony, the college planted a Georgia Pecan Tree in honor of Adam and established that once mature, the proceeds from the pecans sold from that tree would benefit the Student Veterans Association.”
While Adam was going through treatment, he’d often visit Ray’s house. Father and son frequently landed at the backyard shed for meaningful conversations. Those were special moments. A few weeks before Adam passed, Ray began recording videos as a tribute to Adam - 10 short videos were recorded across about 10 weeks.
About a year after Adam passed, Ray was still struggling… and rightfully so. The loss continued to weigh on him. Those video productions became great therapy for Ray in his healing from losing his son.
“Grieving is such a tough process,” Ray said. “I wasn’t suicidal, but I did feel as if my life was finished. Until I was sitting in church one day when I suddenly became inspired to become a Youth Sponsor. Years ago, I was a Youth Minister by occupation. Adam was a student in that very same group and loved it. In fact, he would often encourage me to get back into it.”
So he did.
“I am now a 64-year-old Youth Sponsor since January of 2019,” Ray said proudly. “I pour myself into those kids and stand by the Youth Minister to support and encourage him. The Youth minister sings my praises, loves my beard, and cracks himself up about it, as do the students. They have embraced me, loved on me and called my spirit back to so many other good times that remind me of Adam.”
Just hearing the word evokes so many emotions.
Sadness. Heartache. Perseverance. Triumph.
For Ray Peppers, what started as visceral pain would eventually become a practice that taught him about resilience, love and faith… with a little help from his beard.
“Without knowing what he was doing, Adam gave me my beard as a "Going Away Gift,’” Ray said with a smile. “It has brought to me so much joy, pride, life, confidence and fun. It has undoubtedly been a major factor in my healing.”
At Live Bearded we believe Brotherhood goes beyond the beard. We believe it is our responsibility, as men, to do better every day, to learn from our mistakes, grow through our failures, and strive to be the best we can be.
Through sharing stories of the men in the Live Bearded Brotherhood, we're continually learning and growing from each other. If you are interested in being considered for a Beards Behind the Brand story, send us an email!