My grandparents' wedding anniversary would have been today. If my grandfather were still alive, they would be celebrating 75 years with one another.
Unfortunately, my grandfather died two weeks after celebrating his 65th wedding anniversary with my grandmother. His death changed my life, and I will never forget the event for as long as I live.
To understand where I'm going with this, you need to see where I'm coming from. My other grandmother died when I was in high school. I'll never forget that sunny September day. I was traveling with my parents to a relative's house, and when we arrived, the nursing home called to tell us my grandmother died. We immediately repeated the hour-long journey back to my hometown, where my grandmother had been living, to take care of arrangements.
I remember telling my parents they needed to drop me off at home because we would certainly have company and the house needed to be in proper order. I didn't want to go to the nursing home where the curious eyes of old strangers would constantly be upon me. My only other option would be to stand in the room with my grandmother's body and wait for my parents to finish with the mortician.
I chose to wait in the room with my grandmother's body and, at the time, it seemed like a mistake because it messed with my head. I became angry with God for taking this once 175-pound woman who had been so active and full of life and turning her into a 90-pound, bedridden shell. I internalized the feelings, refused to go to her funeral and, for the longest time, couldn't stand being in a nursing home or going to a funeral.
Then my grandfather became ill with congestive heart failure.
Ten years had passed between the two events. I had grown older, married and had a child. I had recently made peace with God because I found myself stuck in a dead-end job that made me miserable and I needed His help to get me out. I wanted to be a writer, but not having the patience or funds to finish college, I resigned myself to a life of bottom-feeder jobs that wouldn't be considered a career by any stretch of the imagination.
I was working as a librarian's assistant at a high school when my grandfather became ill. My mother called and told me I needed to come out to my grandparents' farmhouse to at least sit with my grandmother (maternal) for support.
I told her no. I couldn't do it. I preferred to remember my grandfather how he was the last time I saw him weeks before: His bald head turning red at the assertive burn of the shot of Cherry Pucker he had been goaded into taking by my cousin.
Throughout the morning, something gnawed at my soul, told me I needed to be there. So, I climbed into my old Mazda and took the 20-mile journey to the farm I grew up believing resembled what heaven really looked like.
I never imagined this experience would be the legend on my roadmap of life. My grandfather, who was in and out of consciousness throughout most of the day, awoke long enough to tell each of us that he loved us and that he couldn't wait to tell us how beautiful it was.
"Someday, I'll tell you all about it," he said.
We prayed. We cried. Later that afternoon, he began talking to his parents who have been deceased since the 1970s. My cousin, who has been a hospice nurse since the dawn of creation, said when terminally ill patients get close to death, it's not uncommon for loved ones who have died before to "come help them with the process."
I suddenly was able to accept death as natural and beautiful as birth. I have no doubt about where my grandfather is. I have no doubt he's in a good place. By that token, I had to accept that my other grandmother, who had died 10 years earlier, was also in that same good place. I just didn't see the beauty of it when she died.
I firmly believe being there that day opened my eyes to what God intended me to do: write. Write about Him and how He has a purpose and reason for everything. As believers, we need to pray for wisdom to discern what He wants.
Two months after my grandfather's death, I found out my job as a librarian's assistant would end. I ended up finding a job as an editorial assistant writing obituaries at a daily newspaper. Without experiencing that moment at my grandfather's bedside, I would have been too afraid to take the job that eventually morphed into a career as an editor for faith, business and entertainment sections at the same daily.
I have a woman who comes up to me after church every Sunday to tell me she likes (insert whatever story of the week here) that was in the paper. I don't know if I'd ever quite get her to understand that I view each story I write like my faith -- it is not of my own works, it is a gift I thank God for every day.