15: Ever Present

15: Ever Present

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Miracles and More

Ever Present

Grandma, you have always believed in me, you have always listened to me, and you have always encouraged me.

~Catherine Pulsifer

It was Friday night when they called to tell me that Grandma had died. Somehow, I already knew. I had already sensed that her spirit was free; I was just waiting for the confirmation. “I’ll get on a plane tomorrow. Can you pick me up at the airport?” I asked my uncle.

“Sure, I can. You’re free to stay with us, too. We were wondering if you might want to offer the eulogy at her funeral. The priest told us that a family member could say a few words at the end of the service. So, we all thought of you, since you two were so close.”

“Yes, I’d be honored.”

The next day, my small plane bumped along the runway of the rural airport in northern Minnesota where my grandparents lived. This was home, where the red-stained earth gaped with open wounds from years of stripmining iron ore. Grandpa had been a superintendent at one of those mines and Grandma was a teacher. She was a strict teacher — the kind whom kids either loved or hated, but never forgot.

I had already lost Grandma to dementia three years earlier. This followed almost twenty years of Sunday afternoon phone calls. We talked about my college courses, roommates and dates. Later, we talked about my wedding, career and pregnancies. She was so much more than my grandma. She was my best friend and my cheerleader, too. She gave me the confidence to keep going even when things got tough.

Now I was called to write a speech to honor her legacy. As her only granddaughter, I was her legacy.

My thoughts traveled back to our last face-to-face visit. We were sitting on her bed as one of my toddlers crawled at our feet. Grandma said to me, “Thank you for coming to see me while I still know you.” She knew that her most dreaded reality was coming true. She was so proud of her astounding intellectual gifts. She had graduated from high school at sixteen. She was one of the few women who went to college in the 1930s. She also said to me that day, “When I die, if I can, I will come back to you. I promise.”

Now, I needed to come up with a eulogy that would do her justice. After settling into my uncle and aunt’s spare bedroom, I told my aunt, “I’m going to take a walk to think about what I’m going to say tomorrow.”

“Oh, honey, you know you don’t have to speak if you don’t want to.”

“Yes, I know, but I want to. I’m going to walk down past Grandma’s old house and think about what I want to say.”

The snow crunched beneath my winter boots, and the wind whipped at my face while the bright, sunny sky offered the possibility of something greater than what the eye can see. My thoughts were somber and serious as I contemplated the structure of my speech. I paused for a moment, looking at the house where Grandma used to live. A strange truck was parked in the driveway. Grandma’s fancy curtains had been replaced with ordinary blinds. Then I heard a giddy, giggling voice say, “I’m not there anymore!” My spine went rigid with shock. I turned in circles, looking around for the voice, but no one was in sight. The cheerful voice continued, “I’m right here! Now, I can be with you always! I’ve missed you so much.”

“Grandma?”

“Yes, I am here with you always. Your life will be just beautiful, just beautiful. You have nothing to fear. It’s real.”

“What’s real, Grandma?” But there was no response, just a feeling of unconditional love surrounding me.

This presence not only accompanied me to Grandma’s eulogy the next morning, but it stayed with me through my graduate-school studies in pastoral theology, and onto a career in hospital chaplaincy. From that day forward, I have never been without hope in the reality of eternal life. In all I do, I seek to share this manifestation of unconditional love with others when they are most in need.

~Maya DeBruyne

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