Wednesday, August 23, 2023

A Godwink from Grandpa

No one can avoid death; maybe it's best to come to peace with mortality now. We were all born, and we will all die. But sometimes, that's a hard reality to swallow when people are young. 

My cousin Farrah's oldest son committed suicide, and we've all been devastated. Justice was a pretty incredible guy, so much like our grandfather. I guarantee at 26 years old; he had no idea what this would do to his family and friends. He was the third person I knew who committed suicide in a year. All of these people were healthy and young, while I battled even for an ounce of life. 


Since Justice reminded me of our grandpa, maybe that's why I started thinking about the past…


As a single mom, I used to frequently bring the kids fishing. I'd heard about a lake we'd never visited before. People raved about a spot where the water descended quite deep and giant fish lurked. While the kids and I walked, I thought about how unpredictable life can be. A few years before, my grandpa had gone to fix an A/C unit and had fallen off the roof and hit his head on a curb. He ended up dying a few days later.


After arriving at our destination on the other side of the lake, these thoughts abated. We'd just begun fishing when a man walked toward us. I thought he wouldn't come too close because there's an unspoken rule amongst fishermen that you don't go right next to people. But he did! 


He stayed quiet for a while, and soon, we introduced ourselves. Then his kids played with my kids, and after a bit of time passed, we talked about some pretty profound things: our hopes, dreams, and fears. At one point, Sol got extremely serious and said there was something he regretted and had even felt guilty about.


"What is it?" I asked.


"I rented a little house, but the A/C unit had something wrong with it, so I called the landlord." He sighed, struggling to get the words out. "The landlord was older, and I felt bad calling him in the first place. But… I called anyway. The landlord got up on the roof." Despair overtook Sol's face as he peered despondently into the trees. "He fell off of the roof, and he died."


At this point, I felt taken aback. "What… "I paused. "What was the landlord's name?"




It became hard for me to breathe. "Clan Stilson was my grandpa," I said. Then seeing the shock in Sol's eyes, I continued. "Sol, you have to let this go. It's incredible that I'm meeting you here while fishing today. My grandpa may have brought us together so you could have closure. He would never hold this against you. He died, but it was his time to go." 


Sol and I both found such peace that day and have stayed friends over the years. 


After Justice died, I thought about this memory and prayed for Farrah before going to sleep. Maybe that's why I had such a lifelike dream.


I walked around a massive apartment complex in Heaven. It loomed far into the sky, more luminous and iridescent than I could fathom. I didn't know why I was there, and finally, a few people said I should look for the maintenance man. "He can help you." As I searched, tenants explained that apartment sizes in Heaven were a direct result of people's lives on Earth. Some people owned entire floors, while others had tiny one-bedroom apartments. 


But a lot of time seemed to pass, and I needed to find the maintenance man. "Where the heck was I? And why was I there?"


I eventually spotted him. He wore blue coveralls and faced away from me. It didn't take long to rush over and tap him on the shoulder, but when he turned around, I could hardly believe it. My grandfather faced me, just much younger and happier. He'd always been dressed in fancy clothes, even down to the shiny black dress shoes, so it seemed odd for him to be in blue coveralls. The shock slowly wore off, though, and I adjusted to seeing him with hair. (I never expected it to be blond.) 


"My Elisa." He hugged me with such fondness. "I need to work on a few things. Do you want to come with me?"


"Of course I do," I said and could hardly wait. 


"But why would you want to do this in the afterlife?" I asked as we walked.


"I enjoy helping others. It makes me happy, and it makes them happy too." He paused. "I own this building, Elisa." And he appeared genuinely content to check on tenants, fix pipes, and replace hinges.


As the day progressed, I remembered what it had been like being with my grandpa… the most fantastic guy. "Grandpa," I said at one point, "I want to stay with my family as long as possible. Am I gonna live a long life?"


"Elisa," he responded, "you're gonna live—" Then he stopped. "I can't—I shouldn't say that."


And then I woke up. I'd had dreams about my grandma, telling me not to be scared because she waited to show me around Heaven. It felt comforting to dream about my grandpatoo.


A few days later, Farrah decided to meet me after treatments. I had never told her about that strange moment with Sol, and it seemed almost unshakable that I should share that memory with her and tell her about my recent dream.


That night, after eating ice cream, having a mini photoshoot, and trying to take our minds off hardships, I finally shared these stories about Grandpa with Farrah.


"I've dreamed about Grandpa too," she said. "He wore blue coveralls."


I gasped. "That's what he wore… in my dream too." Goosebumps ran across my arms. 


"My mom said," she whispered, "that's what he always used to wear when he was really young." We both remained quiet for a moment, shocked. 


"I don't know why, but I just had to tell you about Sol and this dream."


Farrah paused, holding back tears. "I wake up every morning at 6:30 a.m. It's my internal alarm clock, but this morning I felt different. When I woke up, I saw Justice and Grandpa laughing. Their arms were around each other, and they seemed to be working together. I wanted to believe—with everything in me—that Grandpa was actually with Justice, I feel like I have that confirmation now."


It seemed uncannily like the moment with Sol at the lake. And so, Farrah said she left that bench knowing Justice is with our grandpa, doing what they both loved: helping others.

This is an excerpt from my new book, RING THE BELL. If you're interested, you can find that here:


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