I was a young-married with two toddler sons and we were on a two-year adventure on the pacific coast when my maternal grandfather died. I remember thinking about my Grampy in the evening of his life, the build-up of the tempest, far-away and non-threatening. His death became somehow anticlimactic because it happened 3,000 miles east of where we were. I knew we wouldn’t be pulling funds from our small budget to fly home for the services.
I silently mourned his passing, feeling remorse and regret at not being able to sit with him and tell him I loved him. I suffered silently, not wanting finances to produce clouds of guilt. I felt lost in the shadow of an event gone by—pushed back by the winds that mark the end of the storm.
For a long time I would think about my grief and his life; his sad longing to be more, to do more, to have more, and I wanted him to be happy about how it all worked out. My memory of the afternoon I went to feed him at the hospital months before we left stood out. It was my fault he didn’t eat that meal. I wanted to start with the good stuff. I put too much pudding on the spoon and it dribbled down his chin. His dignity dribbled down right behind it and he refused another bite. I felt sorry. The winds kept circling. I didn’t want that to be prominent or even in the library of memories he’d taken with him.
My admiration of his practical nature and frugality, the wonder I felt when he’d tell tales of his life before mine, the marvelous simplicity of his favorite foods, the quiet respect I held for a widower who lived four decades alone… all this and more I wanted him to understand. I longed for him to know just how wonderful I thought he was. Oh! To get that message through!
As a young mother raising a busy family I didn’t allow myself adequate chunks of time to sit still and ponder much of anything beyond diapers and meals and the quest for sleep. I can recall, however, many nights in bed, waiting to fall asleep, sort of semi-subconsciously sending messages of comfort heavenward, hoping he knew how much I missed him and how very deeply I admired the way he lived his life. Did he know? Could I blow the winds back?
Life got busier as we added a few more children and moved to accommodate our growing numbers. I know that my love for Grampy did not diminish, but the number of nights I would lay thinking about him did. There still existed a twinge of sadness when I thought about him, and not knowing if he was satisfied with the course his life had taken. Looking back, it’s easy to see why it took me so long to get an answer. In my waking hours, I dedicated no time to receiving one. I was too busy asking questions and living life. That’s why God waited until I was good and asleep to let me know He hears me.
A treasured gift in the form of a dream came to me close to the fifth anniversary of his passing. I was at a church service, outside in a beautiful spot on a hill. There was a gathering of people, many family members. I recall looking across an expanse of scenery waiting for something to happen when I was quietly surprised from behind by a warm, strong embrace. It was my grandfather. He came quietly, and only to me. Nobody else seemed to sense his presence, but I knew him. He was tall. He was muscle and sinew and those big hands that held me. He was happy. He smiled, and his teeth were beautiful. He was dressed in white. He did not speak, but the communication was crystal clear: I love you. I’m happy. It lasted such a brief minute but was so very tangible and real. I didn’t want to wake up, but when I did, the tears were as evident as his message to me. I knew. I know. More than a few years have come and gone since the dream, and the only thoughts of Grampy that fill my head now are happy ones. I know I have a loving Heavenly Father who knows me and loves me enough to allow this tender mercy on my behalf. And I know that if I’ll slow down enough to listen, the winds will come softly, and there will be something to hear.