Most people I know have memories of getting up early on Sunday morning, getting dressed for church, and heading off for service or Sunday School. My memories of Sunday morning are slightly different. My mom worked 3 jobs most of my childhood. Therefore, I went to church with whatever babysitter had me that weekend. If I was home, I got on a small blue bus and went to Sunday School on my own.
I was exposed to religions all along the Christianity spectrum. From Episcopalian to Methodist and everywhere in between, I learned that many people had different ideas on how to honor God and Christ. However, the underlying story was pretty consistent. God created us all, and gave us his Son to die for our sins. I always had the idea that Heaven and Hell existed. I knew the Bible and I even own one that my mom gave me when I graduated college. It is a Precious Moments Bible….please don’t be jealous. My Bible is very, very precious.
When I left home for college, I began to meet so many different people who walked in different faiths. Jews, Muslims, Agnostics… you name it. I, of course, also met those who didn’t…you know…Atheists. I must say, whoever put these people in my path knew what He or She was doing. I love so many people who do not agree one bit with all the different churches I attended. Now, don’t get me wrong, I met many more Christians, but I got really curious.
I even took a religious studies class, and my world opened like a big part in the sea. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.) I learned about Eastern religions as well, and my mind was blown. How is it that billions of people, who are smart and so very kind, all believe different things?
Then, my Grandpa died. I’m hoping you have never experienced that type of loss, but if you have you know, my world fell apart for a while. When I found out he had cancer and had just days to live, I lost my way. I was just starting my senior year of college. He ended up living for 9 more months, thankfully. I treasured every minute I could. I wanted to take a year off college, but that stubborn old man wouldn’t let me. “I’ll be there for your graduation, so you need to graduate.” He started a downward spiral my second semester and I was so scared. I almost flunked out of college. I’m not sure if my family knew that. I did not care. What was more important than being with him? Did no one understand that going to class felt artificial?
I spent my senior year Spring Break at the hospital with him. To this day, Florida beaches and drinking sound ridiculous compared to those hours. I mean, I loved him so much. How could he go? He looked bad that week. He was weak. The last day, he told me he was going to be at my graduation, so I better graduate. I didn’t have the heart to tell him I probably wouldn’t. I went back to school, and a week later he died.
I couldn’t do it, guys. I was devastated. I actually think I was irritatingly loud, sobbing at his memorial service. I have a memory of my family losing patience with me, but I couldn’t control myself.
The man who stepped up and fathered me, showed me there was nothing more important than a Chicago Cubs or Bears game, depending on the time of year, and told me to make a life for myself before making one with someone else… that man was gone. He was never going to walk me down the aisle. He wasn’t going to meet my children.
I was driving back to school when I got this overwhelming feeling of complete disappointment. I felt it so strong. I was going to fail college, and he was going to know. He would haunt me, y’all, I swear it. If you knew him, you wouldn’t even question that statement. He would start rattling stuff until it fell and scared the bejeebus out of me.
I made a decision on that ride home. I was going to meet with each of my professors and see what it would take to ensure I graduated. I was pretty sure I would be able to pull most grades up, but there was one… well, I had no hope.
I walked into that professor’s office that week, and I was still very raw. I took a deep breath and asked what I could do to pass his class. He asked why I thought he should give me a shot. I started to cry, and promised him that I did not expect the tears to change his mind, but I couldn’t help it. I told him that my Grandfather had just died, and he had made me promise I would graduate on time. I told this professor that I would take every test over and write as many reports as I needed to, just to prove I was serious. I just couldn’t stand the thought of not at least trying to live up to my Grandpa’s expectations of me. If I failed, then fine, but I had to try. This kind professor stopped me. He told me he just lost his wife. He said he knew loss. He was going to give me a shot. This moment in time was one that solidified there was a bigger plan for me. How was it this professor and I both knew loss in the same moment I needed him to understand my failures?
That shot, by the way, was not easy. Just because he lost his wife, he wasn’t going to let me off that easily. I had so much work to do, but to this day I am thankful. I don’t look back and think…I got a free ride. He expected more of me than anyone. I had more work than anyone. I deserved all of it. I also passed. I only got a C, but I passed.
On my graduation day, I felt a wave go through me, as I noticed a beam of sunlight come in through a window high in the auditorium. I can tell you to this day, I don’t know with absolute certainty what that was, but I would like to believe it was Grandpa. I would like to believe he WAS there to watch me graduate.
That is where I found my Faith. I still do not know who is correct in organized religion. I can’t pretend to know it all. If I have to put a label on my beliefs, I guess I would say I’m Agnostic. However, like billions of others, I have Faith. While I do talk to a God every day, my Grandpa is the one I talk to the most. I so badly hope he can hear me. I hope I’ll see him again, in Heaven. Though if there is one, I’m not sure they let him in yet. I may need to do the talking.