If we are lucky and we are attentive, there are times in our lives when the separation between our world and the divine thins, almost to the point that God is palpable, when one can’t breathe without a sense that something is different, shifting.
The period around my grandfather’s death was one of those times.
We took several family trips to Liberal in the fall and winter of 2003, staying at the Holiday Inn Express, walking across the parking lot to the hospital where he was dying of pain.
As a doctor I had often heard that one couldn’t die of pain. And yet I have seen it happen, and it is surely a miserable way to go. He came to be known to my nearly 2- and 4-year-old children as “sick Granddad.” They enjoyed visiting him — my daughter watching, trying to work out what the different tubes were for, my son amusing us by pushing a walker up and down the hospital corridors.
When my grandfather finally, mercifully, passed away in December, I went to his funeral alone. After I returned home, a book that appeared from somewhere helped to break down barriers carefully erected years prior.
Reading to my children “Where Is Grandpa?” by T.A. Barron night after night, with its lush watercolors and warm phrases attempting to explain the unexplainable, I began to feel my heart transform.
I grew up in a church: Sunday school, youth group, all of it. But as with many people, when college came, church went. My vaguely Buddhist years a story for another day, it was nearly two decades before the undefined spirituality that was flickering dimly in my subconscious finally ignited.
My focus changed in the months following the funeral. Everything was framed differently. What if heaven is real? What if God is here now? If so, isn’t that the most important thing?
Spring brought the discovery of AM radio preachers. I listened initially with amused irony, but they were certainly doing their job. By July, the Saturday newspaper was spread out on the kitchen table as I looked for a church.
My wife has a long history of humoring my new interests and played along as we chose a neighborhood church with a denomination familiar to me. That first morning everyone warmly greeted us, and although the building is now a school, I have fond, grateful memories of our years there.
Since then my relationship with God has deepened and expanded. My understanding of the mystic web that connects us all through time has grown. Our days are finite and yet they continue unbroken across generations.
I thank God for my grandfather’s example of attending church every week, his unwavering support and pride, the memories of which pushed me inward, past my defenses, to that spark of spirit that is in all of us.
I thank God for children and their open, inquisitive spirits, and for church congregations that are welcoming and understanding.
Brandon Pomery of Leawood is one of The Star’s Faith Walk writers. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.