I lost my maternal grandfather 6 weeks before I married my husband in 2012, on the day I was supposed to have my bridal portraits taken.
To say that we were close was an understatement. My granddad was unable to work due to a heart condition, so he was my babysitter from the time I was 6 weeks old until I could drive. I called him Dad after having heard my mom call him that; my father is Daddy and always will be. Dad taught me how to play checkers, Old Maid, dominoes, and a million other more important life lessons in those 14 years (I received a hardship for golf practice, so I drove earlier than age 16.) We talked about my problems, politics, the environment, and read a million books together. He always said I could be President if I wanted; I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I would much rather be First Lady. He pushed me to try my hardest at everything I did.
Some people have experienced these moments where we feel we have a heavenly visitor; I have even heard them referred to a “Godwinks.” There have been several times when I have been upset, praying aloud, or driving in my car thinking about a problem or issue, and I can feel Dad squeeze my right shoulder, just like he always used to do when we had one of our talks. Have you ever had a “Godwink”? Perhaps you call it something else; whatever the name, whatever your experience, did it make you feel as if a loved one was actually there with you? Did it bring a sense of peace and calm in an otherwise upsetting or stressful situation? If it did, and if you could have sworn at that moment that you smelled your mother’s perfume, your grandpa’s pipe tobacco, or heard a quiet but familiar chuckle, then you have experienced a “Godwink.”
Dealing with his passing affected me in a quiet, but great way. I have had countless moments where the first person I wanted to call was Dad. Where the person I most wanted advice from was Dad. Not because we always saw eye-to-eye, but because he would carefully and cautiously challenge my point-of-view, bring up other points, and require me to thoughtfully defend my position. I haven’t played dominoes since he has passed; perhaps I will some day. So how do I process these feelings? I bake snickerdoodles – his favorite cookies – every year on his birthday, and make sure they are good and crisp. I talk to him out loud, as I would have if he had been there. When I really need advice similar to his, I call his cousin; something about the closeness in age and similar childhoods shared by those two gives me reassurance that Dad would approve. And part of me knows that somehow, he is guiding Glen in what to say to me.
Fast forward to 2015. My husband and I welcomed our oldest daughter, who was given his surname, Epley. She was born with blue eyes that eventually changed to hazel – the same as Dad’s. Epley had colic, so sleep was an invaluable commodity. Many mornings I would wake to hear our daughter fussing in her crib, only to stumble across the house and find that her mobile was turned on, or her music was playing, and she had drifted back to sleep. Neither my husband or I had turned those on, and while our dog is amazing, he doesn’t have opposable thumbs. I’ve also gone into my daughter’s room as she has gotten older, and she has said “Dad?” when I walked in. She calls her father “Daddy,” so I knew instantly who she was referring to. I said “what did you say, Epley?” and she asks “grandpa?” In addition, since Epley’s birth, we have a Cardinal that perches on our back fence every morning. Seeing that we are die-hard Cubs fans, we know the Cardinal is a visitor from heaven, not from St. Louis.
Ultimately, I know this can all be logically explained, but I prefer to think that God knows when we need an extra special visit from someone, and he allows them to pop in for a quick shoulder squeeze or to wind a mobile.