When I told this story about Grandma at her funeral, I assured my siblings and cousins that I’m not the type of person who is easily moved by supernatural signs.
She was 86 and had been slowing down, especially since my grandfather died seven years ago. She was ready to be with him and the Lord. After celebrating a birthday party with my cousin one evening, she complained of discomfort in her chest, and two hours later died of a heart attack. We gave thanks she passed quickly.
Mom and Dad called me after midnight with the news, and after hanging up I sat up talking with Stacey about Grandma and what her passing meant. After some tears, I settled in to bed and began to pray the rosary.
Grandma had a fierce devotion to the rosary, and even made them by hand—tens of thousands of them—rosaries with yellow, green, pink, and blue plastic beads; rosaries made only out of knots; rosaries with shiny jewels and sea shells. She strung them together, decade after decade, then cinched them in a knot and sent them around the world for others to pray. Missionaries in who-knows-where, servicemen and women on battleships, grade school kids across the Midwest all say prayers with their fingers placed on beads from Grandma.
She made the rosary I carried in the pocket of my tuxedo at my wedding—if our house caught on fire, it’s one of the few things I’d grab on my way out. It’s what I reached for after the call.
Then I settled in to sleep on my side. My left foot was on top of the covers (like you do for temperature control) and just as I was dozing off,I felt something: sure as anything, I felt a tug on my pinky toe.
I thought Stacey had bumped me, but she was buried under the covers next to me, still and quiet. Then I thought one of the kids, feeling sick, was trying to wake me, but nothing but our armoire stood beyond the bedpost and my naked foot. Yet I felt certain that someone had jerked my toe—one quiet, gentle, firm pull.
I put my head back on the pillow and then it dawned on me. I felt her near—a joyful, comforting presence. I felt her telling me she is where she should be.
That feeling, I know, is utterly subjective, but I’m here to tell you it’s what I felt. And maybe it’s not important, in the end—it doesn’t change how I remember Grandma or my commitment to our faith—but it was a quiet, gentle, firm reminder that a thin veil separates us from those who have gone before us in death.
One day, we all will pass through that veil, and it is a comfort to know that the faithful departed who precede us will be waiting there. I know Grandma is there with others in my family, which is a far wider family than what we count now, and this conviction readies me for that communion myself. That communion is a new horizon that, in the here and now, helps me see things more clearly and in their proper perspective.
Family life is good practice for what lies beyond that thin veil, and it’s worth doing well. It’s what Grandma did.