The parking lot of a restaurant is an odd place to find out that your grandmother has died. Then again, I guess it is as good a place as any to receive devastating news. The words of my dad are still echoing in my brain, “she died this morning in her favorite chair.” There are few people I have loved more in this life than my grandmother. Without a doubt, Frances Hood was my patron saint. From the earliest of ages, my grandmother loved me dearly and constantly pushed me toward the truest entity she had ever known, Jesus. I credit my grandmother with much of my spiritual development. Though we disagreed monumentally at times, we always had Jesus and that was all we ever really needed.
I don’t cry often. I guess I express emotions in a variety of ways other than crying. When I start to cry, water drains from my eyes profusely and my face explodes with redness. When I found out that I lost my grandmother, I had just strapped my twin sons into their car seats. I tried to keep it together for them. I didn’t want to scare them. I couldn’t. The tears started to flow like a river, my body started to tremble and my face turned red. The twins didn’t know what to do. When Phillip asked what was wrong, I replied, “Someone I love has died.” The boys didn’t get it. As I was waiting for my wife Emily to get out of the restaurant, I prayed to my grandmother. I told her that I love her with all my heart. The reply was clear, “I’m home.” I don’t care whether anyone believes that I actually heard my grandmother or not. I did. Once I got over the supernatural and metaphysical mystery of the moment, I found it interesting that I spoke to my grandmother in a declaration and she responded with a destination. I think we are all longing for a place where love is made complete. Perhaps instead of making declarations, we need to follow the lead of my grandmother and live more into the destination. Throughout her life, my grandmother longed for a place where love exists in all fullness and I have no doubt that she is there.
Though I have had many beautiful conversations with my grandmother, I will always cherish the last one. My grandmother has never been able to understand my activism and progressive ministry. While I was at home for Thanksgiving, my grandmother brought up “the gays” (in her words). I asked her, “Have you ever been attracted to a woman before?” My question was simply too much for her. Though my grandmother was known her whole life for her ability to talk loudly and consistently, the question left her speechless and astonished. After a little back and forth, I backed off the question. The next day, we were about to leave to drive back to Texas. I had just loaded our kids into the car and was ready to go. Before I hit the gas, I thought to run inside her house next door and see my grandmother. When I knocked on the door, she opened it and said, “I was hoping you would stop and see me one last time before you left.” I walked in and told her just how much I loved her. I prodded her to let me take a picture before I left. Leaning in, I gave her a soft kiss on the forehead and snapped a selfie. Though the picture was special, the interaction grew divine based on the last words she ever spoke to me, “I thought about our conversation, I want you to know that I am very proud of you and love is going to be what sees us all through.” Though I will miss her with all my heart, I believe her last words to me. Even in the face of death, I know that our love remains and will sustain us both until we meet again.