Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Heaven is Real

Today was a very interesting day. On my way to the airport at 5:30 am, I got news that my Grandmother (Mimi) had passed away at 4:30 am. I was heading out on a business trip to Phoenix. My Grandmother and her husband, Jack, live in Prescott, AZ, which is only about an hour and a half from Phoenix. Mimi had not been doing well for a couple of weeks now and my plan was to visit her after I concluded my business. She was 88 years old and I was cognizant of her reality. I was simply hoping to see her one last time, but I didn't make it. That's the sad part.

The happy part is that I visited Mimi and Jack just a few weeks ago. I came to their home. I took them out to lunch to one of their favorite restaurants. We had great conversation. Mimi wanted to reminisce about the past. She brought up at least a dozen happy memories I had long forgotten. Although her body had betrayed her, her mind was still sharp as a tack. When Jack went to the bathroom, Mimi and I had a quick, private conversation. She told me she didn't have much time left, but that she was at peace because she knew something bigger awaited her on the other side. I have never been a religious man. Neither was Mimi until later in life. But once she committed to her faith, she became quite spiritual. I told her I needed proof that Heaven was real. I asked her to give a me a sign once she got there. She smiled and said, I will. Jack returned from the bathroom, we went back to their house, and spent another hour or so together before I had to depart for the airport. When I was leaving Mimi told me she was proud of me for all I had accomplished, and that I had always held a special place in her heart. We hugged, told each other I love you, and both cried knowing full well it was likely the last time we would ever be together. In retrospect it was kind of a perfect day.

Fast forward to today when I got the bad news from my Mom first thing this morning. I had a busy day ahead, so there was no time to process the reality of what had happened. I had to compartmentalize it to get through the day. Once in Phoenix I proceeded to a partner event where I presented to a room full of customers. I then had 2 more important customer meetings, with multiple phone calls in between, before calling it a day. I checked in to my hotel and then headed to my favorite local dive for dinner (Cornish Pasty Company in Tempe). I rolled up to the bar and took a seat at my normal spot near the elbow (and the beer taps). I had been sufficiently distracted by work for the entire day. At this point it's important to note that my Grandmother was from Michigan. She spent the better part of her life there. It's where I visited her and my Grandfather every winter growing up (my parents moved us out to California when I was just a baby). Michigan is how I always have and will identify my Grandmother. So here's the interesting part: When I sat down at the bar, Bob Seger's "Night Moves" was playing loudly on the radio. Bob Seger happens to be from Michigan and was a high school classmate of my Dad (they're still friends to this day). The waitress then approached me and asked what I'd like to drink. I asked her to bring me her favorite IPA on draft (they have about 50 beers on tap). She returned with a cold mug of beer and said it's a new IPA they recently started carrying from Michigan. Call it a happy coincidence, but I call it my sign. The sign I had asked Mimi for just weeks earlier. All at once the gravity of what had happened hit me. Mimi was gone and I would never see her again. Tears streamed down both sides of my face and the waitress gave me a look of concern. I explained how my Grandmother had passed and the role she just played in delivering the sign I had asked for. She started to tear up as well and came around the bar to give me a hug.

It's funny the things that flash through your mind when you lose someone you love. I remember random things like exploring Mimi's neighborhood in Lansing, MI, after the first ice storm I'd ever experienced. I remember taking cold, morning walks with her and her dogs. I remember the motor home trip we took when I was 13 years old exploring Upper Peninsula, MI. My Grandfather and I didn't get along so well, but Mimi was always there to take my side. I remember the first time I ever beat Mimi in Scrabble (she was a world class Scrabble player until the day she died). Overall I remember just how full of life she was until she wasn't. I guess that's just the journey we're all on together.

Life is short. We need to focus on spreading more joy and less hate. We need to hug more and fight less. Time with our loved ones is fleeting. Soak it up... and for those who were wondering, Heaven is real.

RIP Mimi. I love you. See you on the other side.