I found out that June that my grandmother- the matriarch of my family, and by far one of my very best friends- had cancer. That little, horrid c-word that seemed to suck the life out of so many people around me…I never dreamed it would affect me in such a real way. At first, I didn’t take it seriously and I just waited for the doctors to do something- to tell us that they were wrong, or that it wasn’t serious- but it never happened. They gave her 6-9 months to live, as if they had any power to determine the length of her days, and sent her to the oncology department. In July, I spent a lot of time with my grandmother, and by August I was contemplating staying at home for the year instead of going back to college, which was three hours south of home. My family wouldn’t hear of that, so at the end of August, off I went. But as the months passed, Nanny got worse. She got skinnier, paler, and sadder. I fell deeper and deeper into hopelessness that gave way to depression, and by Christmas I was in emergency therapy. My family didn’t know. I knew that they had enough to deal with, plus they didn’t really believe in depression as a diagnosis anyway. Cancer was a diagnosis. Depression was just something to rise above. So I continued to go to counseling, but I began to lose touch with everyone and everything except the bitter reality of my life. I started having trouble with my boyfriend, I withdrew from my friends, and I was far enough from home that I didn’t have to tell my family anything at all.
Over Christmas break, my grandmother knew there was something wrong with me. Even though she was deteriorating quickly, she paid attention and could see me no matter how hard I tried to hide. She asked my mother if it had to do with my boyfriend, and my mother told her that it did…because she knew that I was having trouble with him. She just didn’t know how much trouble I was in, all on my own.
After Christmas break I went home a lot…at least every other weekend. I couldn’t bear to be away from Nanny for much longer than that, because I had no idea when the time would come that I would have to let her go. My birthday came and went. My boyfriend left me, and I finally started to confide in my family. I continued to work extra hours in the cafeteria to pay for the pills that made me numb and the therapy sessions that made me feel insane, but at least my family knew about it. In April, my cousins and I sat beside Nanny’s bed, knowing she couldn’t move or talk or do anything at all but look at us occasionally. We talked about all the things she used to do with us. She used to take us to the mall and let us buy a grab bag at the Dollar Tree. She used to eat chicken nuggets with us. She used to make Christmas candy with us. She made everything by hand…from food to clothing to crafts. My Nanny is where I get so much of my personality. When we had finished telling her our memories, she mustered every ounce of energy she had left to raise her head a few inches off the pillow and try to smile. That was the last time I saw her sweet smile.
Just a few weeks later, Nanny went to be with Jesus. I was back at school when I got the phone call, the sheer terror washing over me when I saw my father’s number pop up on the screen. It was a typical thing for me to be fearful every time the phone rang, but this time was different and somehow I knew it before he even spoke a word. In a broken voice, I heard my name. I heard the truth of what had happened. I knew that she was gone. I knew that I wouldn’t see her again on this earth. I heard my father ask me if I had people around me who could help me. I hung up the phone.
You would think I would immediately burst into tears, but instead I emailed every last professor and got my school work in order. Then without a word, I left the building. I walked around the campus. I walked to the lake, and there I cried. I couldn’t control it anymore, so I let it take me over. I didn’t sleep or eat for days, and my friends were on constant watch. A relative came to drive me home for the funeral, and my friends showed up to stand by my side. My friends, who had taken me to buy a purple dress to wear to Nanny’s funeral, who had prayed with me and cried with me through the pain I had gone through, who had walked with me through a breakup and depression and relentless pain, were standing there with me.
And then it was over. The storm ceased. The wreckage remained. I was a changed person forever who could never go back to the carefree life of my freshman year. As I rounded the campus for the third time at the end of my second year, I reflected on the year that changed everything. I recounted the miseries and the betrayals, the indescribable pain and the journey that had brought me to this place. I felt alone as I walked the campus. I acted alone. And I asked God for a sign. Prove to me that you’re still there. Prove to me that you even care anymore.
And the wind blew.
Prove to me that you don’t hate me…show me that you still love me. Show me that there was purpose in this. Why do you have me here? I demanded an answer.
And the wind blew.
It blew so hard that I noticed it.
It blew so hard that I couldn’t ignore it.
It was invisible. It was mysterious. It had a purpose. Its purpose was to answer me, to show me that God was still there, that he still loved me. That was God’s answer. In His perfect and holy form, God chose to answer me through something as simple as the wind.
I may not see the invisible purpose of the painful things in my journey. I still don’t understand why my grandmother is gone. But just like the wind, there is purpose in it. The air is brimming with glorious purpose, and it won’t return void. It won’t come back to me without accomplishing something. The Lord works for my good. I know this, because I love him, and because I felt the wind.