It took almost five years, but as a freshman in college I finally accepted the call to ordained ministry that God had placed on my life. I switched my major from biology to religious studies, and I began talking to my pastor about what my next steps should be. That summer I went home and got a job waiting tables in a little restaurant nobody went to in Murrells Inlet. I made a little money, had a few days off here and there to be able to go see my girlfriend Lollie in Marion, and I got to be back at the beach in salt air and water all summer. I was shaping up to be a great first summer as a college student.
Around the end of May, my mom told me that my grandmother, her mom, was going to have to have surgery. My mom had, for months, been spending about half of her week at my grandparents’ house, helping my grandfather, we called him Daddy Boo but that is another story, take care of my grandmother as her dementia was progressing rapidly. This, we knew, would make Dadoo’s, that’s what we called my grandmother, recovery from surgery that much harder.
After the surgery it became apparent that during the surgery, or shortly thereafter, Dadoo had suffered a stroke that caused her to lose the ability to speak and to swallow. Because of her dementia there was no real possibility for teaching her those skills, and so my grandfather, my aunt and my mom made the decision not to keep Dadoo on artificial nutrition and hydration. This meant she had days left before she joined the great company of the Saints. We all went to see her in the hospital as often as we could but the only person we knew she recognized was Daddy Boo. Her eyes lit up when he walked into the room in a way that communicated everything she possibly could have needed or wanted to say if she could have still spoken.
As the rest of us would go into her room we would tell her who we were that we were her grandchildren, that we were Jean’s children or Mary’s son or Kathy’s son, and every time she would look amazed that her three daughters could have children of their own who looked so grown. Her eyes told us what she was thinking.
The last time I saw Dadoo alive was two days before she died. I didn’t have to wait tables, and so I made the hour and half trip to the hospital with my dad, and my brother and sister. When I walked into the room someone, my mom or my aunt, began telling Dadoo who I was and who her other grandchildren were. They began telling her about each one of us and with each detail about our lives her eyes would tell of the love and pride she felt for each one of us. I will never forget the look in Dadoo’s eyes as she heard that I was planning to be a preacher and that I was still dating “tootsie pop” as she used to call Lollie. (I proposed to Lollie with Dadoo’s mom’s engagement ring that Dadoo wore every day after her mom died.)
I saw confirmation, love and grace in Dadoo’s eyes in that moment. That was the first of many times that I have met God in the eyes of one of the saints.