Evangeline, my grandmother’s name, was born in 1922, to parents who were pastors. The English meaning of her name is “Good tidings the word”; the Greek meaning, ” Good news message”. The word Angel is also in her name. Angels are Gods messengers.
She was the visiting pastor at United Methodist church where my mom brought us nearly every Sunday. On that Sunday, the entire family was present and on time. She was present at the same church when my sisters and brother and I were baptized when I was about eleven or twelve. (During my dad’s and aunt’s upbringing she had travelled to different churches to preach. It was work in the early 1940’s for a single mom. But, her connection to the church and Jesus was also her lifeline.) Until then, I’d never seen my grandmother in that role. She was speaking passionately with a raised voice and raised arms. Soon enough I would learn just how passionate she was about her faith.
Over the years that I visited her house, I noticed books and papers piled up on her kitchen counter; bookshelves packed with books in various rooms of her house; music albums or cassettes neatly placed in their racks, the bead and and pictures of Jesus or Bible quotes written or painted on paper and framed or carved in wood over archways and rooms in her house. The common denominator: they were all about religion. Specifically, Christianity, Jesus and the Bible.
As a child and then adolescent, I dutifully went to the methodist church with my family on Sundays. I recall that we started going to another church, Wesleyan, that seemed, at first to work for me. It was around this time that I was ….. looking for something else. It’s not that I was rebelling against religion, rather I was looking for something that held meaning for me. I didn’t know what that something was, but somewhere I learned that most answers could be found in church or by talking to God. Maybe I learned it from my grandmother. I found a church to go to, but I did not find myself.
Throughout high school and into my early twenties, I was a devout follower of rock and roll. I accumulated rock paraphernalia: albums, ticket stubs, tee shirts and magazines. Unfortunately, what I learned from my grandmother was that you have to love God and church 100 percent. It’s all or nothing. If I wanted to find God and belong to church, I could not continue to worship my rock and roll idols. I could not give up my Ramones tee shirt, the ticket stub from a Mink DeVille concert that I saw with my friend Jody or my collection of Hit Parade and Rolling Stones magazines. Could I?
The yearning to find that….something else became stronger around 1991. What I found was a book that was not the answer for me, but it did lead me to my first teacher who handed me his copy of Shirley Maclaine’s “Out on a Limb”. Many years earlier I had seen a People magazine article of her promoting her new book and I found the concept of reincarnation scary. At the time, reincarnation was synonymous with Shirley Maclaine. I believe that, over time, her celebrity helped to bring new age practices into the mainstream.This book was the something else I was looking for. As soon as I started reading, I could not put it down. Most of what she wrote resonated with me. The part about re-incarnation would take a little more time for me to grasp. That would be the book after “Out on a Limb”, when my friend told me about Edgar Cayce. With both of these books read from cover to cover, I was off and running on my spiritual journey. And, I got so excited about what I was learning, that I could not wait to share it with everyone. This is where I begin to sound like my grandmother. This was my A-ha moment. This was our connection – although we both came at it from different sides.
At that time, I knew I had found exactly what I had been looking for. I started to share my new discovery, but I knew it would not make other people comfortable: family, friends and co-workers. I tried anyway…and well, the obvious responses happened. Use your imagination. I knew my grandmother would have thought it was the rock and roll or not going to church that got to me. I never did share this with my grandmother, although I did try to tell her once, but she did not understand what I was talking about. Out of fear or respect , or both, I changed the subject.
Anyway, after reading “Out On A Limb”, the Universe opened up for me. This is how I now know when I am on the right path. Some might call it synchronicity. Others may say it is fate or destiny. Well…it’s both. It is meant to be.
So, I started reading everything I could to learn more about everything esoteric and paranormal. I did my research. I wanted to know and understand what else was out there and I knew that there was more than just the Bible and the three core religions: Catholicism, Judaism and Protestant.
I would pick up any book by Shirley Maclaine, process it and decide where to go from there. Then, Sylvia Browne and Doreen Virtue. Then various books with a spiritual message. Collections of Angel figurines and ornaments, butterflies and dragonflies in any form came next – they’re in almost every room in my house. The new age music that calms me and brings me peace. Recently, I looked down on the floor next to my bed and over at the book shelf. Nearly every book on the shelves are spiritual in nature, except for a few biographies and my Ramones CD’s.
A thought came to me: I had become my grandmother.
When I talked with her last year, I began talking with her about the Bible and her favorite person in the Bible she told me was Jesus. His pictures adorned her home. She looked up at me as if she had just realized I was talking about something she knew. A certain look came over her as if I was speaking a foreign language that she had recognized. I showed her my gardens because I knew she loved flowers. When I saw her in the nursing home over the summer, I’d brought an oversized “Hello Kitty” coloring book with me because I knew she loved coloring. As she colored Hello Kitty with only a blue crayon, I just watched her and recalled it was just like I remembered her views on religion. Talking about Jesus, praying to him and reading or being read to about him. She loved Jesus.
I started this story a little over a year ago when I first learned that she had the signs of dementia. She passed away nearly a week after falling in the nursing home where she lived for the last seven months, eight years almost to the day that her husband passed. I believe she didn’t want to live anymore. She wanted to go “home” to see him. And to see Jesus.