by Andrea Hartley
My father’s brother, Jack, was my favorite relative. He was a kind and gentle man. As a small child, I was about to kill a fly in the back seat of our car. He said, “Live and let live.” My 6 year old mind was astounded by that concept. I pondered that from time-to-time over the years. I remember him most as the one person who gave me unconditional love when I was growing up. Uncle jack lived a 2 hour drive from our house so he only came to visit a few times a year. When he came he always stayed overnight and I was always devastated when he left. When I was 18 he lay in a hospital bed dying of cancer and my father would not let me go to visit him. My father must have felt that he wanted to spare me the pain; but I hated not being there for Uncle Jack. Despite my protests, my Dad refused to allow me to go. He was very strong-willed and not someone that I could easily defy. He also didn’t allow me to go the funeral. For years I was haunted by the fact that I couldn’t be there for my beloved uncle. What must he have thought? I pictured him lying there, wanting to see me one last time. Did he think because I was grownup now that I had forgotten him or that somehow my love had diminished? When I was 34, I decided to go to the cemetery. I would go there and pray to God that I could be heard by my uncle and that I could explain how much I love him and why I wasn’t there when he needed me. My husband drove the two hour trip and when we reached the cemetery we were shocked to see the number of graves. We had never seen such ha huge cemetery. Thousands and thousands of graves on both sides of the major highway we were traveling. Who even knew which side of the highway that we would be? We knew it would be imperative to speak with the caretaker; but we were disappointed to learn that since it was Sunday, he was off duty. In desperation, I called my father to see if he could give me some indication of where the grave might be. “Oh no,” he said. “I can’t remember. I’m afraid you will never be able to find it.” When I told him would, he said, “Don’t be crazy, it would be impossible to find it without the caretaker.” My husband agreed. My response was, “God didn’t let me finally get here and come all this way to not accomplish what I have wanted to do for 15 years.” I instructed my husband to turn in at the gate on the side of the road that we were driving and just drive until I told him to stop. He looked at me like I had lost it, but did as I asked without a word. I prayed, “God please lead me.” It wasn’t a prayer from my head, but a prayer that I felt deep in the center of my being. Then, I just listened. We drove a short distance and I felt that it was time to stop. I got out of the car alone and began walking, praying the same way. I wondered for a few moments and then discovered to my surprise that my grandmother’s grave was right before me. I had never met my grandmother but there was her grave, so I prayed. I also felt that Uncle Jack may be nearby. I continued walking and a moment later, I found it. I dropped to the ground. As I knelt there crying, I poured out my heart to Uncle Jack. As I continued I could feel my husband standing behind me. Though he did not touch me, his presence was very comforting. I knew the car was within a short distance and he must have saw that I found Uncle Jack and came to be there with me in support. After I finished all that I wanted to say and felt relieved. I paused a moment. Then, at peace I stood up to turn to face my husband, but to my shock, he wasn’t there. When I got back to the car I asked him why he had left me there and came back to the car. He replied that he had never left the car. At that moment I was flooded with peace, joy and gratitude. I knew that not only did God lead me to find my Uncle’s grave against all odds, let me find my grandmother’s grave as an extra bonus, but he also allowed Uncle Jack’s spirit to be there, standing behind me and hear everything I had said. How great is that?