April 26, 2013

Emmaus Walk / Debra Tomaselli

Do you hear what I hear? ‘God loves you, and so do I’

Debra Tomaselli “God loves you, and so do I.”

That was Grandma Peg’s tagline. She wrote it in every communication. I can still envision her cursive handwriting, complete with loops and scrolls.

“God loves you, and so do I.”

She penned that on birthday cards, holiday greetings and gift tags. Once, when flowers arrived with a card that simply read, “God loves you, and so do I,” we knew Grandma Peg sent them.

Peg was my stepmother. She married Dad, who was widowed, when my husband and I were juggling our first baby. Instantly, Peg became grandma. Although we lived states away, she began teaching invaluable lessons.

Faith was our connection. We attended Mass and prayed together. But Grandma Peg brought holiness to a new level. She was the first person to “pray over” me, although I nearly cringed at the thought. She introduced me to prayer meetings and charismatic music.

During our visits, I’d awake to find her sitting in a chair, reading her Bible and praying. That image was captivating. For those precious moments, she seemed to be in another world, a very peaceful place.

Once Grandma Peg and I were in the kitchen when she reached for something to write on, which happened to be a grocery receipt.

“Sometimes, things just come to me,” she said. She scribbled a few lines and handed it to me.

“My children,” it said. “I bring you my love. Remain steadfast. Walk with me. Trust me. Obey me. Believe me. Love me. I am your Lord God.”

Another time, we were chatting when she arose, dug through her purse, wrote a check and handed it to me. I tried to resist, but she insisted.

“I just felt like God was asking me to do that,” she said.

I wonder if she knew the money was a lifeline at that particular time.

Dad died, but she remained a central figure in our lives. We continued to receive letters, flowers and cards from her with the enduring message, “God loves you, and so do I.” Eventually, I began writing it in my correspondences back to her.

In fact, I found myself following in her footsteps. I’d start my day reading the Bible and praying. When her health declined, I’d quote Scripture to encourage her. In her darkest moments, I’d pray right over the phone with her.

Within hours of her death, I arranged flights and made plans to attend her funeral. Days later, I flew home and returned to work.

That’s when the enormity of the loss hit. I felt overwhelmed by sadness. In my sorrow, I longed for a connection to her.

The afternoon passed slowly. At closing time, I wiped my tears and shut the computer down. As was our custom, I hugged my co-worker Michelle goodbye.

As we embraced, Michelle, knowing I’d had a difficult day, spoke.

“I wanted to tell you something my mama always used to say,” she said.

Then, unbeknownst to her, Michelle delivered a message straight from the heart of Grandma Peg. It was balm for my sorrowing soul.

“God loves you, and so do I.”

(Debra Tomaselli writes from Altamonte Springs, Florida. She can be reached at dtomaselli@cfl.rr.com.)

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