Her Mission from God
Nancy Grace shares her inspiring story of overcoming her grief by listening to God and launching herself into a new career.
I never encountered evil as a child. What could possibly have hurt me on the outskirts of Macon, Georgia, where my family's neighbors were farmers and my back yard was peach orchards and pine woods? Mine was a childhood of romping through fields and curling up on a winter's night with my favorite thing: a book. In spring I sat beneath the peach boughs, watching their pink blossoms flutter to the horizon.
Macon is a big city now—more than 300,000 people. Our home was far outside the city limits. Whatever troubles plague city kids never made it to our red dirt road. My father was a railroad man, a freight agent for the Southern Railway, and my mother ran payroll at a manufacturing plant. After work, she indulged her true passion—music.
She played cello with a symphony and has been our local church organist for 40 years. Me, I read. And read and read. I especially loved Shakespeare—his language, my music.
Perhaps because my life was so sheltered, I found a whole new world in his characters. I was shocked at Iago's treachery, Macbeth's murderous ambition, King Lear's anguish and remorse. To a girl tucked safely in rural Georgia, they were so real, so universally human—but so safely far away.
Early on, I knew exactly what I wanted to do: teach others to see what I saw, hear what I heard when I plunged into Shakespeare's limitless world. And, of course, I wanted to fall in love and raise a family. It never occurred to me, as I enrolled to study English at Valdosta State University in southern Georgia, that I wouldn't achieve that dream. I mean, I grew up in a town where the church chimes every evening played hymns like, "God will take care of you."
So, in a way, it was no surprise when I saw Keith Griffin walking across campus one day in the late 1970s. He was tall with a chiseled face, mustache and beautiful, wavy brown hair. He was on a baseball scholarship, the picture of an all-American young man. He took my breath away. I remember thinking, Oh, my gosh, nobody that handsome would ever ask me out. But he did. Our first date was at a Dairy Queen. I didn't pay much attention to the ice cream.
Keith's eyes were blue, almost impossibly blue. I would always say, "Keith, your eyes are so blue, I believe I could swim in them." Everything fell into place. Keith studied geology and already had a job lined up in Colorado. We'd marry, move out under that big western sky, I would teach English and we would raise a family. We had everything planned. I even had a wedding dress.
Then came that horrific summer day in 1981. Keith had come to stay at my parents' house for the weekend. He left Monday morning for a summer construction job he was working near Athens. It was hot, one of those August heat waves that still the land and quiet the birds. Keith's car kicked up a cloud of red dust. Through it, his arm was barely visible. He was waving.
I left a few hours later for the campus of Mercer University, which is in Macon. I was taking a summer-session class there and working in the library. When I finished an exam I had that day, I went to a payphone to tell the library I would be late. The librarian's voice sounded odd. "Call Keith's sister in Athens," she said. My heart clenched. Somehow, I knew. I knew Keith was dead. Hands quivering like butterflies, I dialed the number. Keith's sister picked up.
"Is Keith gone?" I blurted.
"Yes," she said.
I hung up and lurched from the phone booth. I walked to the admissions office, where my brother, Macky, worked. Arms laden with books, I pushed my way inside and shouted his name. Heads turned. "Keith is dead!" I dropped the books.
My brother didn't know quite what to do, so he took me to my family's church, where I rushed into the office of our longtime pastor, William Oliver. Billy had watched me grow up, knew my hopes for the future. His eyes widened as I collapsed into a chair and lay my head on his desk, scattering papers. Maybe Keith is still alive, I tried to assure myself. There's just been an accident. I didn't really talk enough to his sister to find out what happened. Let's call her again.