Mysterious Ways: H Is for Heaven

Grieving over the loss of her beloved grandfather, she found comfort in a not-so-random jigsaw puzzle piece.

Posted in , Sep 30, 2021

A puzzle piece with the letter H

The dream felt so real. I was in my childhood home, the townhouse we lived in when we first moved to Virginia. My grandfather was there too.

I could hear a storm brewing. Somehow I knew the house would be flooded. We needed to hurry. As we threw belongings into boxes, Grandpa and I laughed and joked around. Even with disaster looming, I wasn’t worried. Grandpa was the bravest person. He would protect me.

My grandpa was my best friend growing up. My hero. Larger than life. He had been an Army helicopter pilot in Vietnam, and I loved listening to his stories.

But the man helping me pack looked different from the Grandpa I knew. He was a lot younger, with jet-black hair and a mischievous smile—every bit the dashing heli­copter pilot I’d seen in photos from his Army days.

“Almost done,” he said. “Just a few more boxes to go!”

All of a sudden, he strode across the room and out the front door. Where was he going? Grandpa would never leave me.

“Grandpa!” I shouted. I ran after him, reaching for the door handle, but a hand closed around my wrist, stopping me. It was my mother.

“You can’t follow him, Christa,” she said. Then I woke up.

I got to the school where I teach, the dream lingering as my kindergarten students filed into the class­room. What did it mean?

Mom called later that morning. Grandpa had died unexpectedly during the night.

I was crushed. The dream—had it been Grandpa’s way of saying good­bye? He’d seemed so vibrant and happy. I tried to take comfort in that.

Still, grief hit me hard. I couldn’t imagine life without him. My first day back at work after the funeral, I arrived early. The substitute teacher had left my classroom spotless. Everything was in its place…except something in the middle of the kids’ circle-time rug. A puzzle piece.

I bent down to pick it up. It was part of an alphabet puzzle, each letter paired with a colorful picture. This piece was H—for helicopter.

I asked the sub about it later. She had no idea how the puzzle piece had gotten there.

I did. I might not be able to follow Grandpa, but he would always be with me.

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