I had an interesting interaction with my Grandpa yesterday. Funny thing is, he’s been dead for almost thirty years.
I was working at my computer, sipping my coffee, when a phrase popped into my mind. It kept repeating itself, “Get out of your head and into your heart. Get out of your head and into your heart. Get our of your head and into your heart.” As I was listening to this phrase roll around in my mind, it reminded me of Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. She had a phrase, too, “There’s no place like home,” that she repeated over and over while clicking her heels together. Hers was a magical phrase, given to her by Glinda the Good Witch, as a means of transport back to Kansas, her home.
As I thought about Dorothy and her ruby slippers (great shoes, by the way), I remembered that my Grandpa had called me Dorothy back in my pre-teen years. My nickname wasn’t derived from the Kansas Dorothy, but from Dorothy Hamill, a 1976 Olympic gold medalist figure skater from Chicago. Being the fashion forward pre-teen that I was, I sported the famous Dorothy Hamill hairdo in the late 70s. Thus, Grandpa dubbed me Dorothy, and called me that from then on.
Grandpa was a fun-loving, joke-telling Danish man who did crazy things, like let me drive his car before I had a license and steal me away from the middle-school cafeteria to take me out for Maid-Rites. He had a big heart and a beautiful voice that could sing Christmas songs like the angels. I was the first grandchild in the family so that could explain our special bond. Our relationship wasn’t deep or serious; it was more about fun and novelty – like the two-dollar bills he’d hand out or the silver coins. We were good pals.
Grandpa died on my birthday in 1985. I think I was still sporting a version of the Dorothy Hamill hairdo even then. That morning he had been admitted into the hospital, which was becoming more and more common. His smoking habit had caught up to him, and his heart was failing. I went to school as usual, but as soon as I got there something felt different. I was filled with a sense of dread, and it wasn’t long before I was pacing the halls unable to sit in class. I got permission to use the phone in the school office, and since this was way before cell phones, I couldn’t reach my parents to ask what was going on. I flipped through the phone book and dialed each and every hospital listed in the Des Moines, Iowa, Yellow Pages.
“Is Al Knudsen there?” I would ask each faceless stranger on the other end.
Finally I got my answer. A receptionist informed me that yes, he had been admitted, but added, “I’m sorry. He has passed.”
I found out my Grandpa died, as I stood in the office of the middle school, by an invisible stranger at a random hospital on my fifteenth birthday. I, and my Dorothy Hamill haircut, forgot what happened next. The only memories that surface are of someone shuffling me out of school, putting me into a car, and then singing Amazing Grace at his funeral three days later, on Valentines Day.
Over the years I have questioned these events, wondering why it all happened like it did. “Grandpa would’ve felt so bad that he died on your birthday,” my Grandma still says to this day. And why in the world did the hospital receptionist inform me of his death – over the phone? Was it some kind of weird mistake?
How did I sense that he was dying, even before I knew any of the details about his condition?
Over the past three years of practicing meditation, I have come to realize that we are all connected. The many coincidences I have experienced, I now accept as synchronicities. Circumstances that seem like good luck I now attribute to a strong intuition. When I call my mom and she says, “I was just thinking about you,” I am no longer surprised (although it always delights me). When I read something that speaks directly to me in a moment of need, I am filled with gratitude. I believe that on a subtle level, we are interconnected to everything in the universe.
I am continually learning how this works. A lesson for me lately has been realizing the key to experiencing interconnectivity lies in keeping an open heart. The message I heard yesterday, “Get out of your head and into your heart” was clear instruction, indeed, since I have been wrestling with what steps to take next in my life. My know-it-all mind likes to analyze all the options and I wind up overthinking. It’s a bad habit, like my Grandpa’s smoking – that blocks the wisdom of the heart.
I have been blessed with seeing my Grandpa again in dreams – many times since he died. He’s always smiling a big goofy smile, and sometimes we dance. I wish I could talk to him and ask him the big life questions or just laugh at one of his jokes. I feel he would have something important to tell me, something I need to know that would change everything.
Yesterday perhaps he did.