Divine Intervention?

In Family, Life Lessons on January 17, 2010 at 4:46 pm

The weather forecast called for a major snowstorm to blanket New York on a winter Sunday in 2009.  My wife and I had plans to go upstate with the kids to surprise her mother for her birthday.  Nothing fancy.  Just the extended family getting together in an Italian restaurant in a small town in the Catskills for lunch.  Our plan was to spend the night and return the next day as we always did whenever we visited my in-laws.

The date was January 17, 2009 – exactly one year ago today.  It was a Saturday.  We needed to be back before Monday for work and school, and didn’t want to take the chance of getting “snowed in” upstate, so we decided to make the trip up and back in the same day.

The day also happened to be my grandmother’s 96th birthday, and my extended family was getting together at her apartment in Manhattan to celebrate.  We had never missed any of her previous birthday celebrations, and I was feeling guilty that we were going to be the only ones not to make it to last year’s gathering.  Everyone understood because we had a legitimate reason not to be there, being that my mother-in-law was celebrating a milestone birthday of her own.

When we decided that we were going to return home on the same day, I asked my wife if we could leave right after lunch and stop by my grandmother’s apartment on the way back to Long Island.  It was going to be a lot of time spent in the car with kids that may as well have coined the phrase “are we there yet?”, but my wife and I both agreed that it was the right thing to do.  Since we didn’t know when we would leave the Catskills (or arrive in Manhattan), we decided to make our appearance a surprise to everyone except my brother, because someone had to let us into her apartment building.

Traffic going into Manhattan on a Saturday evening is always bad, but it took a particularly long time for us to get to my grandmother’s apartment, as all of the roads were heavily congested.  When we finally arrived, we were all road-weary, exhausted and more than ready to get out of the car.  My brother met us downstairs and came back with a surprise that made my grandmother very happy – her whole family was together after all.   It is the greatest gift that we could have given to her, and it is something that I’ll never forget.

We didn’t know it then, but it was the last birthday celebration that she would ever have.  In early March, I got the call from my brother that I always knew I could get at any time, but held out hope that it wouldn’t come for a while longer.  My grandmother was gone!  In her lifetime, she had her share of ailments, previous hospital stays and had given us scares on more than one occasion.  But somehow, some way, she always managed to pull through even when the odds seemed stacked against her.  Thankfully, it happened quickly, with no suffering, in the place that she called “home” for most of her adult life.

She was blessed to have a long life.  She got to see all of her children get married and have kids.  She got to see five of her grandchildren get married.  She got to be a part of the lives of seven great-grandchildren, who still hold a special place in their hearts for “Bubby.”  We were blessed to have her in our lives for so long, although we wish that it could have been even longer.

Naturally-occurring, weather-related events are said to be “Acts of God,” although the term is generally associated with some form of disaster or destruction.  In this case, I can’t help but wonder if the threat of the snowstorm (that never materialized), was some sort of divine intervention to make sure that I did whatever was necessary to be there to celebrate the final birthday with the woman that was adored by everyone who ever met her.   Was this nothing more than granting her one final birthday wish – giving her the one thing that meant the most to her in this world (having her whole family together)? I’d like to think so.

I would also like to think that she is celebrating her birthday today with those that she had to say goodbye to while she was still with us, in-particular, my father , who cherished his relationship with the woman he lovingly referred to as “Shvig” (short for shviger, which means “mother-in-law” in Yiddush).

Regardless of whether the snow storm that never came in January of 2009 was divine intervention or random chance, the fact of the matter is that it is something that I am truly thankful for, and will always remember.  As difficult as today is, it would have been that much worse if I had not been there to celebrate my grandmother’s final birthday with her.

  1. I read this earlier from my phone and I was anxious to get in front of a computer so I could reply. There are so many times where we run into a string of red lights on our way someplace. Doug gets so annoyed by the constant starting and stopping. I always tell him that we’re right where we are supposed to be because maybe this is the light that is keeping us from an accident ahead. You were definitely meant to see your Grandma that weekend and whether it be Divine Intervention or just a poor weather prediction, you can always be thankful that you went with your inner voice. I do envy you having your Grandmother as long as you did. I KNOW losing mine at the age of 16 was way too early, but we’re never ready – no matter how old we are – to face the loss of someone we love. Happy Birthday to your Grandma!

  2. happy birthday to your grandmother, its really nice that you got to spend that time with her and have that memory…i know its hard but how lovely that she had such a long life…

  3. […] have the entire family together before her passing.  If ever there was a time to believe in “Divine Intervention” – this was […]

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