I believe in taking chances.
It was July of the summer before my junior year. My parents had just left to go out of town on business, and I was alone at home, laying out my clothes so that I could pack for my mission trip. I got a phone call from my older brother, saying that my granddad was in the hospital, that he had been in an accident on our farm. I was reassured that he was going to be fine, so I hung up, silently saying a quick prayer before continuing to pack.
That night, I got another phone call. This time, it was my mom, and her voice offered no reassurance. She informed me that Granddaddy wasn’t waking up; his neck was broken and his brain was comatose. He was being transferred to Nova, a northern Virginia hospital that specialized in neurological trauma. She and Dad weren’t going on their trip; instead, they turned and headed North, following below the helicopter. Mom tried her hardest to keep her composure, but I could tell something wasn’t right.
The following evening, I drove to Nova, meeting my entire family in the ICU’s waiting room. After several hours, it was my turn to visit Granddaddy, except that the man I saw wasn’t really Granddaddy. I talked to him, held his hand, and kissed his forehead before promising that I’d be back and that he’d be okay.
Outside his room, I leaned against the wall covered in clipboards and monitors. I thought about whether I should go, or if I should stay with Granddaddy, just in case something were to happen. Looking through the tiny window of his door, I decided that he would want me to go. He had spent his whole life involved in mission work and philanthropy, and now it was my turn to follow him. I decided to take a chance.
Two days later, I got one last phone call. I was sitting on a curb in Bayou la Batre, a run-down town in southern Alabama, fifteen-hundred miles away from home. My mom’s words echoed in my head when my end of the phone went silent after hearing, “We lost him.” At that moment I began to torment myself, thinking that I should’ve been there, that I had lied to him. In less than forty-eight hours, I was on a flight from New Orleans headed home, where I thought I was supposed to be.
Standing in the humidity of the mid-afternoon, my tired thoughts wandered during the funeral as the preacher spoke. I realized Granddaddy wouldn’t have wanted me to have stayed in the waiting room, watching the clock count down the last minutes of his life. He would have wanted me to be serving others, to be following in his footsteps by giving my time and energy to the rest of the world. He would have wanted me to take a chance.