A Wish Come Clear

Choosing Love, Losing Fear, & Finding Home

Death, Empowerment, and How To Make Your Grandpa Proud: Thoughts on A Wish Come Clear’s Anniversary

There’s a great deal of power in having someone believe in your dreams.

The path to following my dream of becoming a full-time writer is filled with people who believed in me. From my grade-school teachers (who thought I had a gift for writing) to my parents (who took me to 6am skating practice, helped me get to Vassar, and so much more), to my friends and readers here (who have brought stories, help, and support to every post) to my husband (whose technical and emotional support have been invaluable) … I could not have done any of this without them, without you.

But in honor of the fact that A Wish Come Clear is celebrating its first-year anniversary today (!), I’d like to tell you about someone else. Someone who believed in me so thoroughly that, even though he passed away a year ago, keeps empowering me today. I’m talking about my grandfather.

Growing up, I heard my grandpa tell my older cousins, “If you don’t like your job, quit. Find something you do like.” As a father of 7 children, he didn’t say this lightly. He knew what it meant to provide for a family, but he also knew what it meant to do a job that didn’t suit.

As the years went by, he gave this same piece of advice many times. He was flexible on the timing of such a transition (for example, he’d encourage his grandchildren to save up and plan for a career change, but not wait too long) but he wasn’t flexible on the idea that work should be energizing rather than draining.

He believed that life was too short to do work that didn’t fulfill you. And, more importantly, he believed in each child and grandchild’s agency … their power to change their circumstances and improve their lives. He always thought I had a compelling story to tell, and he always treated my brother Willie as a valued member of the family. He used to say to me, “Caroline, your mom and dad … you and Willie are so lucky. They’re just … ” He’d trail off, but I knew what he meant.

Grandpa knew how to work hard, but he also knew how to laugh and tell stories and make you feel special just being with him. Because that was the thing, really — it wasn’t just that Grandpa would tell you to make a change in your life. It was that he’d sit with you and talk with you and make you believe, however fleetingly, that you could make it happen.

When he passed away last November, I was devastated by the loss, but I was also strangely …  empowered. In the wake of his death, I took his most frequent advice to heart. Ultimately, this led me to begin A Wish Come Clear with this post on January 16, 2011. From the day I ran that first post, I knew that I would continue. I knew that I’d found what I wanted to do.

Fast-forward a year and 80+ posts, and I still get a thrill every time I press Publish. Moreover, I’m successfully self-employed as a copywriter, an online columnist, and a features writer as well. I’ve published 2 books, and look forward to publishing more. And I’ve met wonderful people and told true stories.

Yet when I went to visit my parents and brother last week, I came soul-weary. My husband and I have been working hard to pursue our dreams, and we were both in need of rest. What I didn’t realize was that I needed encouragement, a reminder of why we were working so hard in the first place.

And, as grace would have it, I got much more than I needed. On my first morning at home, my parents took me aside and handed me a beautiful card from Ten Thousand Villages. I was so entranced by the paper and the design that my dad had to prompt me to actually open it. Inside, there was a note and a check.

My father wrote, “We decided that Grandpa would have wanted to help get your self-employment off the ground, so here’s a part of his estate to help out. He would have been proud of the fact that you are taking a shot at your dream of writing for a living. Love, Mom & Dad.”

The check would have been overwhelming in and of itself, but the note? The note had me in tears before I’d finished reading it. The note reminded me that, in some mysterious way, death hasn’t really changed my relationship with my grandpa. Somehow, he’s still empowering me to go for my dreams, and, in forging ahead, I’m still making him proud.

And so it should come as no surprise that today, on A Wish Come Clear’s first-year anniversary, I can feel my grandfather cheering me on. 

***

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*Names have been changed to protect privacy.
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About Caroline McGraw

I'm a would-be childhood paleontologist turned full-time writer, digging for treasure in people and uncovering sacred stories in ordinary days. I grew up in New Jersey (think peaceful suburb, not Newark), graduated from Vassar with honors, then served as a live-in caregiver and program director at L'Arche Washington DC. Nowadays, my husband renovates our historic 1901 home in northwestern Alabama, while I try (& fail) to keep our cat Bootsie from developing an epic tuna fish addiction. It's a beautiful life. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+.

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42 Replies

  1. Don

    Nice post – really meaningful – Thank God for great families!

    1. Thank you, Don! Amen to that.

  2. donna

    so beautifully told, and so wonderfully empowering!

    1. Thank you Mom! So glad you liked it. :)

  3. Tam

    :’) <– does this communicate happy with tears in my eyes? love you.

    1. Indeed it does! Thank you, Tam – I love you too.

  4. Mary

    Your grandpa sounds like my kind of guy. What a blessing. Happy anniversary!

    1. Yes, you two definitely would have gotten along! ;) Thank you, Mary!

  5. VPKeefe

    Happy Anniversary Caroline!

    1. Thank you, Veronique! It’s great to be a year old!

  6. What a beautifu legacy your grandfather left you- his wisdom, his encouragement, his unconditional love, his trust in you all to succeed at whatever it is you pursue, his ‘permission’ to take risks in life – all such wonderful gifts of a good life.
    And now your {attuned} parents are carrying it out further with the monetary enhancement and most encouraging words.
    You are most fortunate to have such awesome support from ‘here’ and ‘there’.
    Best to you.
    Harriet Cabelly recently posted..Services

    1. Couldn’t agree more! It’s an amazing legacy. Thank you, Harriet, for the sharing and support!

  7. Pam Fahy

    I loved your article, Caroline! I can still hear him saying those words today.

    1. Thank you so much, Aunt Pam! <3

  8. Congratulations on your anniversary! I still remember reading the beautiful short story from your grandfather’s perspective after your grandmother passed away several years ago. Keep writing!

    1. Thank you, B! Honored that you remember, and encouraged by both your words and your example.

  9. Jill Schlegel

    My mom forwarded this to me and it really made me think about Grandpa and it was so true. Miss him, he was an amazing man. Great article Caroline.

    1. Thank you, Jill! So glad it resonated with you … and indeed he was.

  10. Congratulations on your first blog anniversary! I’m glad your grandfather is still with you, inspiring and guiding you. What a beautiful tribute to him and the everlasting power of unconditional love.
    Tara recently posted..In Six

    1. It’s great to be celebrating a year! Thank you for this affirming comment, Tara – it’s been such a pleasure to connect with you here. :)

  11. patti

    You have a gift, and this particular message means so much to me as I grow and try to be more true to myself. Thank you, Thanks to Grampa too,

    1. Patti, I really appreciate that, and I’m glad the post was helpful to you on your journey!

  12. Peg

    Great article, Caroline. His wise thoughts will live on in all of us. Continue to let him guide you, and I will look to him too. Thanks for sharing your beautiful thoughts.

    1. You are most welcome, Aunt Peg! The response has been amazing – a testament to his life and love.

  13. Metod

    Caroline, you made a very courageous career change and followed your dreams of being a writer. Not many of us are brave enough to carry through this calling of one’s heart as it might be hard facing a lot of unknown and leaving comfort zone behind. Kudos to you for listening to your heart and creating Wish come clear one year ago.

    It’s a beautiful blog! Happy Anniversary!!

    1. Thank you, Metod! I’m glad to be celebrating with you. :)

  14. Love that story and this post. It’s a very special story and your grandfather sounds AMAZING. I love his words of wisdom … It really is all about doing what you are passionate about.

    1. You said it! So glad you liked the story, Sibyl. Thanks for connecting here! :)

  15. What a wonderful story! So glad to have found your blog and looking forward to reading moe!
    Betsy
    Betsy at Zen Mama recently posted..10 Ways To Challenge Yourself Today!

    1. Thrilled to hear it, Betsy! I look forward to reading more at Zen Mama as well!

  16. Hi Caroline! Congratulations – and what a wonderful post! It definitely redefines our lives when someone believes in us. My mother was my inspiration – still is, in spirit.

    I am so excited to read stories like this!

    I am happy to connect with you! Have a wonderful day!
    Vidya Sury recently posted..Relationships

    1. Glad to connect with you too, Vidya! Indeed, having someone believe in you can redefine your life. Thank you for sharing here!

  17. Caroline, first of all, your blog looks great! I love the design! And the layout. You’ve got some great writing and I’m always intrigued when the writing is good.

    Second, I love this: “As a father of 7 children, he didn’t say this lightly. He knew what it meant to provide for a family, but he also knew what it meant to do a job that didn’t suit.”

    I have three little girls myself and I’ve learned I’d rather my family see that I was happy (and I would rather see them happy) than to be beaten over the head with a job they hate. Life is about doing what you love and being who you’re meant to be! Sounds like your Grandpa knew the secret of happiness. My grandfather did, too. :)
    Bryan Thompson recently posted..What Do You Do When You Don’t Feel the Love Anymore?

    1. Wow, thank you, Bryan! I’m thrilled to hear that you like the site! And it sounds like your Grandfather and mine would have gotten along well. :)

  18. Renee

    Congratulations on your blog’s first anniversary! Your grandfather sounds like he was quite a wise man, and it is beautiful that he continues to inspire you even after he has gone, and that your family is in tune with him, as well, and provided a gift from his estate to help you live your dreams. You are blessed!

    1. Indeed; thank you, Renee! I couldn’t agree more.

  19. I just want to say what an inspiration your writing is becoming to me. If I have a difficult day, it’s one of the first places I turn. And I almost always feel better. Blessings on what you’re doing, and thank you.
    Lana Phillips recently posted..Connecting on the Web–Curation Day

    1. What an amazing compliment! Thank you, Lana. That means a great deal to me. Blessings right back!

  20. Hi Caroline,

    I loved your story. You sounds like you had a very loving grandfather. How wonderful to have that kind of family support to follow your dreams. Congrats on your one year anniversary. You seem to be in just the right place. Take care.
    Cathy | Treatment Talk recently posted..How to Find Your Way Through Fear

    1. Cathy, I’m so glad! It is definitely a blessing, as you say, to have support to follow one’s dreams; I give thanks for my family, and for all the amazing commentors here – the outpouring of support has been incredible.