“Why Do I Need to Be Here?” Liahona, Dec. 2009, 44–45
A week before Christmas in 2007 two of my children were diagnosed with strep throat and ear infections. Jacob, age 5, whined all the way to the pharmacy for his medicine, and Beth, 19 months, was especially clingy.
When we arrived, we were greeted by a long line at the prescription counter. While Jacob tugged at my leg and complained about his ear, Beth wiggled out of my arms. I thought she would stay beside me, but as soon as she was free, she ran straight to an elderly gentleman sitting on a bench near the line.
The man was looking at the floor, his face resting in his hands. I called after Beth, not wanting to leave the line, but she approached the man anyway and bent down to look up at his face as she grinned and giggled.
I then sent Jacob to get her. He grabbed her hand and tried to pull her away from the man, but she refused to come. Then she started pushing on the man’s forehead in order to get him to raise his head. As I grew agitated, Beth took off her untied shoes and shoved them into the man’s lap. He sat up and smiled.
“Beth!” I called.
“It’s all right,” the man said in a tired voice. “I’ll tie her shoes for her.”
I grew a little nervous as he began putting Beth’s shoes on her. When he finished, he wrapped his arms around her and kissed her on the head. He was slow to let her go, so I quickly left the line to rescue my daughter from this stranger.
As I approached, I noticed that he had tears in his eyes. Concerned, I sat down next to him.
“I have to tell you something,” he said, staring straight ahead. “Not more than a month ago my wife died, and about an hour ago I found out that I have terminal cancer. I came here to get medicine, and I have been contemplating my life and thinking that I might move along the inevitable. I didn’t think I could bear going through Christmas and the pains of cancer without my sweet wife.”
He said he had been praying, asking God, “If I need to be here for something, You better speak now, or I’m going home to end things.” Before he had even said “amen,” Beth began pestering him and calling him “Grandpa.”
“Now I know why I need to be here longer,” he said. “I need to stick around for my grandkids. They need me.”
I threw my arms around him and could not help but weep. I then got our medicine. Beth, who had seemed so ill only moments earlier, kissed the man on the cheek and bounded away with Jacob and me, waving and saying, “Bye-bye, Grandpa.”
I didn’t ask his name, but I will never forget that even a young girl who pesters an old man can be an answer to prayer.