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Chris Linnares, Published January 22 2014

Dose of Sanity for La Vida Loca: Beloved grandmother enjoying Chippers in heaven

Every year at this time, when the days are long, cold and dark, I start to miss my family a little more, all of them living in the warm sands and sunny skies of Brazil.

I feel like I am on an undercover mission for some secret agency when I go visit them. I switch my driver’s license, my clothes, my language. I have passports for my daughter and me, and when we arrive, we have new identities. We are Brazilians, and my proud 8-year-old North Dakotan is a cranky Brazilian who doesn’t like the beach, the hot weather and the fact we speak too loud.

This year, the undercover mission was marked by a different sense of purpose. I was happy to see my family, but I knew it would be different.

Every time I go to Brazil, I call my grandma and ask her, “Grammy, can you make your banana cake?” She made the Sao Paulo’s finest and served it with Brazil’s best coffee.

I am in Brazil right now, and this time I did not make that call. My grandma passed away last week, and this column is for her, for her unconditional love, her undying faith and her incredible ability to be crabby and adorably lovable at the same time.

The first year I moved to Fargo, I brought her a gift from my new home. The delightfully strange snack of chocolate-covered potato chips that everyone in North Dakota call Chippers.

“What are those?” she asked.

She didn’t even try them and was on a rant about how we must “cover everything in chocolate to make it good.” She snuck a Chipper and was hooked. The next time I visited, her rant was about how I didn’t bring her Chippers.

It was our conversations I loved the most. She would be eating Chippers, and I would be gorging on banana cake. She would share advice and about her close relationship with God.

It was like she had God on speed dial, the way she talked about him. It was in those moments in the kitchen that I first understood the idea of a God of Acute Love. He was the God who loves us so much that he cares about the little details of our lives.

If I was worried about this work thing, or that relationship, my grandma would ask me, “Have you talked to God? Have you talked to ‘The Him?’ Then you have nothing to worry about.”

My grandma, with her incredibly strong heart, had been fighting cancer throughout 2013. I already had made plans to go to Brazil, and just a few weeks before I was to leave, she told me she had talked to God.

“I am ready,” she said. “God and I already talked about it. I told him I want to go home.”

She died two weeks later, before the time I was to fly to Brazil.

So this time, instead of sitting across from grandma, eating our treats, I stand in the church that I grew up in with my daughter at my side, crying from the flood of memories.

My daughter asks me, “Mom, do you truly believe that Grandma is in heaven?”

I say, “Of course I do.”

“Then why are you crying?” she asks.

Of all the science and psychology that I have learned in my academic studies, and the great arguments and explanations that I have written and spoken on, the issue and value of faith was never more apparent than in that moment when my daughter asked me a simple question with the faith of a child.

It was the same faith my grandma had, and it’s the faith that has always pursued me in my darkest moments, and it’s helping to bring peace to my heart now.

It’s simply the belief in something that I can’t prove, and with my mind I can’t understand.

Faith is like a Chipper. You don’t understand it when you see it or hear about it. But when you try it, it’s so sweet, you are never quite the same.

Hey my sweet Vovo, make your banana cake for the angels and have delicious Chippers in heaven.

Chris Linnares is international author, psychotherapist and founder of Women’s Impact, formerly Diva Connection Foundation. Originally from Brazil, she lives in Fargo with her daughter and husband Bill Marcil Jr., publisher of the Forum. To suggest a woman for this column, email chris@womensimpact.org. For more information on Linnares’ work, visit www.chrislinnares.com.