“Therefore the redeemed of the Lord shall return and come with singing unto Zion and everlasting joy shall be upon their heads.”
My grandfather (my father’s father), Emmanuel Markowitz, I am told, was the first Jewish person accepted to New York University medical school. Except for a small, brown book with his anatomy drawings, I am still not sure I believe this. My grandfather was a hardened man who drove a New York taxi cab and gambled everything he ever had away. They say he dropped out of medical school due to lack of money. My grandmother Ann (his wife), I am also told, died of a broken heart from the anguish of life. I was 11 when she died and only later in life realized just how much like her I am.
I had just returned to Brooklyn from Christmas break from West Virginia University (where in September I had shockingly accepted Jesus as the long-awaited Jewish Messiah) when my grandfather was dying in a Jewish hospital. All I wanted to do was get through the holiday break without a major confrontation with family because even though we weren’t religious we WERE Jewish and Jesus was just not in the itinerary. I went to visit the New York branch of Jews for Jesus hoping for a cup of coffee and a pep talk. They sent me out to 42nd Street and 5th Avenue to pass out literature. I ran into a high school friend (12 million people at the time in the city and I ran into someone I knew!) Sadly, this friend’s wife died tragically a few years later and how I wish he had at least entertained what I was sharing about God.
It was midway through break and I felt that God was telling me to visit my grandfather in the hospital. No way, I thought. I did not want to be yelled at, cursed out, and kicked out of my family for trying to share the Lord with my dying grandfather. I will not go, I told God. The next day I felt Him prodding me again. Again, I resisted. With just a few days before break would be over, I awoke the next day with what felt like a brick of enormous weight on my shoulder. I knew I had no choice but to go.
I got to the hospital and exchanged small talk with my grandfather. No problem, I thought! I can do this. The brick, however, weighed heavily. I started to tell my grandfather that God loved him and wanted him to live forever with Him. My grandfather, just as I had expected, started to yell at me. He wasn’t dead yet and he wasn’t going to listen to anything about Jesus. Not knowing what else to do, I began to pray out loud, hoping to drown out his anger. He then started praying loudly in Hebrew, a language he had never spoken in front of me. I continued to pray until he opened his eyes, half expecting the nurses to come and throw me out of the place.
“Debbie,” he said, “in a muffled tone, “the devil came to my room last night.” What, I thought. The devil? We never talked about God in my family and we certainly never spoke of or believed in the devil! “Grandpa,” I said softly but determinedly, “the devil knows you are going to die and that is why he came to you last night. But God knows you are going to die and that is why He sent me. I told him that God loved him and that if he accepted Jesus as the promised Jewish Messiah that he would spend eternity with him. He listened quietly and did not respond or argue. I left, the proverbial boulder off my shoulder, knowing I did what God had called me to do.
He died a few days later. In my heart and mind, the words to the following song reverberated for hours, “Therefore the redeemed of the Lord shall return and come with singing unto Zion and everlasting joy shall be upon their heads.”
Amazingly, when my family cleaned out his apt. a few weeks later, they found literature from many Christian television evangelists. No one could believe it. Except me.