IN THE SPIRIT: There is an angel among us; walk in faith not in fear

There are some things one never gets over, so it's easy to disavow the phrase, "time heals all wounds." What you do with that "time," however, can help tremendously. It's been four years since Peg and Mike Granlund, Langdon, N.D., lost their beau...

Naomi Dunavan
Naomi Dunavan

There are some things one never gets over, so it's easy to disavow the phrase, "time heals all wounds."

What you do with that "time," however, can help tremendously.

It's been four years since Peg and Mike Granlund, Langdon, N.D., lost their beautiful 23-year-old daughter, Elizabeth. She was their first-born -- the big sister of Jon, Christ­­opher and Stephanie.

Liz was a brand new bride, married just one month to Nick Hacker, a Grand Forks state senator. She was a speech pathology teacher in Larimore, N.D., who still had the pretty red hair and the animated personality she was born with. She thrived on meeting people and loved campaigning for her husband.

The two were married Aug. 12, 2006 and on Sept. 11, Liz wound up in intensive care with a 105 degree temperature. Thus began a wretched two months.


During stays in Altru Hospital in Grand Forks, MeritCare in Fargo and Fairview University Children's Hospital in Minneapolis, Liz was diagnosed with Hemophagocytic Lymphohistiocytosis (HLH) a rare immune system disorder primarily affecting one in 1 million infants and children.

Why it hit Liz, no one will ever know. All her life, she'd been healthy. She worked out, ate right, never smoked and had a positive attitude. She also had a deep Christian faith. To her parents, those things are what are needed to live a long full life.

But on Nov. 14, the immune system disorder took Liz from her loved ones.

"Honestly," her mother said, "sometimes the pain is overwhelming."

"Your heart is still broken," her father added. "It's like you lost a part of you."

Unable to speak in the final stages of her illness, Liz communicated to those around her by winking at them. But as unconsciousness took her deeper, her winks lessened and then stopped completely. Only her increased heart rate at the sound of their voices gave them hope that she knew they were there and that she was at peace.

Liz's journey was posted on the Caringbridge website where it still remains.

Her journey touched many people and not long after Liz's passing, her family began to receive letters, e-mails and CaringBridge guest book entries describing spiritual experiences that friends, family, even strangers were having that connected them to God by way of Liz.


These experiences were given the name, "Liz Winks."

Losing themselves in "Liz Winks," is where Mike and Peg have spent a lot of time. It makes them feel close to Liz. It brings them solace.

Liz loved the color pink -- anything in pink. I'm told she wore a lot of pink.

So it is that many of the spiritual experiences Peg and Mike were told of have been published in a very pink book titled, "Liz Winks -- There is an Angel Among Us."

"This was my dream and my husband's dream," Peg said, "but this is part of God's plan, too, to give other people strength to face each day and to know they'll see their children again. We want to celebrate Liz's life and we also want to thank God for His promise of eternal life."

The book is dedicated to the Granlund and Hacker families in celebration of Liz's life and in gratitude to the members of both families for their Christian witness through it all. The book's formatted reflections were designed by Lynn Zimmermann, who lives in Texas. The illustrations were done by California artist, Ann O'Connor.

"They were doing this from a distance for us," Peg said.

Following is an example of the vignettes. Authors' names are not given:


"I prayed and waited for a 'Liz Wink' that would highlight the day for all those missing her. Sure enough, sitting on my couch with my little guy last night, there was the most beautiful pink colored sky and I said, 'Thanks Liz for yet another amazing reminder of the power of your very genuine spirit. Thank you for your continued flow of love and smiles.'"

"As the sun was setting, the mountain tops started to glow a wonderful pink! As I looked out the window on my right, I couldn't believe what I saw -- in the pink and blue sky, it looked as if the clouds had separated and made an angel! It was the most amazing thing I have seen. At that moment, I knew Liz was there. I could feel her."

"I thought you would like to hear this: As I flew into New York today, I looked out my window to see a beautiful pink sunset -- Liz smiling at me!"

"As I was driving back to Grand Forks tonight, I noticed a beautiful pink sunset dancing with the purple clouds and I could only think of Liz saying 'Hello,' to all who saw her."

The Granlunds pray that all who read "Liz Winks" will have a sense of peace and hope during their journey of healing.

The book sells for $15.75 and is available at the Grand Forks Y Family Center, where both Peg and Liz once worked. You also can e-mail Peg and Mike at: .

Proceeds will go to the Liz Granlund Hacker Scholarship Fund given to a young adult who radiates kindness to others as Liz did. "We want to give a scholarship based on who Liz was as a person," Peg said. "It's hard every day, but we do have strong, strong faith. I believe without a doubt that Liz is alive and well and that the winks are real. This is not just a coincidence. I believe it with my whole heart."

The Herald publishes Naomi Dunavan's "In the Spirit," column the second Saturday of each month. Reach her at (218) 773-9521 or e-mail: . Also: check out her blog at .

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