So this man walks into a bar, and. . . . Seriously, Des Moines Register reporter Reid Forgrave walked into a local hangout last week, and a heavyset man approached him: "I'm mad at you, man!" he yelled at Forgrave. December nights in central Iowa are long, snowy, and cold, so this was a little worrisome. Once in Forgrave's face, the man said, "You made me cry."
That's the reaction Forgrave has been getting not only in the Midwest but around the world as word has gone out about his latest extended feature article, "Eric's Last Wishes: A story of faith and love in three parts." The Register, a newspaper owned by Gannett Company (its flagship is USA Today) published the installments over three days starting Dec. 12, and with its rising popularity other Gannett papers began picking it up over the weekend.
In 2006 Eric Jacobs-a husband and father of four with one child on the way-had a dream that he died young. And four months later he did. "Eric's Last Wishes" is the story of how this young dad managed from the grave to guide his family forward following that tragedy. "A vocal Christian," as Forgrave describes him, Eric centered his instructions on teaching and encouraging his family to live for Christ. Forgrave's honest storytelling and his intimate account of the family's spiritual and emotional life makes for a remarkable piece of reporting to find in one of the nation's leading regional newspapers.
Forgrave told me he quickly received about 100 emails in reaction to the story, mostly positive. He said he heard from a friend who works in China, who happens to be an atheist, who entered a business meeting last week to hear colleagues discussing the story. Another reader, a contractor, wrote him to say, "I tried to read your article over my lunch break today and had to put it down to maintain my composure . . . the story shook me to my core." I myself stayed up until 1 a.m. one recent morning poring through it. So read it.