My paternal grandmother died just before my thirteenth birthday. I was her only grandchild and even though she lived out of state, she did her best to bridge the distance.
My grandfather died before I was born. And while I didn’t realize it then, as the widow of a high school football coach, I don’t think my grandmother had a lot of extra money. I guess that’s why instead of visiting often or even calling on the phone she sent me things like letters and clippings and eventually a binder.
The binder came with only a couple pages but then she started sending me more pages to fill it. And so several times a year I’d receive a package of 2 or 3 or 4 photo album pages filled with brightly colored pictures.
Those pictures weren’t anything special by ordinary standards. Most were simply cut from magazines and carefully arranged under the plastic film that covered each page in the album. But somehow those pages were magic. So magical in fact that I still remember many of the pictures. A pile of leaves raked up by group of kids. A little dog in a bright red coat. A school bus in the rain.
My grandmother came to visit us once or twice a year and when she did she slept in the spare room next to mine. And I remember how one Christmas we sat together on the bed in that room while she told me the story of the nativity.
Maybe it was because my grandmother was a Sunday school teacher who knew the story inside out but that experience was even more magical then the pictures. I will never forget the chills that ran up and down my spine when she told me about the slaughter of the innocents and the glory of the angels heralding the miracle that was the birth of Jesus.
Looking back, I feel quite certain that the Holy Spirit was sitting right there on the bed between us.
My Grandmother’s Gift
One Christmas, concerned about my lack of Christian education, my grandmother gave me a little white Bible. I don’t remember getting it and I suspect it didn’t impress me as much as the other presents I received. But I did read it – off and on, all through my childhood.
I would like to say that I kept reading that Bible or that it was one of my prized possessions but that would not be accurate. What is accurate is that my life veered off the rails and I returned to the Bible my grandmother had infrequently. and that it spent most of the years between now and then in a succession of dresser drawers and boxes.
And yet, somehow, out of the things that mattered more and all things that have come and gone, that little Bible is one of the few things I’ve hung on to.
In 2012 I moved into a new (old) house. I was still deeply involved in New Age spirituality. But when I was unpacking I decided to put the Bible my grandmother gave me into my china cabinet alongside my tarot cards and crystals.
In 2017, when I became a Christian, I began to clear that cabinet and as I did I relocated my childhood Bible to a shelf that held my new Christian books and other versions of the Bible. But because the print was small and I had other more modern versions, I didn’t ever really read it.
And then, months later, a friend posted something about prized childhood possessions on Facebook. People were sharing pictures of their childhood treasures and I decided that I would share one of something of mine as well and the only I had really was that little Bible.
So I took a picture of the cover that was no longer white, and the face plate that my grandmother had dedicated so long ago and then I thought, why not one of pages?
Opening the New Testament section at random, I was surprised to see that I had underlined the same verse that hit me so hard when I first became a Christian. John 3:16.
I didn’t remember underlining it and I don’t know why I chose to mark that particular verse in red. I had no pastor then or Christian friends to tell me why it was important. But somehow I was guided. Maybe, I thought, it was because my grandmother was praying for me when I read it.
And it occurred to me that she probably did a lot of that in between the clippings and the pictures and I imagined that once she got to heaven she kept right on going.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.John 3:16