My dear grandmother (my mom's mother) was truly special. She endured a life of hardship and heartache by God's grace and through prayer. In fact, she prayed so much that everywhere she lived, she made indentations in the carpet where her knees had been. I share more about her and the impact she still has on my family's life here.
Well, many years ago she moved from her house to an assisted living community. As she was trying to streamline her worldly belongings she called to ask what I might want of her possessions someday when she went to be with the Lord. She mentioned her china, her silver, her jewelry, . . . all things that had monetary and sentimental value, yet the one thing I wanted wasn't offered. I figured she had already set it aside for one of her five children or many grandchildren and I felt selfish even asking about it. But . . . I mustered up the courage with, "Grandmother, if someone hasn't already asked, I'd love to have your Bible."
I heard crying on the other end. "Really, that's all you want?" she asked. I assured her that it would be one of the greatest treasures of my life and something that would be cherished for generations to come. She finished the phone call with, "Consider it yours."
Several years passed. I remember another special phone call. We live in Georgia and she lived in Alabama, although we visited as often as we could, we used the phone to keep in touch. It was Mother's Day 2003 and I called to wish her a happy one. This conversation was sweetly different though. She told me how much she loved me, how proud she was of me, what a blessing I had been in her life. Oh my, I'm crying just thinking about it.
We talked about my mom who was battling cancer. We reminisced about our recent trip to Disney World and looked forward to her coming to visit the next weekend. When we said our I love yous and good-byes, I had no idea that it would be the last time I'd ever speak to her this side of heaven. But I think somehow her spirit knew.
Days later we got a phone call from my dear uncle. My grandmother had missed an activity at the assisted living home. They got concerned and opened her apartment when she didn't answer. She was a very young 82 years and had never been sick a day in her life, so we were surprised to find out that she had gone to be with the Lord. But we weren't surprised by how they found her. She was kneeling in prayer by her bed with her Bible open.
We went to Birmingham for a beautiful celebration of her life. After the funeral, family gathered at her apartment to divvy up her belongings. My precious aunt pulled me aside and said, "Grandmother Little asked me to give this to you." Then she placed in my hands my Grandmother's treasured Bible. I couldn't believe after all those years, my grandmother had remembered my request. I couldn't believe that I had been given such a special gift. I wept all kinds of ugly tears.
This wasn't just any Bible that my grandmother had dusted off to take to church on Sundays.
This pink Bible was her "love letter" from God. She had read it so many times that the gold leafing had been rubbed off the edge of the pages. She had written so many notes in it that it is hard to find a page without her handwriting. She had cried so many times over these verses that sustained her, that on many pages the ink had smeared.
And then my aunt showed me the page the Bible was open to when she died. When Grandmother's spirit left her, her face hit the page and tore it over Revelation 4. The scripture passage has the subheading "Around God's Throne." This is the passage that the song I posted yesterday is based on. And in it you'll find the beautiful words of those who will worship around the throne of God:
"Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come. Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power: for that hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created." (From verses 8 and 11.)
My grandmother wrote at the end of that chapter "How wonderful!"
I believe she was so overcome by the thought of worshipping around God's throne that she told her Creator she was ready to go. I also believe she wanted to be in heaven to welcome my mom when she joined her at the feet of Jesus nine months later.
What I didn't know when I asked my grandmother for her Bible years earlier was that this wasn't going to be just an item I would treasure, this Bible would be my companion through the darkest time in my life. The coming year was the deepest valley I've ever walked--my "valley of the shadow of death."
This wasn't just a gift from my grandmother--I believe it was God's gift to me. It was that Bible that I read for many months during my mom's steady decline as she battled cancer. It was that Bible that I read during my difficult pregnancy of our third child. It was that Bible that I read after the sudden death of a friend and the split of our church. It was that Bible that Brad brought to the hospital when we delivered a baby that would never cry. It was that Bible that I read at my mother's bedside in her last days. (The story of Baby Luke and my mom is here.)
It wasn't just her love letter from God. Because of all she had written in the margins and underlinings of all that fed her spirit, it was also her love letter to me.
I currently keep it in a place out of reach of little hands, but it will be the centerpiece of our Memorial Box. (For now I have a little pink child's Bible holding its place there.) It reminds me of the legacy of faith and prayer passed down from my grandmother. It reminds me of God's provision during the hardest time in my life--His Word was never more alive, scripture was never more comforting, His faithfulness never more evident.
But this Bible also convicts and inspires me. If I had died in 2003, the Bible I would have left behind looked in embarrassingly good condition. The spine wasn't broken, margins missing written notations, pages free of tears. I want to leave a legacy behind just like my grandmother. I want the Bible that I carry through my days to be evidence of a life that glorified God. I want my Bible to be worthy of being placed in the Memorial Box of one of my children or grandchildren.
And I want my life to be a living reply to His beautiful love letter to me.