Probably because I didn’t have a grandmother, I grew up acutely aware of the wonder of grandmothers. From stories and from hearing my friends talk, I knew that grandmothers loved you no matter what you did. I also knew that rather than wait for special occasions like Christmas or your birthday to give you gifts, Grandmothers made occasions so they could give you gifts. Even though both my grandmothers died before I knew them, true to her grandmother calling, my Grandmother Mills gave me one of the most precious gifts I’ve ever been given.
It happened shortly before my eighth birthday. My father was going through some old boxes and found a small pink Bible that had belonged to his mother. At one time it must have been red, but it had faded and frayed with age. Dad looked at it a few minutes, leafed through the pages, and then handed it to me. “This was my mother’s,” he said. “Do you want it?”
Of course I did! I’d never had anything that belonged to my grandmothers. Excitedly I took the book into my hands savoring the feel of the hard, cloth cover. Opening the pages, I discovered it had no pictures, but delighted in the old, stale odor that emanated from the browned paper. It wasn’t marked with handwriting in the margins and lines under the words like my father’s Bible. Instead the lonely printed words lined up on every page waiting to be discovered, but I didn’t try to read it I think because I’d often heard adults say that the Bible was too difficult to read.
For the next few days, the book was never far from me, and at all times I was aware of where it was—as if it were a center that I radiated around. I took the Bible into the orchard, I held it during lunch, I used it for a table when I played dolls, I slept with it under my pillow delighting in the sensation of it emanating through the pillow to warm my dreams. Often I ran my fingers over the pink cover savoring the feel. I didn’t have a grandmother, but I had her book. She had once held this and now I was touching it. That was as close as I would ever be to her, and I tried imagining how she looked when she read the book, and where she put the book when she wasn’t reading it, and how often she read the book, and what she thought of the book.
For days this went on and then something happened. The details of where I was are unclear to me. In my memory I remember mostly the sun—as if I were outside at noon on a very bright day. But that may just be because of what happened. What I do remember is that it suddenly occurred to me that I should read the book and at the same time I was amazed that I hadn’t determined to read it before. I loved to read. Here I had a book and I hadn’t even tried to read it because of the things I’d heard about how different Bible language was and how difficult to read. But I could read! I could read well. Why had I let what I’d heard stop me? So I opened the book and read the first verse my eyes lit on: “When he had thus spoken, he spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay, And said unto him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam, (which is by interpretation, Sent.) He went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing” (John 9:7).
I had no trouble reading the words, but that wasn’t the miracle. As I read, the most amazing feeling pulsed through me. I felt lifted as if I could fly and bright as if I’d suddenly become the sun, and my mind tumbled with thought. I knew the verse was about Jesus, and my body resonated with feelings assuring me without words, “Jesus is the Christ. Jesus Christ really lived and really died for you. It is true. Jesus is our Savior. Jesus is the Christ.”
I don’t know what I did next. I do know the feeling stayed with me for the next few days slowly fading until I deflated to normal. I no longer carried the book around. Instead I put it in a special place in my room where I could see it every time I entered the room and let it remind me of what had happened. Often, I read the same passage again and many other passages, yearning for another similar experience, but the intense feeling of light and love didn’t come back. However, I couldn’t read the book without the memory of that first experience returning to slightly warm me. More importantly, the things I learned have never left me.
It would be a few years before I recognized that it was the Spirit that touched my soul that day and taught me eternal truths. Until then I only understood that it was my grandmother’s Bible that had precipitated the blessing. I now realize that on that sunny day, God gave me two blessings—a testimony of my Savior, Jesus Christ, and an assurance that even though my grandmother had moved on she was and would always be a part of my life. For both gifts I will be forever grateful.