My son sat in our living room with Bibles spread on the floor around him. He and I discussed translations, commentaries, and Study Bibles: the tools we use to interpret God’s Word. We talked about things like how I think 1 Corinthians 13 in the KJV reads like poetry.
I pulled a few more volumes from the shelf — a multi-volume exposition of the Old and New Testaments. They belonged to my grandfather, who was a minister. He passed away over thirty years ago, well before my son was born. I thought my son would enjoy diving deeper into the Word using these family heirlooms.
Time has aged and yellowed their pages. Nothing but duct tape and the grace of God hold some of them together. I can still picture Granddad studying in his recliner, his desk on his left, and bookshelves of religious commentaries behind him.
He filled his Bible, worn and supple, with notes and underlined verses in red. These lines weren’t haphazard. My grandfather drew them precisely, pen guided by a popsicle stick he positioned beneath the lines of text. I found one of his sticks a few years ago; I keep it in my Bible case, a personal treasure that steadies my hand now, as it once did his.
Inside John Gill’s Exposition of the Old Testament, Volume II, my son and I saw those familiar red lines on worn pages that still smell like my grandparents’ home. Granddad kept cards and letters in his books. In this one, we discovered a get well soon card, and an envelope on which Granddad had written “This Day I Will Not Forget.”
The envelope contained a card with a picture of a tree in bloom, flowers on its branches, and scattered petals on the ground. Inside, I recognized my grandmother’s cursive script. Grandmother was a sweet, jolly preacher’s wife who fed all who entered her home. She was loving, but not overly emotional or affectionate. I remember her concern when she found me crying at the end of a book I read in high school. She wasn’t a reader and didn’t understand that level of feeling over something that wasn’t real to her. Maybe that’s why her words touched me — and my grandfather, I presume — so much:
She wrote, “I don’t know what I would do without you. You have been my strength and stay for almost 49 years and I love you more than when we started this journey together … We don’t have the riches of this world but I wouldn’t trade our love and our little family for all the money in the world.”
I cried when I read it, and again when I told a friend about it. My grandmother hid her emotions behind a smile and a cast-iron skillet. She was known for showing love through plates of hot cornbread and steaming pots of sauerkraut and wieners, not sentimental prose.
I can be like my grandmother: focused on the laundry and the grocery shopping and the basics of managing a family, and out of touch with my feelings. I know I fail to meet my children’s and my husband’s emotional needs. John 13:35 says that as disciples, we are known by our love for one another. What love could be more important than a family’s?
My grandmother’s scrawled words remind me to express my love. And the way my grandfather marked her surprising note — “This Day I Will Not Forget” — reminds me how much my words can mean to my people, too.
Does someone need to know how you feel? Tell them. Write a note. Your words may mean more than you can imagine, and live on for generations, treasured, not easily forgotten.
I found him whom my soul loves …
Song of Solomon 3:4