I was trapped. As I plopped into the black leather seat, something crunched beneath me. It was the gift I had seen on the table! I couldn’t deal with it, so I tossed it aside, not interested in the who or the why questions that had incensed me before the service.
Mama picked up the gift, “Gracelyn, this is for you. Don’t you want to open it?”
“Um, no! Not now.”
“Why on earth not?”
“Oh, Mama! It’s just not right.”
“Gracelyn, I insist. The giver may be at the dinner. You’ll want to be sure to thank them. I really think it best to open it now.”
Mama usually had the last word, and this time was no exception. I had learned it was best to do as she said. Picking up the gift I slowly ripped the paper away, revealing a stained wooden box smelling much like the old church we had just left. Lifting the lid I discovered a worn out leather journal.
“What’s this?” I asked casually, hoping my excitement didn’t show.
“I’ve seen this before; why, it belonged to Mama. See the engraving – Grace Stella Oswalt?”
As I opened the cover a note fell on the floor. I picked it up to find Big Mama’s handwriting addressed to me. The brief excitement drained from my fingertips as if the dead were calling my name.
“M-Mama, you read it.” She took the slip of paper from my hand.
I am an old woman now, and time is running out for me to share with you my story. I’ve waited for you to ask, but now the waiting ends. You are my youngest granddaughter, and one who reminds me so much of myself. It is my prayer that as you read this journal you will grow in your understanding of who you are and to whom you belong. Your life is not your own to live as you want. I learned this the hard way, and I pray this journal will help you after I am long gone. Read it well and remember although life is brief, love is forever.
I sat there in disbelief as the limo came to a stop. I wasn’t sure if I was happy to have this gift or angry she singled me out as needing special help. Maybe it was a little of both, but as hard as it was to admit, I was comforted.
As we filed out of the limo and gathered around Big Mama’s grave, the familiar hymn began to play once more. This time my voice sang through the tears to the grandmother I loved.
Amazing Grace how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost but now I’m found
Was blind but now I see.
My grandmother had offered me her hand with this gift, allowing me to see and learn about life through her eyes. That night, alone in my room I opened the musty journal and began to read.