We’re at a kitchen table, but it’s not the one she always used. It could never seat all of them- grandpa, and their eight children. It’s the small table, in the condo, from the days when her life shrank down to smallness and the children were grown, after the neighborhood went bad and they moved where things were safer and someone else mowed the lawn. It’s probably not her favorite table. How could it be?
Why did grandma choose to meet me here, of all places? If I got to come back from heaven for a moment to visit a granddaughter, I imagine I’d meet her someplace wonderful, somewhere I’d made a great memory. But here were are, meeting at the little kitchen table in the condo from the days when her life got small.
She has hair again, but it is gray, and her skin is a little wrinkled. Her smile is radiant, and I have the sense that she is merely wearing something like old age, but not quite; as if she is toning down her beauty for my sake.
Grandma has something for me inside a bag. It’s just what I need, she says with a small smile. I cannot imagine what it could be. Can you put a nap inside a bag? Or patience, or courage? She sets the bag on the table. It is so good to see her again.
“I can’t carry anything from eternity to you, dear. If I could, I would give you the fruit that tastes like a sunrise, and the words to the songs that we sing around the throne, and you would eat and we would sing, and He would pour out so much healing and life that you would never grow old, never grieve, never ache in your soul ever again. But the time for that is not yet.”
Her radiant face becomes serious, and something like sadness, but not quite, fills her eyes. “No, not yet. You have darkness to travel through yet, dear. And days of smallness. And you will fight it and grieve the changes, but that is as it should be. God will do His work in you and for you, and that is what matters.”
She opens the bag, and inside I see it: a flower.
“Do you remember when you were small and we would go for walks in the woods by the cottage? I loved the way you held my hand and chatted about every little thing. I remember teaching you to watch for this special flower: trillium. It was a rare flower, illegal to pick, but it grew in our little corner of the woods. I always liked to look for it, and to teach you little ones to appreciate it and respect it.”
I took the flower from her hand. That’s it? I thought. A flower for a vase for a week, then the smell of rotting plant, then garbage and another dish to clean?
She read my thoughts. “Yes, the flower will die, it is not from the New World. But you will have the memory, and with it, the promise from our Lord: He is making all things new. Trillium is rare in this life, and special... like those moments with your children as they grow, they bloom for a moment and then they are gone forever. I know you feel this way.” Tears came quickly to my eyes. “But it only seems to be this way, dear. He is making ALL things new! I wish I could describe to you the trillium in the new place: our Father makes even this flower more beautiful, and somehow more unique and precious and abundant, all at once!”
She traced her fingers along the table. “It is ok to let go, dear, and to move on to the next season. No, it is not ‘safe,’ not in the way you think of it- there will be trials and dangers and real suffering. The things that pass away are really gone… for a time. But Jesus! He is there with your family around your noisy table, right in the thick of the the homework battles and the ‘do I really have to eat this?’ And daughter, when life changes again, when your table is small, He will be there with you and the quiet cup of coffee.”
“Don’t you see? He gives all of this- it was all His idea! Each baby-bump, each first-day-of-school, each springtime and every trillium that blooms in this dying world: these are His good gifts, given for a time, given so that you could learn to love and trust the hands that give. Trust the hands that give, the hands that bled for you. He knows what you need, and He is making all things new.”
And suddenly the moment was gone, and I was back in my kitchen, where the floors are crunchy and the counters are sticky and the table is huge.
Wait! Grandma!? There are so many other things I wanted to ask! What did you do about tantrums and curfews and bad grades and sports? Will the kids be ok? How did you survive the teen years? What would you have done differently? Does it all work out in the end? Will you hug grandpa for me?
But the moment was gone. And I was alone with the memory of a flower.
(a writing exercise inspired by Voice and Vessel)