‘Tell us a memory Grandma! A memory!’
It still makes me smile when I think how quickly my 4yr old daughter picked that up. Granny never tells stories, she tells memories….
Alice crawls onto the big, weathered couch that once had the fresh smell of leather and stood proudly in the big sitting room of the old, Victorian house in Alderney Road. Today it’s the oldest and probably the ugliest piece of furniture in my flat. There are quite a number of memories right there on that couch mom, pick one of them, I think, while I return to the job at hand: peeling potatoes.
‘of course sweetie, what kind would you like’, she answers in her old, crackly voice; A voice that has spoken many wise words over the years. A voice that stands tall in my filing cabinet of memories.
‘a good one!’ is the answer she gets. I smile again as I look at her wrinkly face becoming all serious in concentration. A good one…
‘In that case it will have to be the one about the first time I met Jesus’
‘Ahh! You met Jesus? When? Mommy says that I’ll only meet Jesus in heaven one day’.
I stop peeling. Where are you going with this mom, I wonder. I wait, holding my breath.
‘Yes sweetie, mommy is right, of course. But you can meet Jesus everyday, through other people. Remember, Jesus is inside all of us, so you can meet Him anywhere. I met Him today, when Mr Joseph at the grocery store gave that poor little boy a bag of apples to take home. I met Him when Patrick helped me across the street when it suddenly became so busy. I also met Him when you came running into my arms at the gate just now, with that gorgeous smile and bubbly laugh!’
By now Alice has curled up on her granny’s lap, her head resting against granny’s chest, taking in every word.
‘Getting back to my memory…I remember a long time ago; we were still living on the farm. Your grandpa, me, your mommy and uncle Tom…’
I haven’t resumed peeling, but if I had done, I would have stopped again. Alice doesn’t know about Tom. As if on cue, Alice jumps in: ‘Who’s uncle Tom?’
‘Uncle Tom is your mommy’s brother’, my mother answers, without missing a beat.
‘I don’t know him. Where does he stay?’
‘Uncle Tom stays in heaven..’
I remember that day. It was a Tuesday. I was at school, dad was out in the fields, Tom was at home with mom. I didn’t even say goodbye to him that morning. He was being a typical annoying 5year old, and being 14 and all, I didn’t pay much attention to him.
I walked out the door, straight past him, never to see him alive again. Tom drowned in our pool a few hours later. Mom blamed herself for a long time. So did dad….
I am pulled from my reverie by Alice’s sharp voice. ‘But where was Jesus? You said that you met Him, so He must’ve been there! Why didn’t He save uncle Tom?’ Her voice was turning into a wail, a near sob escaping her throat.
Mom strokes her cheek and pulls her close. ‘Hush child’. Her eye catches mine as she says it, and for a moment I’m not sure whether she’s talking to Alice or me. ‘I told you just now that it’s possible to meet Jesus in other people, remember? Well, I met Him that day. I saw him in the face of an old, African man, one of our farm workers. I was cradling Tom’s cold, lifeless body in my arms, screaming at everybody, even God. The man came and sat beside me, tears streaming down his face. He spoke softly, and all he said was: “’God is everywhere madam, even in death. Yes, even in death’”
‘That was the day your granny learned the most important lesson of all: Jesus is everywhere. Open your eyes, and you will meet Him’
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