Essie took the box from the drawer and carried it to the bed. She slid under the big white comforter, and held it tight against her chest.
“I’ll never let it go grandma,” her voice a whisper, her thirteen year old body laying still, alone now in the quiet room.
Her eyes close and she lets the pictures come, in colours dark yet somehow vivid. Pictures of her grandma’s face, and then the funeral; again her face, warm and alive, and then again, the mound of dirt beside the open grave. The corners of the box feel sharp against her skin, a strange kind of comfort.
“I know grandma,” she continues to whisper, her young voice high pitched and clear in the still room. “You told me I could open it once you were gone. But I don’t feel like you’re gone. I feel like you’re still here with me. I can’t do it grandma.” The box lay against her, a miniature reminder of this morning’s funeral. The service was a celebration of her life, but Essie couldn’t feel the celebration. She’d watched the faces of those around her, including her mother, smiling, with wet eyes, and it made her angry. How could they smile, be happy, she thought, as the hymns continued and the singing grew louder, more boisterous with a joy Essie couldn’t understand. Didn’t they miss her too?
She pulled the box even closer to her, and thought back to when she first saw it, sitting on the windowsill in the kitchen where the sun caught it in the afternoon, bouncing light from its’ lacquered black surface.
“What’s that grandma?” she’d asked, a little girl, barely high enough to reach where it stood. “Ah,” her grandma answered with a warm smile, her eyes soft, crinkled at the corners. “That box has something very special inside, and someday it will be yours,” she’d pulled Essie up onto her lap and kissed the side of her cheek. “But until then, you must promise never to peek inside. Can you do that Essie? Even when I’m not here and can’t see you? Can you promise never to look inside until after I’m gone to Heaven?”
“When are you going to Heaven grandma?” Essie can still hear the words in her head, and the answer, simply said. “When Jesus comes to get me baby girl. When He comes to take my hand and walk with me to somewhere I’ve never been before. And it will be a very exciting day.”
Essie sat up in the bed now and held the box on her lap, tracing the edges, hesitant to open the lid. Her mind raced in different directions of what it might be, and deep inside the pit of her stomach she was afraid maybe it wouldn’t be anything very special at all.
“You okay up there Essie?” her mother’s voice, so much like her grandma’s, called from the bottom of the stairs. “You need anything darling. I’ll be up in a minute.”
“It’s okay momma,” she called back down, as the lid gave way and she finally stared at the contents. A tiny lock of shiny blonde hair, tied in place with a pink ribbon lay on the velvety bottom. And beside it a note in an envelope addressed to Essie. She picked it up with shaking fingers, and pulled the paper from its prison. “Dear Essie,” it started to say. “When you read this, I will already be with Jesus. I will be home now and very happy. But I want you to know that I have surrounded your every day on this earth with my prayers, and have circled you with continued prayer even after I’m gone. This box holds those prayers. Thousands of them. Open it when you need to remember that not only my, but His thoughts are continually with you as well. All my love, Grandma.
Essie closed the box and held it to her again. She shut her eyes and let the colour pictures enter her head once more, but different now. She felt her grandmother’s hand covering hers, warm and strong. “Goodbye Grandma,” she whispered a release, feeling the hand leave her own. “And thank you for the box. I”ll never forget, I promise.” A breeze, gentle against the curtains, brushed soft against the side of her cheek.
“Sleep tight,” her mother said, gently letting go of her daughter’s hand, and tiptoed down the stairs.
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