Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: IT IS WELL WITH MY SOUL (don't write about the song) (04/02/15)
- TITLE: Legacy
By Ann Grover
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Granddad, frail and gray-haired, sat with us. Except for Mum and me, he was alone in the world. In the weak light of the lantern, I could see his lips moving.
“He is my refuge and my fortress ... in Him I will trust.”
How could God be a fortress, for the earth rocked and the very air trembled? When the persistent wail of the “All Clear” sounded, Granddad lifted me from the bench, and we staggered outside. The air was dense with dust and smoke.
Our neighbourhood was untouched. Mum washed me in a basin, leaving the water gray-scummed, and gave me bread softened in a bit of warmed, tinned milk.
“I’m tired of bread.” I whined. It was inexcusable of me.
Granddad said to pretend it was sponge cake with custard, and he tucked into his with gusto. I made an effort, but I longed for raisins or cherries. I wanted the madness to stop, the sirens, the fires, the bombs. I wanted life to be normal again, with Father home. He hadn’t come for Christmas, and meagre it had been, without a tree or feast. I'd received one gift, a jacket Mum made for me from an old skirt, nearly blinding herself sewing in the dimmed light behind blackout curtains each evening.
Mum and Granddad talked of sending me away, to Wales, and I carried on like a baby. Mum hushed me.
“Violet, it’s my duty to King and country to keep you safe. Just as it’s Father’s duty to fight the enemy. Do you understand?”
I nodded tearfully, but I couldn’t fathom why there must be a war at all, keeping fathers and mothers and children apart, bombs burning up houses and gardens. I prayed the war would end before I had to go to Wales.
One night just before I was to leave, we were all sleeping, Mum and I curled together to keep warm. The air raid siren blared. We hurried to the shelter, Mum holding one of my hands, Granddad the other. In the gloom, while bombs hailed down, the percussion causing dirt to pelt onto us, my belly gnawed on itself in terror.
“He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty,” Granddad whispered. There was no place more secret, of deeper shadows, than this damp hole in the ground. “Thou shalt not be afraid of the terror by night; nor of the arrow that flieth by day.”
I slept, secure and safe in Granddad’s faith, though I had no understanding of his calmness.
The “All Clear” came at dawn. We squinted in the sunlight, a contradiction to the nightmarish scene before us. Our neighbourhood was demolished. Alone, amidst the piles of smoking rubble and hollowed-out craters, our house stood unscathed.
Numb and astonished, we sat in our miraculously safe and solid kitchen. Mum set the kettle to boil and rummaged in the cupboard, finding a single cold potato. She sliced it in half, for Granddad and me to share. Still frightened, I couldn’t swallow without choking. I pushed the potato to Mum.
“Violet, you must eat it.”
I shook my head.
“Go to the shop, if it still stands,” Granddad said. “Find the child some biscuits or fruit.” He handed Mum his ration card, a few pennies from his pocket. Mum tucked him into the armchair, a cup of weak tea by his side.
“Shall Violet stay with you?”
“I have the Almighty for company, thank you. He and I are always good for a little chat.”
Mum kissed Granddad’s lined cheek, and I did, too. He pulled me close.
“Remember, child, His angels are watching over you.”
I kissed Granddad again, breathing in his scent of wool and smoke, of comfort, of love.
It was the last time we saw Granddad. After we were safely away, a bomb that failed to explode the night before detonated, and Granddad was delivered into the embrace of the God he’d always trusted. Though I didn’t grasp everything that day, for my heart-splitting grief was so great, I grew to understand Granddad’s abiding legacy to me, having peace in my soul when there is no peace on earth.
Excerpts from Psalm 91 (KJV)
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