“Happy Birthday to me.” Amy whispered the words in the direction of her sorrowful reflection in the bedroom mirror. Where was energetic, vivacious, animated Amy—and when had those crow’s feet found purchase around her eyes?
Another year older. But it wasn’t merely her age. Dressed from head to toe in black, Amy’s heart was heavy with grief. She reached up and touched the gold locket around her neck. Warm, smooth, full of memories. Had she ever seen Grandma without it? “No one should have to bury their grandma on their birthday.” Amy turned at the sound of her mother’s voice. “I know. It couldn’t be helped. Besides, turning forty-five isn’t much to celebrate.” She raised an eyebrow. “My daughter is always worth celebrating.” Amy’s mom managed a smile. “Anyway, the last of the lingering funeral guests have finally gone if you want to come downstairs.”
“I will. I’m just getting used to Grandma not being here.”
“I know. Change is never easy. And you were her favorite granddaughter.”
“Her only granddaughter.” Amy’s eyes pooled. “I miss her.”
“Come and sit with me?” Amy followed her mom across Grandma’s excessively floral bedroom and they perched on the end of the queen-sized bed. How many times had she sat here with Grandma through the decades and attempted to solve all the problems involving boys, studies, faith, marriage, parenting, and her new empty nest life? She swallowed a sob.
“Amy, I’ve vacillated whether or not to give this to you today but your grandmother made me promise.” Her mom reached into the top drawer of the ancient dresser in front of them and pulled out a letter tied with a scarlet ribbon. “Grandma wanted you to have it.”
Amy took the envelope and recognized the immaculate script right away. “For me? Do you know what it’s about?”
Her mom wrapped her in a side hug. “You’ve had a rough year. Both your kids are away in college now, you’re finding a new rhythm to your life, things with Ben aren’t the greatest, and I know you haven’t been to church in forever.”
Amy shoulders sank. “Mom—”
“I’m sorry. I’m not judging you, honey. I’m worried about you. You might be in your mid-forties but you’re still my girl. You have a lot going on and Grandma had a way of making us all see sense and she thought this letter might help. That’s all.”
Amy nodded. “Have you read it?”
“No.” Her mom squeezed her hand and stood. “This is a birthday gift for you.”
“I thought the gold locket was her final gift to me?” She fingered the treasure as it rested on her breastbone.
“She was very mysterious but I think you’ll find it’s all connected. You might want to get some fresh air and read the letter in her favorite place, too.”
“I think I will. Thanks.” Amy gripped the precious letter to her chest as her mother retreated downstairs.
She stood and headed out through the bedroom French doors to Grandma’s balcony, blinking as her eyes adjusted to the late afternoon sunshine. Grandma’s house was a beautiful plantation style home but its elaborate interior was dark—probably why she spent so much time on the balcony overlooking a park full of trees.
Amy rearranged a plethora of pink cushions and settled into the wicker sofa. She smoothed her pencil skirt, kicked off her heels, and made herself comfortable. Before embarking upon a session with Grandma’s words of wisdom, she took a deep breath and allowed her eyes to roam the springtime vista of lemony yellow magnolias mingled with pale pink flowering dogwoods. So much new life everywhere. Ironic as we just buried Grandma…
Focus. The letter. She tugged at one end of the satin red ribbon and let it fall to her lap. She turned the envelope over, slit it open, and unfolded the paper. Papers—there were three sheets. Words especially for her.
“My darling Amy,
How I wish I could be face-to-face with you to wish you a Happy Birthday but my time is drawing near and I have a feeling this letter may find you in a less than jubilant frame of mind. Please don’t feel sad for me—God granted me almost ninety years of life and it’s finally my time to be in glory and I’ve been looking forward to meeting my Lord and to reuniting with my Henry, your grandpa, for some years now. However, I am concerned about you, child…”
Amy blinked back the blur of tears and allowed a chuckle to escape her lips. “Child.” She had once complained to Grandma for calling her “child” when she was a teenager—and had suffered the lecture on them all being children of God and how precious that identity was. And now I have children of my own—who have flown the nest and don’t really need me so much anymore… Amy sighed as she found her place on the page:
“Amy dear, you might be a woman with grown children of your own, but you will always be a child of God. Your role might be changing—as it always does in this life—but one thing never changes: God’s love for His children. I know how much you miss having your babies under your roof but they have to make their own way and now you need to find yours.
We haven’t talked too much lately about your dear husband, but I fear that perhaps things are not as they might be between you and Ben. Am I right?”
Amy’s face heated. How on earth did Grandma know? She didn’t miss a trick—she was sharp as a tack to her very last day. But Amy had been so careful to make excuses when Ben wasn’t around for recent family dinners and had almost managed to fool herself into thinking things were relatively okay. Not great. But not horrendous. It was weird and new, this navigating the nest without any chicks to buffer the awkwardness. Her faith was stale, her marriage in a rut, and she had no clue what to do about any of it. She gulped and read on.
“What you have to remember, child, is that you are not alone in this predicament. Every one of us has to learn how to embrace the new when the next season rolls around. Can I let you into a little secret? Your grandpa and I had a horrible time of it when your mother and her siblings all left our nest. We fought and ignored one another and held onto our marriage by the skin of our teeth.”
What? Grandma and Grandpa celebrated their sixty-fifth wedding anniversary before he passed. They were the model of love Amy always looked up to. Her heart sank. Was every relationship doomed to dissatisfaction and disaster?
“I’m sorry if that’s a shock to you. It was to me, too. There we were, a good Christian couple, both active at church and following the Lord. Yet the love between us faltered and that, in turn, rocked our relationships with God. It was awful. I was miserable. And then one afternoon, Grandpa came home from work with a tear in his eye and a gift in his hand. He never cried and it wasn’t my birthday. But that was the most memorable evening of my life.”
Fascinated, Amy tucked her hair behind her ears and turned to the next page.
“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22-23
You see, your grandpa knew we had lost our way very badly—in our marriage and even in our faith. It was a gradual decline but we needed help out of the pit. So he sat me down at the kitchen table, lay the gift in my lap, and told me to open it.
As I unwrapped the box, this verse was written on a slip of paper. And as I pulled out the most beautiful gold locket I had ever seen, Grandpa explained that the Lord had woken him early that morning with this verse on his mind. He said the words “love, mercy, and faithfulness” echoed in his heart all day at work—he couldn’t shake them. And through that verse, God whispered that Grandpa and I needed to find our first love again. Not only between the two of us—but our love for Him, too. We’d allowed both loves to stagnate, the flames flickering to almost nothing when God intended us to be burning bright in our marriage and our faith.
Love, mercy, faithfulness—that is what we both craved from one another and from the Lord. And I think maybe you crave it, too.”
A stirring welled in Amy’s heart. She was tired of treading water, merely surviving and going through the motions of living. She faked joy and put on a brave face for everyone and it was exhausting. She ached for connection—with Ben and with God. How long had it been since she’d cracked open her Bible? There was one last page of the letter…
“So you’re probably curious about the locket. I know you always liked to try it on when you were a little girl but I never went a day without wearing it since that one evening with Grandpa. You see, Grandpa told me he had our special verse inscribed on the inside of the locket before he set a tiny photograph of the two of us inside—and then had the jeweler weld it shut. He said we were sealed together by God’s love and in His mercy, we would be together all our days. And we were.
Amy, I had that locket opened up a month ago when I knew my time was running short. Take a look inside and know that God will give you the love, mercy, and faithfulness you need to make your life beautiful again in Him.
Know you are seen, heard, and loved—in every season of life, my darling.
With much love,
Amy put her hand to her face and found it was drenched with tears. Dear Grandma. Dear Lord…
She set the letter down on the sofa and unclasped the locket. Holding it gingerly between her fingers, she unlatched the delicate clasp and pulled back both sides.
A gasp escaped her lips. On one side was a tiny photo of her and Ben on their wedding day. How had Grandma orchestrated this surprise? And sure enough, the inscription “Lamentations 3:22-23” was on the opposite side.
Amy rose to her bare feet and padded to the edge of the balcony. Clutching the railings with one hand, she breathed in the smell of spring. The season of making all things new. Even in the sorrow of death, God had given her hope and promise.
“God, it’s not too late for Ben and me. I know it. But I need You—we need You.”
Yes, God’s mercies were new every single morning and surely, He longed for them to live their best life together. As friends, lovers, parents to their adult children, and as servants of the Almighty. She had the sudden urge to run downstairs and speak with her husband before it was too late.
Amy gazed down at the locket in her hand and closed her fingers around the beautiful reminder.
“Thank you, Grandma.”
This bizarre birthday might be a day of grieving and goodbyes—but it would also mark a change in her heart with the start of a fresh, new season… with love, mercy, and faithfulness.
A published Christian author, Laura writes heart-warming encouragement for your soul. She has three Christian romantic suspense novels published, as well as a Christian teen fiction trilogy, marriage book, and middle-grade novel. She is published in several anthologies and writes devotionals, articles, and stories for magazines and online, and shares musings on her blog.
Laura is a chocoholic mom of three, married to her high school sweetheart. Originally from the UK, they live in Kelowna, British Columbia as audacious empty-nesters.
Find her at laurathomasauthor.com
This short story is just one of the articles from the Change issue. Get your copy here to read more fantastic articles on change in a beautifully designed paper edition.