This story is by Tina Smith and was part of our 10th Anniversary Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
After her grandmother’s passing, it had been years since Meg last visited her hometown of Montpelier, Vermont. There were no family ties to draw her back, so she followed her heart to Washington State, took a job as a 2nd grade teacher and married a guy she met online. She loved teaching more than life itself, but this year took a toll on her mental health with online teaching and her husband’s infidelity.
I need a vacation far away. Summer Break starts soon, and I could visit Vermont, Meg thought. I could meet up with some old friends and visit Grandmother’s grave. Maybe I could reconnect with Rachel. I hate how life has torn us apart.
Rachel was her best friend from high school. Their career paths took them in different directions. Rachel had stayed in Montpelier and opened her own boutique.
Meg called Rachel to tell her about her plans. “Meg? Is this really you? Oh, my gosh! It’s been so long,” Rachel gasped with excitement.
Meg said, “I am visiting this Summer and was hoping I could meet up with you.”
“Oh yes! I would love that. I can pick you up at the airport.” Rachel offered.
“Thank you so much! That’s very generous. I have reservations at a little B&B on the lake with a spa and bistro, called Peaceful Waters. It looks so relaxing,” Meg said.
“Oh, my gosh, that is my parent’s place. It will be great to catch up! By the way, did you know the library your grandmother founded is celebrating 50 years of service? Your timing is remarkable! The town will place a special monument commemorating Mrs. Lily. Your grandmother was an incredibly special lady.”
“Yes, she was! She is the reason I became a teacher. She taught me so much,” Meg said, thinking back on the years gone by. Her grandmother had raised her most of her life. Meg never knew her father, and her mother couldn’t handle the pressure of being a mom at 16. Meg didn’t speak to her mom much. Most of the time, she never knew where she was living. She traveled around like a gypsy, with no cares, finding guys who would pay her way to anywhere for a price. She would show up long enough to criticize Meg like she did right after she found out about Meg’s marital problems.
“Meg, no wonder that man left you. You act like your grandmother. You need to let loose and have fun.”
Meg thought about what an honor it was to be called “like her grandmother”, even though her mother meant it as an insult. Meg’s grandmother was a pillar in the community that everyone loved and spoke highly of. The library was just one of her accomplishments. She had also started a literacy program for adults. Her grandmother was the inspiration behind Meg starting a career in education. Meg reminisced about all the times her grandmother had cuddled under a blanket next to her and helped her with homework, read books, and prayed with her.
Meg thought, I can’t wait to be a part of this dedication ceremony to honor Grandmother, the woman she aspired to be like. It would be a refreshing reminder of her purpose and all the good in her life.
Meg caught her flight bright and early on Friday morning. Rachel would wait for her at the airport to pick her up. Upon arriving at the airport, Meg grabbed her luggage and called Rachel to meet her in pick up spot A.
They went to eat at the bistro at the B&B. They talked and laughed for hours about their old school days, when they thought life was so hard and how life had changed as an adult.
“I am so glad you are here. Catching up has been great! I know you have not been here in years, but it feels like you never left. That’s genuine friendship. Hopefully, you can make time to visit more often. I would love for you to get to know my husband and the kids.”
“I would like that. Thanks so much for everything, Rachel. This weekend will be bittersweet. I would like to arrive early for the ceremony just to walk through the library and reminisce about my younger days growing up in the library with Grandmother. Would you mind picking me up or should I catch an Uber?”
“I actually have some errands to run. I could pick you up and drop you off while I’m getting everything finished up before the ceremony. It will start at 1 p.m. in the square. I’ll pick you up around 10 a.m. Sound good?”
The next morning when Rachel dropped Meg off, as she made her way through the front door, a lady asked, “Can I help you?”
“Oh, no! I am quite familiar with this place,” Meg replied.
With a puzzled look, the lady said, “I don’t recall you being here before, but you do look familiar.”
“Mrs. Bentley, it’s me, Meg… Megan Welch.”
Mrs. Bentley was her grandmother’s lifelong best friend. She had taken up the mantle to keep the library open.
“Oh, my goodness, child! I should have known. You look just like Lily when she was your age. Makes me miss her even more. That reminds me. I have something for you. She knew you would eventually come back.”
She left to go to the back of the library storeroom and came back with an old, tattered Bible and handed it to Meg. Meg recognized the worn book she had seen in her grandmother’s hands so many times as she would read it to Meg when she was a little girl.
With compassionate eyes, Mrs. Bentley said, “She asked me to hold on to this for you. She knew there would be a time when you would need it.”
With all Meg had been through, she had resisted her grandmother’s religion, but she took the book, anyway. That’s all it was to her. I was just another book in the library.
As she walked through the library holding the book, a folded piece of paper glided to the floor. Meg stooped down to pick it up. She opened each fold and noticed the words written in her grandmother’s handwriting. It was prayer requests she had written to God. With tears in her eyes, she folded the paper back up and placed it precisely back in the book where a bookmark lay.
It was time for the ceremony. So many people had gathered in the square, old and young. Several came to Meg afterwards to tell inspirational stories of the impact her grandmother had on them. When everyone left, Meg told Rachel she would meet her tomorrow. She wanted to take an Uber back to the cemetery. When she arrived, she strolled down to her grandmother’s gravestone and sat on the ground, facing the headstone, with the book in hand. She took out the piece of paper again and read each request out loud.
1. God, please help me be nicer to that “Nosey Nel” next door. She is definitely nosey, Meg thought.
2. God, please forgive me for cursing when I slammed my finger in the door. (Meg giggled a little.)
3. God, watch over Meg as she begins her new journey in Washington.
4. God, please help me forgive my daughter for all the wrong she has done, especially to Meg.
5. God, please help Meg forgive her mother. She is all the family she has left.
Meg sobbed. “Grandmother, you know how difficult this is for me. Why would you want this for me? I’m fine without her. I don’t need anyone!” Meg glanced down at her phone and then back at the headstone. “I can’t, Grandmother!”
Meg looked down at the book that was open where the piece of paper had lain. Highlighted in orange marker was Ephesians 4:32, “Be kind, tenderhearted and forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Listed were all the attributes her grandmother had set as an example before her, the woman she aspired to be like, kind, tenderhearted and forgiving. Meg picked up her phone and dialed with a nervous hand and a deep breath. The phone rang once, twice, three times. “Hello!”
Meg sighed, “Hi, Mom. Can we talk?”