A Letter to My Great-Grandmother
Updated: Sep 1, 2022
You have been with Jesus for over 60 years, but I need to tell you how you have impacted my life. When I was 40, I made a discovery that has greatly influenced me.
“Shay,” my aunt said as she came into the room carrying a large blue storage tub. “Here’s the box with Nannie’s and Momma’s keepsakes. I know you’ll enjoy looking through it.”
I sat on the floor and took off the lid, disturbing the tightly packed contents. A strong musty smell triggered a series of sneezes. For the next several hours, I sifted through yellowed newspaper clippings, discovering snippets of your life. You kept birth notices, wedding announcements and death obituaries of people you knew, which I think must have been half the population of southeast Virginia! I think you kept every Christmas and birthday card you ever received! All the newspaper articles about the kidnapping of Charles Lindberg’s son, the hurricane of 1933, the Dionne quintuplets, and anything that had to do with a family member, are fascinating. From the hundreds of clippings, it’s evident you liked poetry and cooking.
Thank you for writing the names and dates on the back of all the photographs and for keeping a detailed record of our family’s medical history, both which would have been lost in the passing of time. I was especially delighted to find you kept the letter my grandmother wrote to you telling about my birth…details I never knew!
As I neared the bottom of the tub, I pulled out a composition notebook. Your name was written in neat penmanship. I opened it and began to read the faded penciled handwriting:
How mighty indeed are Thy workings, O God.
Even in the low tiring of the thunder,
In the bright vivid flashes of the lightning,
and even in the twinkling of the artificial lights
do I behold Thy power.
Yet it seems my heart in its fullness cannot express a single word to Thy glory.
Accept the praise of an inexpressive heart,
O God, my Strength and my Redeemer.
I pondered the beauty of the simple words, stirred to remember the times when my own heart is so full I am rendered speechless. I read the next prayer, trying to visualize you penning the words, the notebook resting on your knees, tapping a well-used pencil on the page, waiting for the words to come. At the end of the prayer, you had written: July 29, 1906, Richmond, Virginia. Three more prayers followed, each with the same date. My heart quickened as I suddenly realized I had been given the gift of discovering your prayers! Nannie, I have always known you were a faithful follower of Christ, but I never knew you were a writer!
I have always felt a strong connection with you, although you died when I was six months old. I attributed that sense of connection to the fact that I was the last great-grandchild you knew, and you held me only hours before you died. Yet when I found your eloquent prayers, I discovered a much deeper connection that transcends time: the call to write. The need to write. The need to write to testify of God’s goodness and love.
Nannie, did you stop writing when you married and had children? The journal…did you forget that you had kept it? Or did you keep it so you would remember the 23-year-old you who wrote so passionately and worshipful? Were you hoping that someday someone would discover it and treasure your words?
Not long after I found your journal, I was sitting in a Bible study, only partially paying attention. I was pondering, yet again, the reason why I was the one to discover your journaled prayers and why did I discover them? I refocused as the teacher began to read from Isaiah 58. When she read verse 12, I knew the answer to both whys!
Those from among you will rebuild the ancient ruins;
You will raise up the age-old foundations;
And you will be called the repairer of the breach,
The restorer of the streets in which to dwell.
You wrote to tell others of the faithfulness and goodness of God; I write for the same reason. I am but one in your living legacy of faith, but I am one who shares the same call God placed in your heart. When I found your prayers, they had been hidden for nearly a century. I knew I was to repair the breach of time and to share your ages-old foundation of faith, your written words.
Nannie, you are still known as a woman of great, unwavering faith. Your legacy is strong with many of your descendants carrying on your mantle of faith. Personally, the discovery of your prayers has changed my life. You have encouraged and challenged me to fulfill my calling.
With every written word, may I honor your legacy, Nannie. Even more, as you so beautifully penned, my sincere prayer is that the Lord will:
Accept the praise of an inexpressive heart, O God, my Strength and my Redeemer.