My Greatest Gift
I was twenty when my grandmother died. Her name was Lessie Alford and she was the oldest of ten children, born to a farmer in eastern North Carolina. She was also, according to everyone who knew her, a saint.
She didn’t make the news or have wealth or fame. She was not important in politics or church history books. She didn’t invent any great medical cure or write a great treatise. She was a school teacher, a Sunday School teacher, a farmer, a neighbor, a wife and mother and grandmother. And she was the kindest, most loving, faithful person I have ever known.
After her death, the family gathered to divide Grandmother’s few belongings. My sister chose her quilts. My cousins wanted some of her pots and pans and the sewing machine. My mother wanted to keep her wedding rings, her mother’s few pieces of jewelry. My dad asked for her Bible and my brother wanted a few pictures. When I was asked, I chose my grandmother’s mirror. It was part of a set but I don’t remember what happened to the brush and comb. The mirror has a long handle, gold-plated, with a well-faded fabric backing. Like my grandmother, on the surface, it does not look that remarkable.
For more than twenty years I never really understood why I wanted the mirror. After all, I never remember my grandmother actually using it. She was never one to wear much make-up or worry too much about her looks. She was definitely not vain; she rarely checked a mirror and I don’t recall that this mirror was that significant to her. And yet, I have always known that upon Grandmother’s death, I desired her mirror. And for all of my adult life, having relocated more times than I can count, I have kept it on my dresser, prominently placed so that it is always near.
A few years ago, in spring, during my weekly housecleaning as I was dusting the bedroom furniture, I picked up the mirror and decided to look at myself. I put down the dust rag, held the long handle in my hands and turned it over to see my reflection. And without having any real clear idea of why I was having this revelation at that particular moment, it was just at that time that I finally understood why I chose my grandmother’s mirror.
You see, I have never thought of myself as being special or important. In fact, I would have to say that I have spent much of my life feeling inferior, insignificant, not quite good enough. But as I stared at myself in that old and well-worn mirror, I realized that I never felt that way when I was with my grandmother. She always made me feel special and significant and beautiful. She always told me that I could do anything, that I could be anybody. And I realized as I stood looking at myself in my grandmother’s mirror, more than twenty-five years after her death, that this was the reason for my choice. This gift meant more than her jewelry or her hand sewn quilts, her sewing machine or even her pictures. I wanted to keep with me for as long as I live my grandmother’s image of me. I have always longed to see myself as she saw me.
As you celebrate Christmas this year, my hope is that you know that God delights in you. May this be the year when you know deeply and truly that you are loved and valued, that you are made in God’s image, that you are God’s child. May you see yourself as my grandmother saw me and may you reflect that love to all others.
You are the light of the world!