Slightly Obsessed #071: Heirloom
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
– 1 Peter 1:3-5
I inherited a terrible disease from my mother. It grows with age, and it has infected my daughters.
I love to collect stuff.
I fear for my granddaughters.
Although my mother was a prolific collector, and I have many things passed down to me from her mom, until recently I had only a few heirlooms from my paternal grandmother Jean. The one I treasure most I have had it for more than three decades, although I have nearly lost it more than once. It commands a lot of space, and it demands to be near a sunny window.
My “heirloom” is an angel-wing begonia, appropriately named for its large, waxy leaves that grow in the shape of an angel’s wing. It is a descendant of the original start Grandma Jean gave my mother decades ago. It’s fitting my most cherished possession from her is a living thing.
Grandma Jean was poor in possessions. She lived a hard life, married unwisely, worked at menial jobs, buried an infant son, endured illness and countless beatings from my grandfather, and still managed to raise three wonderful children: my dad and his two sisters.
Standing at four-foot-eleven with a soft, gray-tinged, orange fluff of hair framing her tiny Irish face, Grandma Jean was an unimposing figure. Tender-hearted and gentle, she never once raised her voice in my presence. She carried herself with a serene dignity that belied her diminutive appearance and harsh life.
In the days before my folks gave their lives to God, Grandma Jean was the most vocal ambassador of Jesus in our family. I was skeptical about Christianity during my teen years but intrigued by her joy, peace, and total assurance of God’s existence. The first time she and I talked about God, I assumed she was a sweet – but ignorant – elderly woman. God soon taught me the difference between humility and ignorance.
She was humble. I was ignorant. Our talks ignited my search for truth that would one day introduce me to my Savior.
Grandma Jean was fighting cancer the year I married; she died before learning that our first daughter would be named for her. I don’t remember the year that Mother gave me a start of Grandma Jean’s begonia. But over the years, that plant has alternately grown to the ceiling, withered back, and nearly died—only to flourish once again. When it’s become diseased, I’ve had to throw the plant away and start over with some cuttings from it.
The roots of our family have grown intertwined with it. It seems, over the years, to ebb and flow with us. When we are hurting, it wilts and turns yellow. When we break out into another season of soul-spring, the plant thrives once again, rewarding us with a display of tender pink blooms and turning its angel-face up to the sun.
Once when it was looking especially droopy, I muttered to our youngest daughter, “Sometimes I’m tempted to throw this thing away.”
Grace looked at me in alarm and exclaimed, “Mom, you can’t throw that plant away. It’s an heirloom.”
An heirloom. I was struck by the words. It was Grandma Jean’s treasure; the only one she had to give. It’s our reminder of a living faith, the thread which unites our family and draws us ever toward Him in love. Because of Grandma Jean’s faithful witness, I can look at that plant and be reminded to thank God for my beautiful inheritance—the gift of everlasting life.