The quilt she carried was heavy–big and almost as old as she is. I brought you something, she said. It is one of Mama’s old quilts. I couldn’t bear to throw it away.
The quilt was stored at my aunt’s home–my Mama’s sister. For those left behind, the cleaning out of a loved one’s belongings can be a living death as well as a showering of blessings--a reliving of mountain tops and the hardest of valleys.
She opened her clenched hands and placed her treasure in mine.
I look at the faded colors and designs and I picture my Granny Rhodes gathering feedsack cloth, piecing them together, laying out the pattern carefully on the bed measuring–making sure it would cover four of her young-uns–maybe more. And then she sat down to the tedious labor of sewing each stitch using spools of thread– needles, threaded over and over–threads cut–knots tied. Day after day–night after night. She sewed. And the more she worked, the heavier the quilt lay on her lap. Until one day, the final stitch was sown and her hands worn, her fingers sore.
I hug the quilt and take a deep breath. And it smells.
It smells like my Granny Rhodes.
It smells like her biscuits.
It smells like after-bath powder in pink boxes.
It smells like an aluminum water dipper hanging on the gold round curtain rod over the kitchen sink.
It smells like the cranking of an old ice cream maker.
It smells like the cracking of pecans.
It smells like farm winds.
It smells like chickens and eggs.
It smells like a back door that swings back and forth all day–every day.
It smells like a green glider on the front porch.
It smells like Christmas and lazy summer Sunday afternoons when my cousins and aunts and uncles, my Granny Rhodes and my step-grandfather would gather under the big oak tree in the front yard.
And it smells like the framed black-and-white photograph of my Grandpa in his farming overalls.
God plainly asked Moses, what do you have in your hand? Moses answered a rod. And with that rod, the Red Sea was parted.
With his hands David gathered five smooth stones and with one, the first one, he defeated Goliath.
Ruth used her hands to glean the wheat and provided food for her mother-in-law and herself.
The Virtuous Woman, she worked with her hands to plant, sew and she “stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy.” (Proverbs 31:20)
Paul used a pen in hand to write much of the New Testament. And David with his hand, wrote the majority of the beloved book of Psalms.
Dorcas (Tabitha) used a needle and thread to sew clothes for the widows.
With his hands Simeon lifted the baby Jesus to heaven, giving thanks–he had seen his Salvation. He had held the Messiah.
The widow woman opened her hands and gave her last two mites–all she had to give.
With His hands Jesus reached down into the mud, spitting His very breath in the clay, making a miracle salve for blind eyes. Eyes that would soon see.
And Jesus took bread and broke it with His Hands–blessed it and gave thanks. And He told His disciples to give with open hands–the bread and fish--the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand.
What’s in our hands, God asks.
My Mama tells this story of when she and her sisters would sleep in the upstairs bedroom and there were cracks in the walls. And her Mama–my Granny Rhodes would tuck them in at night, piling quilts on top of them to shield out the cold winter wind. And on many mornings the top quilt would be stiff from the cold with ice crystals–and the girls, they lay nestled under the quilts--in their Mama’s warmth.
The quilt has faded–the stitches sewn by my Granny Rhodes’, some are worn, some broken–frayed and torn. And I hold the quilt close again.
The quilt smells of many things–many memories. But most of all, it smells like love. Love from the hands of the Giver.