Coal River Road
Today I call myself a BaptiPresbyMethoEpiscoChristipalian because I tried every one of these denominations on for size in my nearly 60 years. However, I can trace the roots of my religious influence.
They sprouted with help from my great grandmother, G.G. for short. She, King James with his Bible, and the Lower Falls Baptist Church did their best to set me on the path of righteousness.
G.G. lived with us and even though a widow and in her 60s, her bedroom was fairytale-esque. What wasn’t white was pink, including the shag carpet. But her bedroom was the best. It’s where time slowed down.
She would read passages from a Bible, like bedtime stories. I laid beside her on her bed, pink comforter pulled to my chin. When there was a verse she felt I should memorize, she would uncap her red Flair® pen and trace along a ruler, underlining the words for emphasis.
I relished the defiance of writing in a Bible. I thought it was a big no-no. She let me press the four-leaf-clovers we would find on our walks within the pages, too. We were rebels.
The 13th chapter in the book of I Corinthians, became a favorite because it was about love, an emotion, at seven-years-old, I struggled to define.
G.G. said, “I love you always, in all ways,” and I knew this to be truth. The phrase and its unconditionality filled a spot in my heart that needed filling.
She gave me this zippered Bible in 1970 and over the years, the ink from my Flair® pen enhanced the texts we spent hours discussing, surrounded by the cotton candy glow from her bedroom lamplight.
The last time I laid beside her was on a hospital bed, a nondescript blanket pulled to her chin. I held the Bible she gave me on her chest and whispered sing-song the lyrics of Amazing Grace in her ear while she waited to leave the confines of her tired body that summer day in 1987.
Today I pull my old Bible from the shelf to revisit this story. I open it to the letter from Paul and find a four-leaf-clover tucked beside the last verse of chapter 13.
“… but the greatest of these is love.”
Always, in all ways.