As she stitched together my latest rescued doll, she began to tell me the story I had heard so many times before. From the soft look in her hazel-colored eyes, I understood that the recitation itself imparted a sense of peace to her. Our tiny bedroom held such a serene feeling of calm when she was about to retell this story. Sitting cross-legged on my bed, holding one of my many repaired dolls, I gently rocked us. Barely restraining my anticipation, I urged my grandmother to begin.
“When I was a little girl like you, Dawnie, living in the orphanage, Sister Veronica would tell us the story of old Brother Lawrence, the shyest monk in the monastery. Most everyone thought he was just plain stupid. Even the other priests thought him dumb because no matter how difficult or dirty were the chores they gave him, he would always do them with a cheerful face.”
As always, I stopped my grandma and asked the same question, and, as always, she waited just a moment for me to remember before she answered. “Grandma, why did Brother Lawrence do that? Why would he always be happy, no matter what?”
“Well, Dawnie,” she said, “It was because he decided early in his life to do everything placed before him as if he were doing it for Jesus him- self. When he fried an egg, he would tell himself that he was frying it for Jesus and wanted it to be perfect. Every pan that he washed, he washed for Jesus. In this way of remembering his love of Jesus, Brother Lawrence was able to tolerate anything life brought his way.”
And then she ended as she always did, “Don’t forget, Dawnie, to always keep something with you to help you remember your Father in Heaven. It is not the thing itself that’s important; it’s the always remembering that matters.”
I knew that was why I never saw my grandmother without her rosary beads either in her hands or softly tucked away in her big, five pocket apron, right next to her hanky and cigarettes.
As a young child I was learning a deep and abiding love for this mysterious God of my grandmother’s. I began to see something other- worldly in the arms of the sweet peas, the eucalyptus trees, my dog’s kisses, the welcoming swayed back of the old horse, Dolly, life breathed into my tattered dolls by my grandmother’s gnarled fingers, and even in the coal-black eyes of my dad who carried in the heavy milk crates.