Tears pooled in my eyes before I said a word to my daughter, even before I walked into the kitchen, where I found her sitting at the kitchen table drinking a cup of hot tea.
There were so many things I wanted to say to her, so many things I wanted her to remember. So many things I still wanted to teach her and show her. This girl at the table was my firstborn, arriving into the world in the shadow of 9-11 and here she was: only days away from leaving for her first year of college, while a global pandemic raged on.
All grown up, resilient, optimistic, hopeful.
I didn’t know how to let go. And in this moment, here in the kitchen, I didn’t know how I’d even make it through the words I wanted to say.
“Lydia, I have something to give you . . . ” I sputtered, and laid a Bible in her hands.
She looked perplexed. She already owned several Bibles, and she and I had been reading through the Bible in a year together, during her last year at home. So why would she need yet another Bible?
But this Bible was different. For many months, ever since she and I had been reading through the yearly Bible plan, I had written in the margins of nearly every page of this particular Bible that I had just now handed her.
And every note on those onion-skin pages was written especially for her.
Those words were my heart, inked onto the margins. They were all the things I still wanted her to remember, all the things I had hoped to teach her, and more importantly all the things that Jesus had taught me in my life.
“Lydia,” I wrote on the first page of the Bible, many months ago, “you’ll read a lot of books in your life ahead. May you hold the Bible closest to your heart! God is the author of your story.”
And then, day after day, I wrote and wrote, always praying for her as I moved through the pages, letting her know the verses I had clung to for years, and sharing fascinating new revelations as I re-read old stories through the lens of a pandemic.
Lydia always saw me writing, but she didn’t know that each journaled word was for her.
Some of it was deeply personal. Next to Psalm 6:6, I wrote, “I remember reading these verses when I was a teenage girl going through a hard time. I remember having a sense that God understood my tears and was right there with me. He is with you too, and sees every tear.”
Some if it was timely. Next to Colossians 2:14, a verse about canceling our debts, I wrote, “I am reading this verse during coronavirus quarantine. Isn’t this here the best cancellation notice of all?!”
Some of it was silly. “Do not name your child Jael.”
But mostly? It was everything I’d want her to know if I didn’t get to have another tomorrow. It’s what I’d wanted her to remember about me when I was gone from this earth — that the best thing about me was Jesus. And it’s what I wanted her to cling to when she inevitably got rocked by the storms of life; I want her to hold fast to God’s promises.
More and more, as months slip into years, and years slip into decades, I am convinced that the best thing we can give to the next generation is a deep sense of who they are in Christ and how great our God is. The best thing we can provide is a foundation of kindness, integrity, generosity, and faith.
That’s it. That’s all that matters.
What do you want the people you love to remember most about you and about God? What do you hope they hold onto when the storms of life inevitably roll in? Write it down. Write it in the margins of a Bible. Write it in a card. Write it in a journal. Write it on the back of a recipe card.
Write it on the hearts of everyone you love.
Life is short. Time is flying by. Let’s write it all down.
A few days after I placed that Bible in Lydia’s hands, we were standing side by side in a parking lot, tears running unabated down our cheeks. I looked her in the eye, told her how much I loved her. How I would always be here. How I would be waiting on the front step when she came home.
Then, I wrapped my arms around here, and held her as long and as tight as I could.
And then I let go, knowing God never would.