The square on my calendar seemed familiar, as if I had some kind of big appointment slated for the day. September 26. But nothing showed under the date.

I got right to cleaning my office that morning, cramming for company the next day. And in a stack, more like a pile, of magazines and lists and school papers, I stumbled upon a paper-clipped collection of stories that I had read at a funeral two years earlier.

It hit me then. The day seemed significant because it was his day, the day my husband’s grandfather had passed from life to new life.

That evening, we dropped by Grandma’s place unannounced and brought the stories up to the porch where she sat talking with a neighbor. A few minutes later, she motioned for us to follow her to a room at the back part of the house, the little office where Grandpa had shelved his books.

“Take a look,” she told us. We scanned the spines and pulled out “Unbroken” and “The Devil in White City,” books he’d raved about. There was his mother’s 1930s art book with a notecard tucked under the cover, Grandpa’s writing, telling us it was a limited edition book given to her by two artist friends. Behind the front line of books hid a whole different layer. A Bible the size of a train case has been in Grandma’s family since 1856. Its rust-colored binding curls up from age. A careful flip through the pages is like hide and seek: the edge of a wedding napkin, a Washington, Indiana, newspaper clipping of “The Dying Year, 1897”, a browned elm leaf, a swatch of off-white silk. Then there’s the little black Bible the size of my hand given to Grandpa’s mother ten years before she delivered him, her only child, into the world. All of these, touched by the hands of the real people in my husband’s line of DNA and faith, were in our hands now.

In each book were the curator’s notes, Grandpa’s own handwriting telling us a bit of the story even when he wasn’t there to speak it aloud. It felt sacred, partly from the fact that we were holding Scripture in our hands, but also because Grandpa had prepared these particular bindings to be appreciated by somebody…and now we were those somebodies.

I couldn’t help but think of my husband’s words in the packet I’d just given to Grandma, how Grandpa, this storyteller, storywriter, story-lover “who chased knowledge…who wanted to read everything…who wanted to learn and wanted to know…now he knows fully. His eyes, which once read only printed words, are now seeing the true Word, Jesus, face-to-face. No dark glass between him and the Story.”

September 26 is a day of double-remembrance for me. It’s also the day in 2005 when my old church family received the news that one of our teen missionaries would not be healed this side of heaven, that he was gone from us and the ecmo machine, and in the presence of Jesus. My first task as the full-time communications person was to design a funeral program for him. A sober task, but a privilege. In the process, I sifted through his old blog posts and journal excerpts to share his innermost thoughts, many of which prepared him for his journey to glory.

Though he and Grandpa Wiley never met, they shared more than their date of death in common: both had the gift of writing paired with an undistracted way of life. Grandpa had the luxury of coming from a generation that put great emphasis on conversation and the written word, whether in letter, journal entry or story. And so, even though he had email, he didn’t have much pull toward social media to lure him away from his creative pursuits.

The young BJ Higgins had to make a more conscious choice to turn from popular media distractions of his generation to focus his attention on what mattered. In his journal, he wrote: “Self, I will not be satisfied. I will not let my passion be held in a bottle. I will not let my light be hidden under a bush…I will stand up. I will let my voice be heard. I will lead. I will serve. I will fight. I will tell people about Christ. I will bring Him up in conversations. I will not watch TV or play video games. I will…visit only at Christian/beneficial websites and will only email if it is edifying to a believer. I will fast from the telephone and the rest of media….” He knew that to fulfill his calling to communicate his faith in writing and conversation, he would have to resist those things that pilfer time and energy.

There’s something delightfully odd about the grandparents’ office as we thumb through the books. There’s no computer on the desk. It sits in the other room, away from this thinking/productive space. That’s something to think about. While the web helps me as a writer in some ways, it hinders me in others. It may provide a convenient way to research and find the tidbits of information to support my work, but it also pulls me in, one link leading to another until I can’t remember what I was working on in the first place. One of my writer friends has even removed Facebook from her phone to allow her to fulfill her creative call more effectively. While these choices may seem drastic, I find myself drawn to them, and particularly to BJ’s resolve. I wonder if I too might need to write a little manifesto about how I’ll spend my time so that I won’t squander the words that could have been preserved and used to edify.

Here’s a little Internet break for you. Right now, before you do anything else online….
Go to a bookcase or a library. Read the spines.



{I’m linking up with Nester for her annual 31 Days blog get together. Don’t want to miss this series? Be sure to subscribe by entering your email in the box on the homepage sidebar. Find all posts in the series here.}