Eighty-three years old to-day! Grandmother Wells leaned back in her easy chair, her poor, crippled hands resting in her lap. For six months she had not left that chair except to be carried to the bed, or the lounge by the window. She was a lovely old lady. Her complexion had retained much of its youthful smoothness and fairness. She had large, tender blue eyes, and a sweet, childlike mouth. Her silver hair was brushed smoothly over her noble forehead. Never was there a sweeter or more uncomplaining spirit than hers, yet she could not always resist the gloomy thoughts that stole over her.
Forty years ago she had buried her husband and now all her children slept by his side. It was several years now since she came to live in the family of her granddaughter, Mary Wilton. She had known many happy days there. Mary and her husband loved her dearly, and as for the children, Grandmother had the next place to Father and Mother in their hearts. When sickness and infirmity came upon her, and she was unable to take a step alone or even straighten her poor bent fingers, they all tried, by a thousand tender ministries, to make those weary hours pass pleasantly for her. But the dear old grandmother, though she strove to be cheerful, could not always drive away the heartache. To minister to others had been the comfort of her life, and now the smallest service was out of her power. Even her knitting must be laid aside. “If I could only feel that I was some little use in the world!” she said to herself mournfully, as she sat in her room that bright June morning. “But I am utterly helpless—and poor Mary; it seems as if she had enough cares already. But is not this a fretful, repining spirit I am showing? Oh Lord, make me cheerful and patient, willing to wait Thy time.”
She closed her eyes and sat quietly musing while a more placid and hopeful expression stole over her countenance. A light tapping at the door aroused her; she opened her eyes and said very cheerfully, “Come in.” The door swung wide open, and in filed the four oldest children, one after another. Herbert, a boy of nine, carried a bouquet of flowers in one hand and a beautifully illuminated text in the other. Six-year-old Mary bore a frosted cake, crowned with a wreath of flowers. Next came dark-eyed Josie, one year younger, proudly displaying his bouquet, and a book-mark of his own making. Little Alice, grandma’s namesake, a curly-haired girl of three, carried a tiny vase filled with flowers. She stepped cautiously, holding the vase in both hands, so as not to spill a drop of the water. “Why, you little dears,” said Grandmother, as the procession halted in front of her. “What does this mean?” Herbert advanced a step, holding up his gifts. He was a delicate, thoughtful looking boy, with something very winning in his ways. He paused a moment to collect his thoughts, and then said:
“Dear Grandmamma, your oldest boy
Gives you a greeting fond this day;
The winter’s snow is on your hair,
But in your heart the flowers of May.
Oh! lonely would our household be
Without your smile and words of cheer;
May God preserve your precious life
And make you long a blessing here.”
“You dear boy!” said Grandma, her blue eyes bright with tears, as he laid his gifts on her lap, and kissed her tenderly. She had no time to say more, for bright-eyed Mary took his place, looking somewhat shy, but very proud of the gift she carried.
‘’Dear Grandmamma, accept this cake
And wreath of flowers for Mary’s sake;
Kind hast thou ever been to me,
May I thy little sunbeam be!
And the sweet lesson thou hast taught
Bear fruit in every deed and thought!”
“Bless you, little darling!” said Grandma, as Mary first deposited her cake on a chair and threw her arms around the old lady’s neck. “You are my sunbeams, all of you. But here is my Josie waiting to speak,” she said smiling. The little fellow laid his gift on her lap, and stood-hesitating a moment. He was a warm hearted, affectionate boy, but very nervous and excitable. “Dear Grandma,” prompted Herbert. “I know it,” said Josie, indignantly, “don’t tell me!”
‘’Dear Grandma, please accept these gifts
With love from little Joe;
If all the love that’s in my heart
In words could … words could …”
“I can’t find what comes next!” hiding his face in Grandma’s lap. Herbert’s prompting only irritated him, and at last grandma said in a soothing tone: “There, dear little man, don’t cry. Some other time you will say it to Grandma, when we are alone together.” Little Alice, at a sign from Herbert, stepped forward, and resting her vase on grandmother’s knee, looked up with her confiding eyes into her face. She had more confidence than Josie; and it was in clear though lisping tones that she repeated her lines:
‘’Thy little namesake offers thee
This vase of flowers and kisses three;
Oh, happy may thy birthday be!”
“You little blossom you!” said Grandma, kissing her rosy cheeks a dozen times. And now Mamma, who had stood smiling in the background all this time, advanced with baby Charley in her arms. “Dear Grandma, baby is too young to repeat verses, but he offers you his mouth for a kiss.”
“Bless his precious heart!” said Grandma, kissing him warmly.
“Did you hear the children repeat their verses?”
“Oh yes, I was standing here all the time.”
“Mom wrote the verses for us,” said Herbert.
“And Bridget made the cake,” said practical Mary.
“And I made the book-mark myself, all my own,” said little Josie, nestling up to Grandma’s side.
“And here’s a little gift from Robert and me,” said Mrs. Wilton.
It was a lovely engraving representing Christian and Hopeful resting in the valley of Beulah. Grandma’s eyes grew moist again as she looked at it. “Oh, how lovely that is! Thank you Mary darling, and Robert both. This is a happy birthday indeed. Why, Robert, are you there too?”
“Good morning, dear Grandmother,” said Mr. Wilton, stooping to kiss her. “You look as bright as the morning itself! I was afraid the children would tire you.”
“No—blessed little souls!—they did me good.”
That night as Grandmother lay in her bed, she said to her granddaughter who was performing some little service for her: “God bless you all for your loving words to-day. It is so sweet to think that I can be some little comfort still.”
“You are the sunshine of our house—one of the greatest blessings God ever gave us!” Grandmother could not answer. But she fell asleep with a smile on her lips, an emblem of her heart.
The Signs of the Times, September 11, 1879.