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Final Gift From Gram

A change in plans leads to a gift from the heart



The author’s mother and daughter smile in a vintage photo, while Zoë holds the promised heart necklace in the palm of her hand today.

My mother was famous for her fumbled quotes and one-liners. A favorite among her boiler-plate standards was “God works in strange ways.” I’m not exactly sure what was at work one particularly fine summer day a few years ago, but there is no question that I had a heavenly visit from my late mom. 

It was July 2015, a typically busy day with my garden crew. Best-laid plans were overruled by the needs of clients’ gardens following a triumphant spring. I’d expected to tend to three properties that day, but as the hours flew by, I could see I needed to make changes. Switching gears, I told my foreman that we’d save time if I went to the nursery for supplies instead of him. Not in the plan, but it made sense. I raced to the nursery, arriving just before closing. As a loader filled my truck, I jogged inside to pay. I handed over my credit card and realized that the usual woman was not at the counter. Instead, I was greeted by Jo. We exchanged pleasantries, and she told me she was just filling in for a few days. It was then that I noticed her necklace. 

Like a shot to my own heart, a diamond heart dangled from a chain around her neck. “Wow! My mom had a necklace just like that,” I told her. My head flooded with memories of my mother playing with my girls. I flashed to my eldest daughter, Zoë, as a toddler sitting on her lap, gently tugging the gold chain around Mom’s neck. She’d slip the diamond heart on her tiny finger like a ring, staring at the sparkly stones, drooling as if she knew diamonds are a girl’s best friend. I told Jo that my mom would hold Zoë on her lap and say, “Yes, Gramma is giving this to Zoë one day!” For years she’d repeat that, as if to tell any interested onlookers, “Hands off. This one’s spoken for.” Smiling at the thought, Jo asked “So did she give it to her?”

I explained that my mother had passed away a few years earlier, but I had the necklace in safekeeping. I was just waiting for the right time to give it to Zoë. “How old is she now?,” Jo asked. My body relaxed, and I felt a familiar love—a sensation so achingly tender. “Actually, she’ll be 21…tomorrow,” I answered. I felt as if my mother was suddenly standing right there next to me.     

Jo looked at me thoughtfully and said “Angela, I have to tell you something. I haven’t worn this necklace in at least five years. I have no idea why I put it on this morning. Look at me! I’m wearing a dirty t-shirt with holes in it. What possessed me to put this necklace on today?”

We both knew. 

I strayed from my plan that day. Jo didn’t even work there; she was just filling in. And for some reason, she dolled herself up with that rarely worn diamond heart necklace. To go to work in a dusty, dirty nursery yard. And no doubt about it, I was supposed to be there to see it. For Zoë, turning 21 the next day. Of course. 

Mom would have said, “Honey, God works in strange ways.”

When we lose someone dear, the void is never filled. We try to spackle the cracks in our broken hearts with loving memories, but nothing can ever really mend them. That’s what true love is. Sometimes there is a convergence of then and now, a divine intervention that—if we are lucky enough—hits us over the head with an energy so obvious, there’s no denying it.  

Nothing could wipe the smile off my face when I left the nursery that day. 

I hopped in the truck and sensed Mom riding right next to me. I smiled and waved as someone cut me off on Rt. 117. I smiled and waved at the cop hiding behind the tall grasses, just waiting to ticket someone. (Not me! Not today!) I smiled and waved at everyone. I was fabulously, profoundly, abundantly happy. I had an undeniable visit from my mom. And, I had the greatest-of-all birthday gifts for Zoë. “No ifs, ands, or buts about it,” as Mom would say.

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