"Jessica?" Her mother's voice seemed to come from a great distance. "Darling, what are you doing up here?"
Jessica Mason blinked as she pulled her thoughts from the funeral. Not her grandmother's—the one she'd attended that very morning—but the one that had happened on an icy December afternoon five months earlier. Joe . . . Angela . . . A large casket beside a much smaller one.
She swallowed the threatening tears, the pain hot in her chest.
The mattress gave as her mother sat beside her on the bed. Then an arm went around her shoulders. "It's hard."
Jessica nodded, knowing her mom truly understood. Understood that it wasn't her grandmother she'd been remembering, although it should have been. Knew but didn't judge. "I loved Grandma Frani so much."
"Of course you did."
"But I wish I'd gone home after . . . after the service. I didn't expect the memories to come flooding back the way they have." She took a long, slow breath and released it, afterward whispering, "Mom, why does it still hurt so much?"
"Why do you think it shouldn't? You lost a husband and a daughter. And five months is not very long ago." Her mother's arm tightened, and then silence filled the room.
At long last Jessica said, "I'm sorry."
"No need to be sorry, dear. We can't shut off our feelings whenever we want. They are what they are."
Again her mother's arm tightened. "There's something your grandmother left for you. Wait here while I get it."
Alone again, Jessica grabbed a tissue and pressed it against her eyes. A few deep breaths helped her feel as if she might gain control of her careening emotions.
Five months. She cupped a hand over her rounded belly, remembering the angry words she and Joe had exchanged the morning he and Angela died. Words she hadn't shared with another soul. Not even her mom. Pain sliced through her, along with guilt. Guilt because if she and Joe hadn't fought, perhaps her husband and daughter would still be alive. Pain because if her husband had lived, he still wouldn't be with her today.
"Here we are." Her mom reentered the room. She sat on the bed beside Jessica, running a hand over the worn cover of the large Bible that now rested on her lap. "Grandma Frani left this for you."
A chill passed through Jessica's heart. A feeling of loneliness, of being set adrift.
"The night before she died, your grandma told me to give this to you after her funeral." Her mom's voice was soft, almost reverent, as she spoke. "This Bible belonged to her father, Andrew Henning. He said it was Mom's until the day God told her to give it to someone else in the family, and then that person was to have it until the day God said to pass it along again. And so on and so on." She slid the Bible from her lap to Jessica's. "My Grandpa Andrew didn't have a lot of money or material possessions to leave as a legacy to his descendants. But he had his faith to share, even with those who would come long after he was gone." She patted the cover of the Bible. "Because it's in here."
"Let what you find inside bless you, honey. Let it comfort and teach you."
Bitterness burned Jessica's tongue, but she swallowed it because she had to. Because she didn't want her mom to know how far she'd wandered. From God. From His Word. From believing or even from hoping.
"Okay, Mom," she whispered at long last. "Okay."