I heard her voice. Through her son.
She has been dead for many years now. But she spoke.
Her son, my father, was reading. Reading words from a folder of typed pages that are the memoirs of my grandmother Alice Cravath Eicher.
What a life she lived. Her father was a self-taught engineer working for a railroad company in upstate New York. He was a Bible believer who took his little family to find a group of fellow-believers wherever he was posted. Alice and her sister Marion trudged along through a series of struggling little churches - often in someone's home - or in a rented store-front - while her 'normal friends' went to fine well-defined sanctuaries on Sunday mornings. A hundred years later Alice's grand-son does the same... The little fellowships that young Alice was part of became what is now called the Christian and Missionary Alliance. They wanted to live out the love of Christ - and they wanted everyone to know. Everyone. Their neighbours across the street - and across the seas.
I marvel at this fact - that through hearing Dad read out-loud - the life of my grandmother comes to life. What a blessing to have her words. To listen in and live out her student life and courtship with Elmore Eicher. To taste her excitement when as missionary candidates they were told by the mission that they were assigned to India. To hear her tell about her Indian-born husband's exhilaration when he returned back to his beloved India. The first scent of India wafted up on board the ship - long before she could make out any visual sense of the city of Bombay which was where they were to embark.
Alice writes about her tear-soaked pillow when it was clear that she still had not learned Marathi well enough to go on tour with her husband Elmore (my grandfather). As a young newly arrived wife she had the prospect of lonely days ahead of her - but managed to persuade the mission to let her at least learn the language at a girls hostel - closer to where her husband was.
The words take me to a time well before today. To a remarkable young woman stepping out with faith. I am amazed at how elegantly my grandmother has edited the story of her life. You sense a contentment - and a quiet joy that pervades Alice's story. There are tough times - some that she highlights - others that only merit a sentence - but go deeper.
She makes a short mention that she had to have an operation before she left the US. It was to remove an ovarian cyst. No children for this young missionary couple. None, that was, until my father was adopted by them.
We have not come that far yet. Dad was reading for us last night. Tonight Enoch had an early night and we did not want to read without him. Dad has already in the reading been teary. And why not. He has in his hands a legacy of love. We are so blessed to have had ones like Alice who have gone ahead of us. Their lives have burned their love into my father - who has done the same into us. Now it is our turn to do so for the next generation.
I am looking forward to hearing more about Alice.