This Book Belongs to . . .
They were meaningful words lost in an overarticulated world, careful observations that almost got shelved and forgotten. Who was their author? Where was their home? Who were they meant for?
* * *
My answering machine has one message: from Luna, the head librarian from my local public library. Luna tells me that they have received about 20 boxes of donated books from an estate in the area. Among them are religion books, philosophy books, everything I would appreciate.
Two days later I find myself walking to the public library, eager to see the treasures Luna might have for me. As I enter the small building I see Luna quietly talking on the phone. Seeing me, she signals for me to approach the librarian’s counter, pointing at some books already placed in carts waiting to be shelved. I look through the carts. These are old, beautiful books. I kneel down to read the titles on the last shelf of the cart. Then I see it: A beautiful King James Bible with frayed edges in a beautiful burgundy binding. I am curious. I pick out the book and walk to a small cubicle to look it over. I open the Bible and find that the printing date is 1890. The spine is cracked. Someone has creased the Bible in the Psalms. I turn to the Psalms and find faint, marginal writing throughout the book. The place where the book’s spine turns to with ease is Psalm 34. I glance back at the introduction page and read the printed heading “This Bible Belongs to . . .” Someone has signed their name: Dr. James Watson, Emily, Eliza, Eve, and Ellianne. I wonder who they are.
I turn back to Psalm 34 and look through the marginal notes: next to verse 4: “He has not forgotten this old man”; verse 8: “I trust You, my God; keep me strong”; verse 11: “My God, I tried to teach them. I know they are with You”; verse 15: “You have heard my cries. You have held my soul together when it was broken”; verse 18: “My heart is no longer broken. You have given me peace”; verse 19: “You delivered me. You delivered us. Let me be an example of Your mercy.”
I close the Bible. I feel like I am reading someone’s journal. I go to the counter and check out the Bible. Late at night I find myself reading through the marginal notes in the Psalms. Was this Dr. Watson’s favorite book? I read his notes on my favorite psalm, Psalm 91. On verse 2 the marginal note simply says: “God is awesome. God is present in my pain.” Who is this person?
* * *
Three days later I find myself in the County Records Office. This is ridiculous. Just because someone made heartfelt marginal notes in a Bible doesn’t mean I should be looking for his identity. Five hours later I find a copy of the newspaper clipping. I glance through the information as if I am in a hurry to meet a famous author. A religion professor, James Watson, 94, passed away on January 1, 2013. His wife passed 20 years ago. Of his four daughters, only one remains: Ellianne. I wonder what happened. Then I read a comforting note: “Dr. Watson died peacefully in his home where he lived for 60 years.”
* * *
I stand at the library counter waiting for Luna. This Bible has a home away from this library. Luna listens and agrees to check into the matter.
* * *
Two months have passed since I last visited the library. As I enter the building, Luna beckons me to the counter. There is a package for me. She tells me the Bible was returned to Ellianne; and as it turns out, Ellianne had no idea of the treasure it was. Luna smiles and urges me to open the package. Inside is a King James Bible with a bookmark placed on the front page. As I open it I recognize the heading “This Bible Belongs to . . .” and under it in beautiful penmanship: “One who felt the Holy Spirit’s whisperings and has brought my faith home, again.—Ellianne Watson.”