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A Wake-Up Call from Grandma

She was struggling to find motivation to get moving on that winter morning—until she received a loving message from beyond.

A vintage alarm clock

I didn’t want to open my eyes that morning, let alone get out of bed. It wasn’t just the winter cold. It was… everything. My breast cancer had returned. My two twenty-something children had moved back home, and every day brought another argument over who was going to do what around the house.

Most of the time, the answer was me, and I just couldn’t do it all anymore. Even my job teaching ESL at an elementary school, normally a joy, was stressing me out, because I was prepping my students for high-stakes testing.

I had to get up and go to work. I opened my eyes a crack. My gaze fell on the basket across the bedroom, piled with my late grandmother’s embroidery. Grandma Sadie—now there was someone who could do it all.

She raised nine children on a farm during the Dust Bowl. She lost a leg in an accident in her forties, but didn’t let that stop her. She lived to 107, independently until she was 102. When a reporter asked her the secret to such a long, productive life, she replied, “Start each day with a happy heart.”

Oh, Grandma, I wish I could, I thought. She was so proud when I got into college that she took me shopping for things for my dorm room. I was touched because Grandma didn’t much like shopping; it went against her Depression-era frugality.

Everything she got me served a practical function, like a little alarm clock so I wouldn’t be late for class, a sturdy mug for my coffee if I needed to stay up writing a paper.

Above my desk, I’d hung a note Grandma had written me shortly before she died. It read, “I love you, dear girl” in her spidery handwriting. Inspiration to live up to her example.

Brrriiing! Brrriiing! My eyes flew open. I sat up. What was that sound?

A muffled ringing, like a bell, from somewhere across the room. Brrriiing!

I threw off the covers and got up to investigate. The ringing was coming from that basket of embroidery. I reached in and felt around. Aha!

I pulled out the Baby Ben windup alarm clock that Grandma Sadie had given me. I’d held onto it purely for sentimental reasons. I’d wound it too tightly in college and it hadn’t worked for more than 30 years.

Until now, when I’d never needed a wake-up call more. It was time to start my day…with a happy heart.

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