She said calmly and slowly, “first, put God first.” Then she reached into her purse and pulled out a small wrapped handkerchief box. The wrapping paper was like the women’s face, soft and worn. She handed the present to the groom and recited these instructions.
Protect this present like a helpless child
when life gets crazy, hectic, and wild
Protect this present above all else
above ego, pride and love of self
Protect this present, love’s beating heart
to its destruction have no part
Protect it from evil and inclement weather
as long as it lives you shall stay together
When finally death has one trapped
its worth can be revealed
and the present unwrapped.
This present was what the couple treasured most of all. They kept the present on top of their dresser where they passed it everyday. Everytime things got rough they remembered the wise words of the gentle old woman and they guarded the present. When they would argue over how to spend the money, or how to raise the children they would always come back to the present. The protection of the present became their priority and the present remained. It sat with them as they watched the children grow up and leave the house. It was with them through the grooms’s chemotherapy, and it was there when the doctor told them there wasn’t anything else he could do. It was there when the groom was taking his final breathes. It was then they decided to open the present and see what they had been guarding through their years.