A Prayer for Grandparents Day

My Children’s Grief and Sorrow are not Mine to Buffer. I Can Only Share Them.

Sarah Condon / 2.9.21

Today is Grandparents and Special Friends Day for my children’s classes. It will be on the two-month anniversary of the death of their grandparents. In case you were wondering, I now hate Grandparents Day. I hate people who have grandparents. And when I learn that friends (people I love) have two sets of grandparents in their children’s lives, I feel like they are bragging. They are not. They are just being people I have to hate now. I don’t make the rules.

My aggression towards all things grandparent makes sense. My parents were top-notch grandparents. I am still finding art kits my mother tucked away to do with my children at a moment’s notice. Any science fiction or British murder mystery creates a lump in my throat. This was the love language my father was teaching his grandchildren. Their absence has left a gap in our lives that is constantly unraveling more. We are at that early stage of grief: painful and unending. There are days I think our entire family is walking on hot coals without an end or a meaningful moment in sight. It’s just all so sad.

Honestly, my first inclination was to cancel the day altogether. I wanted to keep my baby chickens in the nest and soothe them with hot chocolate and Disney+. But they know the day is happening, and keeping them home could only make the big feelings louder. Besides, we often make moves like this as parents to make ourselves feel better. I’m not certain it is the best thing for children.

But it might just be a really wonderful day for them. I mean, what do I know?

Years ago, we asked a couple at our church to be the “nearby grandparents” to our children. Their names are Kim and David, and they have done everything from scout sleepovers to purchasing our dinosaur-loving daughter a Tyrannosaurus rex Nordstrom’s sweater. What more could you want? Kim, herself adopted, understood from the very beginning what it meant to be truly in our children’s lives. Since my parents’ death, that commitment has only deepened. She has helped me make room for my parents’ things. She has organized my artwork. She helped me put their ashes in the cookie jar I ordered. She has been a mother to me.

When my brother and I were little, my parents asked my Aunt Becky and Uncle Bill to be our guardians if anything were to happen to them. Well, something horrible has indeed happened and they have been parents to us even though we are very much adults. I stood in a shabby Mississippi U-Haul office with them last week as they rented something for me to take more of my parents’ belongings home. I just stood there, unable to function while they quietly made all of the arrangements. All I could think to myself was, “Thank God they are here. These people are my parents now.”

Kim and Becky will be honorary grandmothers for Grandparents Day. And as I write these words I realize that my children may have the best day ever.

Two weeks before the accident that took her life, my mother was a mystery reader for my daughter’s first grade class. She read an Amelia Bedelia book and donned a moose hat with pockets to a group of 6-year-olds on Zoom. We are now the proud owners of said moose hat. When I handed it to my daughter, terrified she would burst into tears, she grinned, found a photo of my mother’s high school graduation, tucked it into the silly hat, and wears it around at night.

We cannot protect our children from everything we think will hurt them because they will miss out on the greatest joy. Their grief and sorrow are not mine to buffer. I can only cry when they cry and laugh when they laugh. Or do all of it at the same time. Which is how so many of our days are spent right now.

We desperately want to protect our children from the absolute worst-case scenario. And then it comes with brute force into your life. But so do Kim and Aunt Becky. And so do silly moose hats.

I hope our children never know that I am now anti-Grandparents Day. Not for many years. Not until they see this article in the bowels of Internet history. And when that day comes, and they do see it, I want them to also see this:

I have a prayer request.

Please pray for my children today. Pray that, as my prayer book reads, God would shield the joyous. Pray that I do not project my own fear onto their eager hearts. They have enough pain and fear to last them a lifetime. Their joy is what needs protecting now.