Four Generations of Lessons and Love

“Were it possible for us to see further than our knowledge reaches, and yet a little way beyond the outworks of our divining, perhaps we would endure our sadness with greater confidence than our joys. For they are the moments when something new has entered into us, something unknown; our feelings grow mute in shy perplexity, everything in us withdraws, a stillness comes, and the new, which no one knows, stands in the midst of it and is silent.” – Rainer Maria Rilke

I just returned home from a trip to visit my 94-year-old grandma in Minnesota. I went with my dad and two little girls and met my brother there as well as my aunt, uncle, and two cousins with their families. It was beautiful and hard and joyful all at once, and I was reminded again that the peaks of our joys and sadness often come hand in hand, woven together with blurred edges of where one ends and the other begins.

My grandma has terminal cancer, and while I would love to think that I will see her again on this side of eternity, I also know that is not very likely. So those moments shared between four generations were more precious than most. I wanted to bottle them up and hold on to them forever. I didn’t want to say goodbye. And my soul is still quiet in the wake of that last hug.

But in that quiet, I am resting in the warmth of all that love…a love that wraps itself around me in a warm embrace and invites me to be still. And I know I don’t have to take off the layer of sorrow in order to feel the joy that’s there too. So I am wearing them both. I am imagining myself at this time yesterday, watching my sweet Eliza rest on my grandma’s lap and play with her weathered hands as Amelia twirls around to her own song. I am seeing my grandma soaking it all in and remembering her words as we talked through Eliza’s challenges…”she is perfect,” she’d say again and again. And as I do, I can’t help but smile despite the tears streaming down my face. They may not remember that moment, but I will never forget it…it is but one of many times I have stood in awe of the depths of love and family, and especially of the gentle matriarch who embodies both so fully.

When Eliza was taken to the NICU and everything became scary and uncertain, I took enormous comfort in knowing that she would have a prayer warrior in my grandma. She is a woman of faith whose constant encouragement and affirmations intertwine through every chapter of my life, especially when things got hard. And this week seeing the two of them snuggled together, it just exuded peace…they both trust far beyond where knowledge reaches and live for love. Not the kind we typically seek that comes on the heels of perfect circumstance, but the kind that allows both sadness and joy to be a part of the journey…the kind that just knows that no matter what, God’s got this. That no matter what, it’s really all okay…and that the best gift we can give to each other is to show up, to be kind, and to share love and life in all its peaks and valleys.

The truth is, we can’t bottle up time. And we can’t stop sadness or difficulties from spilling into our lives. But I’ve come to know that they don’t come alone. They come on the waves of the joys that follow them and retreat back leaving us washed anew with the beauty of this incredible world and the privilege it is to share it with those we love.