The sweetness and tragedy of life : What my granddaughter taught me today

Richard Rohr, in his book Jesus’ Plan for a New World: The Sermon on the Mount, writes about John the Baptist:

His food is locusts and wild honey. Notice something sweet and something bitter in John’s scant but symbolically rich diet… That is always the character of the wisdom figure, one who learns how to eat both… John has to eat both the sweetness of life and the tragedy of life.

Today, our granddaughter came to visit. Little Ava Alexandra, just over eight months old is full of curiosity, baby belly laughs and smiles. We hadn’t seen her for well over two months, so this was a special treat getting reacquainted.

One look at Ava, and you can see all the beautiful signs of her parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles. She has a mouth like her mother. She has eyes like her father. Her cowlicks are identical to my husband’s. Each family member sees a piece of themselves in this precious little girl.

I don’t look for a piece of myself in Ava, because I am not her biological grandma. Ava’s mommy is my husband’s daughter from his previous marriage. Because of that, the title of grandma still isn’t comfortable for me. It’s not that I feel too young or that I dislike the word or thought. It’s just that I’m not her real grandma. And I guess, if I’m being brutally honest here (aren’t I always), I somehow feel that I don’t have the right to be called her grandma. I’m grandpa’s wife. Isn’t that how it is? She already has two real grandmas, so I’m just sort of along for the ride.

Ava and me

So today, as I looked at this picture taken of Ava and me watching Baby Einstein on my phone, I had this interesting thought.

I am as biologically connected to Ava as I am to my own children.

I came to be the mom of my children through the miracle of adoption. Years of infertility treatments and no success in conceiving a child ended with me, at the age of 29 having a hysterectomy. The hope of pregnancy and childbirth was gone as my body betrayed me, refusing to do the one thing a woman’s body is supposed to do.

My tragedy was real, as the dream of birthing biological children was ripped from me.

A year later, a little boy was born, and I became his mommy when his birthmom lovingly trusted me to mother him in her place. It was a choice I have never taken for granted. Her choice was hard. It was excruciating and painful. But beautiful in its selflessness.

My sweetness was born from another woman’s pain. 

The ones who learn how to eat both the sweetness and the tragedy… Rohr wrote. Yes, I learned how to taste the bitterness of infertility, and I learned how to savor the sweetness of parenting two children who have no biological connection to me, but are every bit my own children. I have never looked in their faces and wondered which part of me is represented in their genetic makeup. I had very few expectations of whether they would choose sports, or music. I learned (and am still learning) that they are every bit their own persons, and I enjoy watching them spread their young adult wings.

I am as biologically connected to my own children as I am to Ava.

Little Ava’s visit today reminded me that I am her grandma by choice. I can choose to be less than a real grandma, or I can choose to be part of the village that will support and encourage and most of all love her through the months and years ahead as she becomes who God created her to be. I pray she will grow up to know how very loved she is, how much our love is multiplied by all the grandmas and grandpas she has in her life.

Thank you sweet one, for reminding me of the sweetness and the tragedy that work together to bring me toward wisdom. See, at only eight months old, you’re already teaching me!



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