The well-loved picture frame sits on the shelf in your grandkids’ room; just high enough to be out of reach from curious toddler hands, but low enough for me to pull it down each time they ask about you. That photo of you— it has always been my favorite. You look so happy, so healthy, so whole . . . just the way that I want these sweet grandbabies of yours—the ones you never got to meet—to know you.
Because although you may be in Heaven, they will know you.
You’ll never bounce them on your knee, or sneak extra pieces of candy into their pockets when you think I’m not looking.
You’ll never shoot them a wink in solidarity of an inside joke or give them a ridiculous nickname no one else understands.
You’ll never teach them the art of building the tallest ice cream cone from the soft-serve machine at the local gas station or fuel them up on Dr. Pepper and Twinkies before a road trip.
You’ll never gather them around you to tell the tales of your younger, wilder days with that mischievous twinkle in your eyes.
You’ll never give them advice like you used to give me, in the way that made me roll my eyes and mutter under my breath but later reflect upon and silently take to heart.
You’ll never get to do any of these things, so I will make it my life’s mission to do them for you. Because even though you’re in Heaven, I don’t want your light to escape from your grandkids’ lives.
I want you to be more than a face that they see in old photo albums or in a frame hanging on the wall. More than a name that they read in old Christmas cards. More than a mysterious someone who left this world before they entered it.
I want them to know the little things that made you, you.
I want them to know your favorite band, your favorite color, your favorite flower.
I want them to know the way your laugh rumbled up from your torso and exploded at your lips, causing others to stare and me to too often slink down in embarrassment . . . what I wouldn’t give to laugh alongside you now.
I want them to know how selflessly you gave of yourself to others. How your heart of service compelled you to lead others down the wayward path from which you yourself had emerged, wiser and more complete.
I want them to know how big you loved—your kids, your family, your friends, and the stranger on the street.
I want them to know, so I’ll talk about you openly and often. In the moments when you cross my mind, I’ll put my thoughts into words and the corners of my lips will curve up as I say, “You know, your grandpa used to . . .”
I’ll tell them how you’re watching over them each and every day, and how deep your love for them runs even though it isn’t as tangible as we all wish it could be since you’re in Heaven. I’ll teach them which songs on the radio are a “hello” from you, and that you often send signs when we need them most, if only we’re open to receiving them.
I don’t think it will ever completely dissolve, this missing you thing. But as long as my own breath carries on, I’ll keep your memory alive.
Sometimes I watch these grandchildren of yours with awe, and the familiar ache in my heart settles in heavily as the words echo in my head, you’ve missed so much.
But then I remind myself that maybe I’ve got it all wrong, and you haven’t missed any of it at all. Maybe you just have a better bird’s eye view these days.
I know you’re here.
I know you’re watching.
I know you’re smiling down over us.
I feel you in the warmth of the sun and the whisper of the wind.
And your grandbabies? I’ll make sure that they always, always feel your presence, too.