Today my children visited their grandmother, or as we call her Memeré (French for Grandma).

It wasn’t like most visits with a grandparent. This one was at the cemetery.

This is the place we must visit her now. She’s no longer on Earth blessing us with her joy, love, and cuddles. Instead of packing the car to head for a weekend of fun with her, we come here, to the cemetery, with broken hearts and tearful eyes.

The sight of my children visiting my mother’s grave is heartbreaking. It’s a pain so immense that it’s practically debilitating. Watching them talk to her, pray for her, and remember her knocks the wind right out of me. It doesn’t feel right, and certainly doesn’t feel fair. It brought more tears than I was prepared for, and trust me, I was prepared for a flood.

Through the pain, heartbreak, and harsh reality of her absence, I started reflecting on all of the memories my children have with my mother. All of the precious moments they now carry in their hearts and will hopefully carry in their minds, forever.

I drove home crying . . . thinking about all the times I harped at my mom for giving the kids too many sweets, or letting them stay up too late, or buying them too many surprises, or giving in to their every wish, or just doing anything that grandparents do.

What I wouldn’t give to go back to those moments and soak them up instead of roll my eyes.

Why on earth did I ever give thought to how many treats they enjoyed, or how late they stayed up? This is what grandparents are made for. My mom used to remind my sister and me that she LOVED being a mother and that she loved us more than anything. She’d follow that with, “But there is just something SO SPECIAL about being a grandmother!”

We knew she loved us with every ounce of her being, but there was no doubt a special spark that ignited in her when she became a grandmother. It was like everything she was as a mother amplified times a million. If parenting is like regular season football, grandparenting is like the Super Bowl, where you win every time.

Now, I sit here missing my mother more than anything. Wishing my kids would have had her for so many more years. Wishing my new son would have had the chance to meet her and be blessed by her love. Not having her here is a nightmare.

Unfortunately, it’s a nightmare that is our reality.

I wish I would have done so many things differently.

If you are lucky enough to have parents around, this is my advice to you:

Let your parents soak up every moment of being a grandparent, even if that means going against every parenting rule you’ve created. One day you’ll still have your rules, but what you won’t have is someone there to break them and you’ll miss that. Trust me.

Let them fill your children with endless sugary treats. Why does it matter if they eat three cookies instead of one or get a double scoop of ice cream? Truth is, it doesn’t. Instead of sweating the sweets they’re passing out, soak up the “sweet” memories. It will be something your kids never forget and talk about often.

Let them go on the field trips, even if that means you have to sit one out.

Let them be the favorite. I was always a little jealous every time my son would say, “I love Memeré more than anyone in the whole world!” Now, I get it. Heck, she was my favorite, too.

Let them take a backseat in responsibility and become the driver of the fun bus. Then, let them drive that bus wherever the wind takes them because it will be full of laughter, joy and moments your children will never forget.

VISIT and visit often. Invite them on your vacations and adventures. Keep them close, always.

Take pictures and lots of them! I’m not talking about the posed pictures, although those are nice, too. I’m talking about the times where your mother is on the floor playing Guess Who with your children, or the time you look over to find her wearing a Power Rangers mask but acting like a pirate, or the time she cuddled up and read books for over an hour, or any other moment that at the time might seem insignificant. One day those simple moments will be all you have, and the pictures will make you smile.

Plan for the day they aren’t with you anymore.

Inevitably, it will happen. Hopefully a very long time from now, but one day you’ll wake up and they’ll be gone. Prepare yourself. Ask them EVERYTHING you’ve ever wanted to know. Ask them all the parenting questions, baking questions, life lessons, and anything you’ve ever wondered about. One day they won’t be here to answer the questions you held in your heart, and it will nearly break you.

Never take them for granted. Love them and appreciate them. Most of all, remind them as often as you can what a blessing they are and how grateful you are for their love. 

This post originally appeared on the author’s blog

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Chelsea Ohlemiller

Wife, mother, and educator who has Indiana roots and a passionate spirit. Chelsea is married to the love of her life, Justin. She’s the mother to three beautiful and spunky children. She has a deep love of teaching and has always enjoyed helping inspire students. She is a Ball State graduate but an Indiana University Hoosier at heart. Chelsea’s mother always encouraged her to write. In 2017, Chelsea's mother passed away. She decided to honor her mother's wishes and write. It was one of the best decisions she's ever made. Website: www.hopeandharshrealities.com Instagram Handle: hopeandharshrealities Facebook: @hopeandharshrealities