If you find yourself in a group of inmates and the conversation starts to lag, ask them about their grandmothers.
I’ve seen hardened men come to tears talking about their grandmas, many of whom raised them. These are the women who stepped up and in when parents bailed or failed.
I think about this when we get a call to cover when a grandchild is sick, school is cancelled, or our kids need a break. We are happy to help, grateful for the opportunity, but that’s just for a few hours or days.
Those other grandmas literally gave their lives, at least the lives they were accustomed to. They took on extra expenses, extra responsibilities and extra heartbreaks.
In Corinthians, Paul tells us that love is patient and kind. While no doubt true, it just seems too romantic for many real-life situations.
I’ve seen the patience and kindness, but in those grandmothers and others, there is a love that is tenacious and determined, tough and unrelenting.
In my parents and in friends, I’ve seen the pernicious path of dementia and Alzheimer’s. The person one has intimately known and cherished for years is slowly erased, as is the future they had planned together.
Freedom and travel are replaced by the mounting rigors of daily care. The sadness and the grief are acknowledged but delayed by the cleaning, the feeding and the comforting.
Life has changed, dreams have been stolen, but love soldiers on, accepting the sickness that came with the health.
Real love, vulnerable as it is, eventually makes no demands, renders no judgements, holds no expectation. It simply does what needs to be done.
A young mother gives birth to a child. Only when he fails to follow the developmental chart does she find that he came to her with a terminal condition.
She will have him for only a few years and then he will be ripped from her heart. She screams, curses and cries, and then gets on with giving him a lifetime’s worth of love.
I’ve seen this ungrudging love in parents, siblings of friends of those who don’t quite fit into our physical, mental, emotional or sexual molds.
I honor this selfless love, but it frightens me. I don’t know that I am capable of what these holy people do.
Their love is so deep, it is instinctive. They never had to say “yes” to it, because there never was a thought of a “no.”