Becoming a Grandparent – Reflection by Angie Foster, Authorised Lay Minister for Worship + Prayer & Spirituality

Reflection by Angie Foster, Authorised Lay Minister for Worship + Prayer & Spirituality

Becoming a Grandparent

As I have got older, there are some aspects of life that I find disconcerting: aching joints, senior moments or brain fog and the realisation that time seems to go faster. There are also many benefits: dare I suggest wisdom, realising that some things are really not that important, time and space for silence and contemplation, being able to appreciate the natural beauty of our environment and, more recently, the joy of becoming a grandparent.

If and when we can let go of our own need for everything in life to be perfect and just as we want it, as well as our own need to succeed, we can then encourage the independent journey and the success of others. As a grandparent, you are able to relinquish centre stage and to stand on the side-lines and offer strength and support to those who need it, maybe especially for first-time parents. Both young and older children can feel secure in the presence of their grandparents because, while their parents are still rushing to find their way through life’s journey, grandpa and grandma have hopefully become more spacious in time, objectivity and generosity. They can help and unpick problems, inconsistencies, inconveniences, and contradictions—after a lifetime of practicing and learning.

At this point, I hope our younger audience will forgive me for focusing on the older generations. From a religious viewpoint, older people and “grandparents” generally find it easier to trust life, because they have seen more of it than younger people have, and they can trust death because they are closer to it. Something has told them along the way that who they are now, is never the final stage, and this one isn’t either. We need to be close enough to our own death to see it coming and to recognize that death and life are united in an eternal embrace, and one is not the end of the other. Death is what it is. Maybe I can be truly a grandparent when I am ready to let go. Death is no longer an enemy, but as Saint Francis called it, a “welcome sister.”

The soul of the grandparent is large enough to embrace the death of the ego and to affirm the life of God in itself and in others, despite all the imperfections. Its spaciousness accepts all the opposites in life – unity and difference, success and defeat, us and them —because it has accepted the opposition of death itself. Grandparents know that their beliefs have less to do with unarguable conclusions, than scary encounters with life and the living God. They have come to realize that spiritual growth is not so much learning as it is unlearning, a radical openness to the truth, no matter what the consequences or where it leads. They understand that they do not so much grasp the truth as let go of their egos, which are usually nothing more than obstacles to the truth.

It is hard to imagine a true grandfather or grandmother who is not contemplative in some form. And contemplatives are individuals who live in and return to the centre within themselves, and yet they know that they are not the centre. They are only a part, but a gracious and grateful part at that.

 With acknowledgement to Richard Rohr; Centre for Action and Contemplation