“The Nana Song,” April 30, 2019

Nothing has made me feel quite as close to God as holding a newborn fresh from heaven. I’ve felt it with every newborn I’ve ever held — with my nieces and nephews and the offspring of friends — but especially with my own three, and now, with my grandchildren.

There is something about an infant — all that helplessness and innocence and holiness — that calls upon the better angels of our nature to make us, at once, gentler and fiercer than we ever dreamed we could be.

As a child, I decided I would never intentionally harm any living being (with the exception of snakes, mosquitos and a certain rooster I abhorred), not even to spare my own life.

That changed in a heartbeat the moment I held my firstborn and smoothed his furrowed brow. I realized I’d do anything to protect him — kill with my bare hands, if need be. I was his mother. I would be fierce.

And I was not alone. I’ve known countless peace-loving women and men who’ve felt that fierceness in their souls at the birth or adoption or any sense of responsibility for any child.

It doesn’t dim with age. An old woman might let you give her your seat on a bus. But if you threaten a child, God help you. It’s why old people carry canes.

In our big, blended family, my husband and I share nine adult children (his two, my three, plus four of their spouses) and eight grandchildren, ages 8 to zero.

Jonah is our newest, barely two weeks old, the firstborn of my firstborn and his wife. I couldn’t wait to meet him. So I flew to Los Angeles, and was met at the airport by Jonah’s proud dad, who was grinning ear to ear. We hugged until I stopped crying. Then we drove to their home to meet Jonah.

First, I scrubbed my hands free of germs. Then I hugged Jonah’s mom. Finally I sat down and held my breath as she placed the boy in my arms.

I wish you could see him.

He looks a lot like his dad — big hands, furrowed brow and an ironclad grip on my thumb. He also has his mama’s almond eyes and heart-shaped face. But mostly he looks like Jonah.

I checked him out head to toe, smoothed the furrows from his brow and watched him grow still as he studied my face.

He seemed to like me.

So I went to work whispering in his ear things I’ve taught his cousins. For example:

1. How much does your nana love you? All. (That’s as much as anyone can possibly love.)

2. What do you do if you want something your parents won’t get for you? Call your nana.

3. Where is your nana when you can’t see her? In your heart.

I told him, of all the babies in Heaven and all the parents on Earth, God chose him and his mom and dad as the perfect match, along with their families, to be one big family together, to stand by him and keep him safe and watch him grow up to be the fine man he’s meant to be.

Then I sang for him a lullaby I once sang for his dad: “Hush little baby, don’t say a word….” It put him right to sleep.

It put me to sleep, too. For four days (if he wasn’t nursing, which he usually was) I held Jonah, and he held my heart.

Finally, I did the hardest thing to do with those we love: I said goodbye until next time, weeks away. He’s growing so fast he might be shaving by then. But it helped to know I was leaving him in the best possible hands.

Flying home, I nodded off until I heard someone snoring. I looked around. It was me. Here is the song it brought to mind:

I am Nana. Hear me snore. I hold the babies of my babies and teach them stuff they need to know. I sing them lullabies off-key, smooth their furrowed brows and pray for their very best. I’m not as young as I once was, but I am still fierce. And I plan to live forever in their hearts.


  1. Kathy Mccarthy says

    Sharon, we share the same birthday and birth year. I’ve written you before regarding that. Now we share the same recent experience- the birth of a new grandson, mine also being the firstborn of my firstborn! And I am spending two weeks just holding, kissing, rocking and staring at him! There is just NOTHING that compares with the awesome complexity of a newborn!😉🥰

  2. Julie Smith says

    That’s beautiful and oh, so true! I have felt like that with each of my children and grandchildren. We also, have a blended family. 7 children, 17 grandchildren, 1 great granddaughter and another grandbaby on the way. God has richly blessed us. I am called Nana, too which I love. Thank you for sharing your heart 💜

  3. Davey Myers says

    Okay Sharon… you brought me to tears once again. So happy for you and Josh and Jonah’s Mom. But most happy for Jonah who has the best, fiercest family ever! Love, Davey

  4. Kate Sciacca says

    Been wondering when this little one would arrive. Jonah. What a beautiful name. Congratulations Nana! I have a magnet on the fridge, “when mom says no, call 1-800-grandma” – yep, we are suckers for a Happy Meal or a donut 😜

  5. Bonnie Whisler says

    Wonderful!!! You made me smile and warmed my heart.
    Congratulations to Josh and his wife.

  6. Jill Zundell says

    Thank you for always articulating feelings that are on my heart. I now have 5 grand children ages 8-15 from my 3 sons & daughters in law. They are the best! They are old enough to communicate with me on their own via text, FaceTime, Alexa…I can’t tell you how happy it makes me that they reach out to me on their own. Yeah, they know I’m a soft touch for a school fundraiser, a ride to a basketball game, a trip to the movies, & a sucker for eating out. It’s okay though. I love that they enjoy my company & that we have fun together. I really am glad I found your column again!

  7. Congratulations! Sweet baby smell– there’s nothing like it.

  8. Those of you who have families, be thankful.

  9. Maryharrington says

    Sharon such a precious column todzy. All of us Nanas with so much love for these precious grandchildren that are our hearts. You write as l feel💕

  10. Once again, you’ve touched my heart with your words! Congratulations on your newest grandchild! They are such a blessing in our lives. I never thought anything could be better than being a Momma, until I became a Nana!

  11. Barb Fisher says

    Oh Sharon, I absolutely love this column this week. I will be meeting my first great granddaughter Mia this coming Friday and can hardly wait. I am the only great-grandparent on both sides of the family so I have a big responsibility and I intend to fulfill it. Her Great Grandpa would be so proud of her also. Like you, I’m sure I will need a Kleenex when I first lay my eyes on her and will probably cry again when I have to leave.

    God bless our two babies and all others.

    Love, Barb

  12. Shelia Koonts says

    What a wonderful Nana you are Sharon.

  13. Congratulations Sharon!!!!!!! What a blessing!!!!!! I am so happy for you!!!!!

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