“Life and Love Persist,” Jan. 11, 2022

How do you teach a child to understand something you have never quite understood?

Growing up in a big Southern family, I knew what I wanted to be someday: A grandmama.

I loved my parents. But my grandmothers were the two most important people in my life. They made me feel safe and loved and smart. And they taught me all sort of things—how to read and write, how to listen closely, tell a good story, and look beyond someone’s face to see what’s in their heart.

Mostly they taught me how to love with abandon, holding nothing back, the way that they loved me. I knew they would love me forever on this Earth and someday from Heaven.

Every child needs that kind of love. It was a gift not only for me, but for my children and grandchildren and generations to come. Money helps, but love is a far richer inheritance.

My children never knew their grandmothers. Their dad lost his mom before we met. And we lived 3,000 miles from my mother, and visited only a few times before she died.

I wanted to teach my children all the things my grandmothers taught me. But I was busy being their mom_cooking their meals, doing their laundry, feeding their dog, going to their games and trying to keep my sanity.

It’s hard being a parent. Being a grandparent is easy, as long as the parents do most of the work.

My husband and I share nine grandchildren, all blessed with wonderful parents. It makes our job as grandparents not just easy, but fun. Only two things are hard: Finding time to spend with each child; and saying goodbye when it’s time to go.

Recently, I drove five hours south to spend a few days with my older son, his wife and their two little ones. Jonah is almost 3. Leilani is 8 months old.

When Leilani was born, I spent a few weeks with them and Jonah and I got to be good buddies. Since then, we’ve kept in touch with FaceTime calls. But I needed some real time.

So for four days last week, Jonah and I talked and laughed and played together. We read books, told stories and built tents to hide in from bears. Leilani watched us closely, clapping her hands.

Finally, it was time for me to go.

“Come sit here,” I said to Jonah, patting my lap. He climbed up and put his arm around my neck. Then I asked him the questions that I’ve trained him and his cousins to answer. I’ll teach them to Leilani when she’s older.

“How much do I love you?”

“All!” he said.

“And where is your nana when you can’t see her?”

He pointed to his chest and said, “In my heart!”

“Can you feel my love deep down in your heart?”
He thought about it a moment then nodded and smiled.

“I have to go now,” I said, “but I’ll come see you again.”

He turned away, but I took his face in my hands, smoothed his hair and smiled into his eyes.

“When someone goes away,” I said, “they take our love with them, and leave their love with us. You’ll always have my love and I’ll have yours. So if we miss each other, we’ll still feel loved and it will make us happy.”

Looking down, he pressed his hands together as if to pray. So I pulled him close and whispered, “Lord, bless this boy and his family. Bring us together again soon. And always help him feel how much he is loved. Amen.”

Then we hugged goodbye and I left, wishing we lived closer.

Driving home, the parched hills that were so threatened by wildfire were now drenched with rain and dazzling green.

I wish you could’ve seen them.

If a heart that is hurting feels loved, it’s like rainfall on dry land, a beautiful reminder that life and love persist.

I may never understand it. But I hope to teach it to my grandchildren.


  1. We moved from AZ back to AR in March of 2020, putting a distance of 1100 miles between our grandbabies and us. It was a huge mistake. Our lives here have been nothing like they were supposed to be-jobs were lost and our “move-in ready” house turned into a “fixer upper”. We have considered moving back to AZ, but the housing market there is now so out of control, our dream is going to be far more difficult to attain. Your article made me break down and cry. Those babies are very important to me and cultivating a relationship with them is of the utmost importance. Now, with baby number four on his/her way, my heart aches even more to be out there.

  2. Carolyn Corbett Rowe says

    Just found you again Sharon! Moved from Redding to Az. 4 years ago..just read your most recent column..missing N. Cali..and the green rolling hills but mostly missing my gbabies 5 Addy and Aiden 8…they are in Henderson..Covid has kept us apart..facetime is good but not the same..This brought me to tears..time for a drive..🥰

  3. Laura Streeter says

    I have been reading your columns for years. The first one I ever read was the one “about the cat”. I hit me in my soul, and I’ve been reading you ever since. Years ago I met you in Fort Smith Arkansas when you spoke at the new library. My mother and I were there. I had your book, “Birdbaths and Paper cranes”, and had it for a few years at that point. You signed it for me, and it was my only celebrity moment. My mother died almost 2 years ago, and I think of her Everytime I read your column. We always talked about them. You are a gift to us all and I love everything you have ever written. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

  4. Pat Tucker says

    Oh, Boy!
    This piece hit this long distance Grandmother SMACK DAB! It has often been “time to go” or “FT soon”! Much in life is beyond understanding. For example, the distances a Granny heart can stretch! When, if ever, does it exceed it’s yield strength?

  5. Wrennah Gabbert says

    Thank you Sharon!

  6. Ann Roedler says

    I love being a grandmother – They call me ‘Nana’ also.

    I try to see them every week – they live an hour away. And every time they come in the door, they seemed to have gotten taller and smarter !

    I just love them so very much !

  7. So inspiring & beautifully written. I never had such wonderful grandparents & was determined our 9 grandchildren had memories like you have shared here. They are grown now & we enjoy talking about the good times. I tell them I love them to the moon & back & will forever. Take care & God bless you & yours.

  8. Kate Sciacca says

    “Driving home, the parched hills that were so threatened by wildfire were now drenched with rain and dazzling green.
    I wish you could’ve seen them.”

    I did see them, and those green velvet blankets covering te hills in northern CA are about the prettiest they’ve ever been. And you are so right… being a grandparent is a whole lot easier when their parents do most of the work 😉.

    In a year or two Jonah will reach into your purse and hide your keys… 😉😉

  9. Wonderful words…life and love persist! Yes & amen!

  10. Lisa Vecchio says

    That is how I feel about my grandchildren.
    Beautifully said.
    Tears are streaming down my cheeks.

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