Parenting is one of the great joys in life. Grandparenting is one of life’s great gifts.
To watch a granddaughter walk across the stage to be handed her college diploma, as I did last Saturday, is frosting on that cake!
Hannah Jean Hildreth graduated from Hampshire College where she majored in modern dance. She is a natural-born dancer and entertainer. It’s not work for her, it’s sheer enjoyment.
As I waited for the big moment, captivated by a variety of speakers, including Eugene Mirman, the keynote commencement speaker who graduated from Hampshire twenty years ago and is a successful comedian, writer and filmmaker, I remembered sitting on the living room floor with Hannah when she was a wee babe and she took her first steps and I was the only one to see her do it. She repeated the performance for her incredulous mother and has been performing since.
When Eugene Mirman was walking across the Hampshire stage to get his diploma, I was sitting on the living room floor, enjoying one-on-one time with Hannah, when to my great surprise she pulled herself to a standing position with the help of a chair, then she took those first steps toward me and fell laughing into my waiting arms. Needless to say, it was a delightful bonding experience, and it’s directly connected to Mother Nature’s gift. Dancing has brought joy and meaning to her life, and it brings joy, meaning, appreciation and pride to those of us who have been watching …those of us who love her so dearly.
When my father was the age I am now – just weeks before he died – he was fond of saying, “I’m the richest man in the world.” He was referring to his own parenting and grandparenting – his eight children and twenty- two grandchildren that had brought so much joy, deep meaning and satisfaction to his life. Now I have a deeper appreciation of what he meant, what he experienced.
During the forty-two years of my ministry I’ve taken frequent advantage of sermon illustrations I got from my children and grandchildren, and the wonderful mid-life gift of my darling step-daughter, Carlyn. They are lodged securely deep down in the sacred places of my heart. I realize, now, that they enhanced my pulpit experience not only by providing lots of sermon illustrations, but they infused my ministry with the energy that is at the heart of it – for what is ministry but the opportunity to love, to care, to share…to serve.
Hannah’s graduation this year, and Alex’s graduation last year, and Carlyn’s college graduation next year, round out a very special chapter for me, coming like dominoes, one after another. Last fall, when I announced my date for retirement from parish ministry, I told Carlyn that she and I are graduating at the same time – the class of 2013.
Like all graduates, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about what I’m going to do after that big day, as you can imagine. But I don’t dwell on it – I’m too busy planning my next sermon, or being fully present to my next counseling appointment, or preparing for my next memorial service, wedding ceremony, or service of dedication of parents and children.
Later, there will be time enough for reflection. For now I’ll focus on these special moments while I’m living and sharing them with you. I hope you’re doing the same. Take good care.