Today is the fourth anniversary of my daughter’s death.  I’ve been dreading this day for several weeks because it reminds me, yet again, of the finality of loss.  It also brings back memories of surgeons operating on my daughter for 20 hours in a desperate attempt to save her life.

Heroic as the surgeons’ efforts were, their efforts failed.  The lead surgeon came out of the operating room to tell us our daughter was brain dead.  Lost in a web of shock and confusion and grief, my husband and I signed the organ donor documents.

Two days after my daughter died, my father-in-law died.  Then my brother died.  Then my former son-in-law died and my husband and I became legal guardians of our twin grandchildren.  “I still have times when I can’t believe it all happened,” I told my husband.

“Me too,” he replied.

But it did happen and today, as with the first day of my daughter’s death, I make the same promise: Helen, we will not fail you.  If our daughter were still alive, I think she would be proud of her twins and proud of us.

Both of them graduated from high school with honors.  Our grandson is attending a state university and had a straight A report card for the first semester.  He received a letter congratulating him for being on the Dean’s List.  Our granddaughter is attending a small private college and she has an A average as well.  She has won prizes for her photography and honorable mention for her writing.

When the twins are home for the weekend, they are happy, pleased with their college choices, and excited about life.

We are the only grandparents the twins have and they have identified with us.  Like my husband, my grandson wants to be a physician.  I’m a professional writer and have a graduate degree in art.   My granddaughter is taking art and writing courses.  Their career choices may change and that’s fine with us.

Still, my husband and I will always be counting.  Five years since our daughter died.  Six.  Seven.  Ten and more.  “It’s so sad,” my husband said.

But we are blessed.  Becoming GRGs, grandparents raising grandchildren, is our new life mission and it is a sacred one.  Our mission is joyful, too.  When the twins are home our quiet house comes to life with laughter, friends, loud music, and Internet conversations.  Though we will always be counting, as the years pass, the counting becomes easier.  Our promise remains steadfast: Helen, we will not fail you.  We have also promised each other that we will enjoy the miracle of our lives.

Harriet Hodgson 2011

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Harriet Hodgson

Harriet Hodgson has been a freelancer for 43 years, is the author of thousands of articles, and 42 books, including 10 grief resources. She is Assistant Editor of the Open to Hope website, a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists, Alliance of Independent Authors, Minnesota Coalition for Grief Education and Support, and Grief Coalition of Southeastern Minnesota. She is well acquainted with grief. In 2007 four family members died—her daughter (mother of her twin grandchildren), father-in-law, brother (and only sibling) and the twins’ father. Multiple losses shifted the focus of Hodgson’s work from general health to grief resolution and healing. She has appeared on more than 185 radio talk shows, including CBS Radio, and dozens of television stations, including CNN. In addition to writing for Open to Hope, Hodgson is a contributing writer for The Grief Toolbox website and The Caregiver Space website. A popular speaker, she has given presentations at The Compassionate Friends national conference, Bereaved Parents of the USA national conference, and Zoom grief conferences. Her work is cited in Who’s Who of American Women, World Who’s Who of Women, Contemporary Authors, and other directories. For more information about this busy grandmother, great grandmother, author, and speaker please visit

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