June was graduation month for most American high schools.  Our twin grandchildren graduated then, and my husband and I attended the ceremony.  It was an emotional experience because we are GRGs, grandparents raising grandchildren.  We assumed these roles after our grandchildren’s parents — our daughter and son-in-law — were killed in separate car crashes.

Graduation was an historic day for our grandchildren and for us.

Sitting on bleachers makes us uncomfortable, so we arrived early to get one of the few chairs that had been set out.  A multi-generational Somali family sat behind us, and I could sense their excitement.  They had brought a bouquet of flowers and a cluster of balloons with them.  We brought only our memories.

The wonderful man our deceased daughter had planned to marry also attended the ceremony.  He took photos of the kids and emailed them to us.  All of the photos are good, but one stands out from the rest.  In the photo, my grandson is looking directly at the camera with a satisfied smile on his face, and my granddaughter is grinning from ear to ear.

I look at the photo several times a day and it makes tears well up in my eyes.  What causes this response?  First, I knew about the effort that has gone into the photo: feeding teenagers, hours of carpooling, proofreading homework, cheering at gymnastics meets, attending high school concerts and banquets, and worrying about late nights.

Though most of our grandparenting efforts are obvious, others are less so, including our daily routine.  It has helped our grandchildren in many ways. My husband and I try to be good listeners.  With listening and gentle nudging, each of our grandchildren has chosen the perfect college.  The kids start school in August and we will miss them terribly.

Apparently, my empty nest feelings have kicked in early and this was one reason for tears.  Graduation pride shows in my grandchildren’s faces but, after studying the photo for hours, I see the root cause of my tears.  There is something new in my grandchildren’s eyes, something I yearned to see, and it is hope.  My tears are not tears of sorrow; they are a grandmother’s tears of joy.

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Harriet Hodgson

Harriet Hodgson has been a freelancer for 38 years, is the author of 36 books, and thousands of print/Internet articles. She is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists, Minnesota Coalition for Grief Education and Support, and Grief Coalition of Southeastern Minnesota. In 2007 four of her 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 recovery, and she is the author of eight grief resources. Hodgson has appeared on more than 185 radio talk shows, including CBS Radio, dozens of blog talk radio programs, 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 public health, Alzheimer’s, hospice, grief, and caregiving conferences. Hodgson’s 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 wife, grandmother, author and family caregiver, please visit www.harriethodgson.com.

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