You know, when I was a young mother of little children, I used to wonder about all these elderly people raving about their grandchildren. I used to wonder, “What’s the big deal? I bet they’re just trying to make themselves feel better about being empty nesters…going on and on about the kids of their kids. I mean, they don’t get to live with them. They’re not theirs, but someone else’s kids. Surely, surely, there isn’t any relationship more special than that between a parent and their child. Surely, no one can love a child more fiercely than that child’s parents.” And then there was you…
Amber, Chip and I had been childless for the first 7 years of our marriage. I was beginning to give up on the idea of ever having that blessing of children. Year followed fruitless year, with no children. And then your father was born. I was in love! My life felt so full. Your dad was such a huge blessing in our lives. When we thought we may well lose him due to his heart condition and surgeries, it was the biggest blow I’d experienced in my life up to that point. I wondered if after all those years of waiting, trying and desperate prayers, then the wonderful, miraculous answer to those prayers, we were now going to be required to give him up! But the Lord had mercy on us, and like Abraham, allowed us to keep Josh. Then Sam and Amanda followed, and I felt myself to be incredibly rich. At one point I was begging for just one child, but God had given me not one but three! Because I had wanted children so badly, had waited so long, had experienced health issues with all 3, I was a very protective mother and indeed loved my children fiercely. I would do anything for my children.
My dearest Amber, I am completely and totally convinced your parents feel this way about you. We do not know your mother as well as Josh because we live too far to get to know her very well, but I see all the signs of a fierce mother’s love. We see total dedication, commitment, and the fierceness of a mother bear protecting her young! I know your father’s deep, deep love for children. You see, I saw him grow up, always gravitating towards kids, even when he was one. We saw him give his life to Jesus and saw his spiritual growth. We witnessed a growing desire and call in his life to minister to children. And, naturally, he also wanted his own. Unlike us, God granted him his desires right away because then there was you…
Yes, then you arrived on the scene…our first grandchild! Grandpa was popping the buttons of his shirt and I was excited as a mother hen! Something magical happened the day we got the news…the arrival of Amber Michelle Kingsbury on September 2, 2006 at 3:10 am, 7 lbs, 1 oz and 19 inches long…so much like your dad who was 7 lbs 2 oz and the same length. You were perfect to us…cute, always appearing to be smiling, and very photogenic. I did not get to meet you personally until you were 1 year old, and oh, what a fun trip that was! I loved getting to know you. I remember one incident where you were watching your then favourite show, the Wiggles. Your dad had told me you were experimenting with walking but were still afraid to try it by yourself, but occasionally, when you were preoccupied, you would forget to hold onto something. Sure enough, he had helped you to a standing position because you wanted to ‘dance’ along with the Wiggles on your favourite show. Your dad slowly backed away and there you were, standing all by yourself and ‘dancing’ along, totally oblivious to the fact that you were not holding onto anyone or anything. That simple thing delighted this grandmother’s heart more than you can imagine. Why? What was so special about it? The special thing was you, Amber. You were my first grandchild!
I had just been initiated into the mysterious and wonderful world of grandparenthood, something I never understood until then. Suddenly, all the bragging of elderly grandparents I knew from years before became clear…the whipping out of photos from wallets, the bragging stories of the exploits of their grandchildren, the shining eyes as they reported another grandchild on the way, the comparisons with other elderly people of how many grandchildren they have, how old they were, what cute things these prodigies had done, and so on. Now, it all made sense; now it was all clear. I had joined the club. A grandparent will gladly die for their grandchild!
Over the 14 years we have had the privilege of knowing you, even if from a physical distance, we have seen a budding, talented author and artist emerging. We marvelled in your wit and intelligence. We were proud of your academic achievements. It was touching to see your own love of children budding, even as we observed it in your father so many years before. A favorite song of Amy Grant’s that I loved was called My Father’s Eyes. Yes, indeed, you had your father’s eyes, but also his love for children. I so looked forward to discovering what kind of woman would emerge from the person that was you. What college would she go to? What field will she study? Would she become a career woman or a stay-at-home mother like her own mom? What career would she choose? Can’t wait to see whom she falls in love with! Will she have kids? What kind of mother will she be? Will she go into children’s ministry? Or maybe singing, or dancing? We were so proud of the grace with which you carried yourself in your baton twirling routines and events. Even when you dropped it, no fluster, you just gracefully swooped down, scooped it up and smoothly continued with your routine. What lovely grace, even under fire. Oh, how I anticipated seeing you grow up, even as I grew old… But it was not to be.
I’ll never understand why you had to leave us so early, why we would be robbed of the privilege of discovering the woman that would have been you. Throughout your short life, you always had something interesting to say, whether orally or in writing. You always seemed to have a smile for us or a kind word. You never made us feel you were bored with these elderly people but seemed to take genuine interest in us. I’ll always remember you beating me continually at checkers, of reading your stories, of talking about bunnies and baton twirling, and the marathon puzzle session with the whole family where I was so impressed by all the pieces you found while I was still puzzling over one piece. I wanted so much to have another of those puzzle building marathons. I’m sure we will, but without you, and that makes me sad. I wanted to talk about boyfriends, and school subjects that fascinated (or bored) you. I wanted to hear how your relationship with Jesus was doing, what things you were passionate about, what you wanted to do with your life. I am so sorry these talks will never happen. This breaks my heart, that in our lives you will always be ‘frozen’ at 14 years old. We will never get to know who you would have become.
But know this one thing, Amber. You will still always be our first grandchild. You will always hold a special place in our hearts, that no one could replace. I will always treasure my memories of you, even when they bring tears. I miss you, Amber. I always will. Perhaps one day, I’ll be able to think of you without tears, but for now, the 14 years of knowing you still make the tears worthwhile. I love you, Amber. I always will. Too bad it will be many years before we get to meet again, but one day we will. Then, maybe we can have that talk…