There was good news from Ottawa in February. Long pause. No, it had nothing to do with protests or convoys, hysteria and shouting. A new life entered the world, in the perfect shape of our first grandchild, a precious little boy. I shall not name him or his parents because in this broken world there are people who hate and hurt, and while I can take it—and do so most days on social media—I must protect my family.
That reality, in fact, illustrates why new, pristine, gorgeous life is so important. Because there is too much darkness, too much pain, too much suffering and anger. Then along comes a tiny ray of light, extending and renewing hope and promise. In his cries and laughter, he is all of the world’s sparkling possibil ities personified. God does that sort of thing, as only God can.
Well-meaning friends have said that grandchildren are the reward for parenting. Sorry, I disagree. I loved, still love, being a father, and bless the fact that we have four children. That doesn’t mean it’s always been easy, for me or for them, but that’s not the point at all.
I’m 63 now, and both of my parents were gone in their mid-70s. Mortality has exponential meaning, and I find myself reading obituaries and looking to see how old my heroes were when they died. As a priest I spend a great deal of time with the dying, know the intimacy of death. Good Lord, last year alone I took 12 funerals. But here in this spectacular miniature is the guarantee that at each ending there is another beginning.
My mum was in Toronto on holiday from Britain when our third child was born. It was October 9, which was her birthday too. I always remember taking her to the airport and the woman checking her in asking if she’d had a nice time. “Yes,” said Sheila Coren in her best east-end London accent. “I saw my grandson born.” The Air Canada official replied, “Well, I’m going to make it a nice journey home too. I’m bumping you up to business class.”
It was the only time my mum ever flew business class. It was also the last time I saw her before the hellish blanket of dementia wrapped its filthy arms around her. She declined horribly quickly, fell into a coma, and then passed from us. As I age, I miss her more and more, miss my dad, feel guilty for my failures as a son, and wish I could tell them how much I loved them and how much they did for me.
In the years I have left, however, I can tell my grandson how much I love him. Tell his parents how much I love them. Tell my other children, their partners, my wife, and all of the members of the cast that keep our little play moving and growing. Love isn’t, as the Valentine’s Day cards will tell you, never having to say you’re sorry. It’s telling people how much they matter, how much they mean, and how much you need and want them. Faith guides and guards me as I tread that path, reminds me when I slip, and energizes me when I feel that I can’t go on.
Yes, there is good news from Ottawa, and from every town and village and city and country in the world. It’s birth and it’s love, it’s care and sacrifice, community and collective, empathy and apology, giving and knowing. Good news, Gospel news, singing words of incalculable beauty.
I’ve no idea what my tiny grandson will be, what he’ll do, and I couldn’t care less. If he’s happy and makes others happy, the good guys have won once again. And when I’m gone and he remembers grandpa, looks at photos of the funny-looking bald man who wore a clerical collar and wrote some columns and books, I simply want him to be able to say, “I loved him.” That’s all. Seems very small and insignificant but it transforms the entire world. I know that to be true, because I see it every single day. Thank God.