four generations

How to Love Like Grandma

I remember the moment vividly. I was seventeen, and my mom and I were out driving together when she started telling me about Grandpa.

My grandpa, as it turns out, was schizophrenic.

I’ll never forget that conversation. For the first time, as I looked at my mom, I saw her as a person. She had her own history, filled with pain that I could never fully know. Since then, as she has shared memories from her childhood, I have found myself overcome with compassion for this strong, incredible woman who raised me. A woman whose love and faithful presence I’d taken for granted.

And then, there was Grandma.

Married to a man with a debilitating psychiatric disorder. Raising two daughters. Caring for her parents from Germany, as well as her Swedish mother-in-law. They lived together under one roof. And Grandma took care of them all.

In photographs, Grandma is young and beautiful—always smiling, not a hint of resentment in her eyes. Even though her work was endless, my mom remembers how she was always emotionally available to her children. “I would run into the house in tears after school, and she would drop everything, sit down with me, and listen. And when I was excited about something, she wanted to hear all about it.”

Grandma will be 92 this year. And whenever I’m with her, I am in awe of the life she has lived.

The thing is, she could have walked away.

She could have taken the kids and left Grandpa for what undoubtedly would have been an easier life.

But instead, she chose to stay—to face each day’s

challenges with courage, out of love for her family.

And in doing so, she’s shown me what kind of mom I want to be. One who courageously does hard things, day after day, for the sake of those she loves.


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Let’s be honest. Most of us, had we known just what trouble was in store for us on this journey of motherhood, would probably have run the other way. On the hardest days—when the baby won’t nap, there’s permanent marker on the wall and a ballet shoe in the toilet, you have a migraine, and it’s only 11 a.m.—it’s all too easy to let our minds wander. Back to a time, not so long ago, when we felt more in control of our lives—when “motherhood” was just another one of our options.

Sinking down on the sofa, we might even wonder: Is this worth it?

But friend, never underestimate the impact you’re making. The hearts you’re shaping. The legacy you’re leaving—not just for your children, but for their children.

It matters.

You matter.

Thank you, moms, for the unseen sacrifices you make every day. For doing hard things you never dreamed of doing. For just being there.

It may not feel like much.

But in the end, it means everything.

Jennifer Gilmartin

Jennifer is a freelance writer and musician living in Pennsylvania. Once an aspiring Latin teacher, she is now a stay-at-home mama of two children, and is blessed with a husband who can fix just about anything she breaks. Jennifer leads Jr. High Sunday School with her mom and loves attending musicals, giving homemade gifts, and sharing tea with good friends on the back porch.

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1 comment

Hi Jenn,
I really appreciate your thoughtful words. Sarah sent me this as a spin off from our conversation at our last MOPS tea. It is wonderful that you have been doing what you shared back a few years that you love doing…writing. Your words are very encouraging.
Thank you and God bless. Emilie

Emilie Putnam

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