I wrote this blog post a few days after the birth of my second grandchild
A few days ago, I got a call that my daughter’s baby had decided to arrive a couple weeks early, so I tossed a few things in the car, and took off to their place… and what with all the excitement of being a nonnie (grandma) again after 7 years, blogging has suddenly taken a back seat! So please join me in welcoming my 2nd grandson, William, born on August 26th, and weighing in at 8 lb 10 oz… a good size for a first baby, especially one that’s a couple weeks early! Of course he is totally adorable… and of course that is not just a grandma talking!
So I have been taking every opportunity to cuddle the little guy, at first at the hospital, and now at his home. Last night, late, was especially lovely. He decided that being wide awake in the wee hours would be a wonderful experience, but his poor parents weren’t quite as wide awake, nor feeling quite so wonderful about the opportunity… so I swooped in, and ordered them to get some sleep, while Will and I had some quality time together.
First we looked out the window together, Will wrapped up snugly in his shamrock-shaped baby blanket, (made by his great-grandmother who has gone home to Jesus just a few months ago), tucked around him like an envelope. There are attractive trees and shrubs in front of the building, and beyond that a parking lot, and in the gentle glow of the orangey street lamps, the view was quite beautiful, calm, and peaceful. The sky was dark and clear, with stars starting to twinkle here and there. A lone cat was making its rounds, high-stepping through the damp grass, and peering under bushes. Will was gazing out the window quite as raptly as I was, though I’ve been told little ones only see close up; perhaps the glow of the lights was drawing his attention, or perhaps little ones see things the rest of us don’t….
As we stood there, so many memories washed over me, memories of my own 5 babies, and of my first grandson. I was just overwhelmed with joy, and love, and thankfulness to Creator God for bringing yet another beautiful blessing into my life.
Will started making little noises, so I began chatting with him, telling him about what I was seeing out the window, and he was gazing up at me, eyes wide open, looking very wise as if he understood every word I said. When I ran out of things to say, he got annoyed, and started to express his displeasure in rather loud terms, so I started singing to him. When my own children were babies, and no one else could settle them, my dad would sing to them, and they’d immediately go soundly to sleep – in self-defense, as everyone said! I was hoping my singing wouldn’t wake up the others, and result in similar comments about my musical ability.
But actually, I have always found that babies love to be cuddled and sung to, and they don’t seem to mind whether the one singing is a virtuoso or totally tone deaf. Lullabies are of course a time-honored way to calm babies, in every culture and place. When our first daughter was just born, my husband took her in his arms and starting singing to her what was obviously a lullaby, in the language of his forebears, the Haida. I had never heard him speak the language before, though I knew that he basically understood it. And there he was, singing with a perfect accent, and in the same cadences as I had heard only the oldest of his people speak and sing.
That was awesome, a sacred moment, a deep and meaningful connection between past, present, and future. The thing was, my husband didn’t even seem to realize he was singing; he was just so enthralled with his tiny new daughter, and the music just came out of him from deep within his being. He was startled afterward, when I asked him about the song. He thought about it, and said perhaps it was a lullaby that his own parents or grandparents had sung to him when he was a baby; he couldn’t sing it again; though he tried to remember the tune or the words, they were simply gone. But the moment was so profound, that when, years later, I heard on the radio an early tape of a Haida elder singing an old Haida lullaby, I recognized it immediately.
As I sang to little Will last night, I experienced something of the same sense of how the songs we sing to our little ones carry the traditions and wisdom and beliefs of our forebears, passed down through many generations. I started with “Jesus Loves Me.” I wonder if it was the first song that was sung to me. I am quite sure it was the first song I sang to each of my children, and to my first little grandson, Tony, as well. It had always just seemed natural and right.
When I was rocking little Tony, and singing that song, my daughter Robyn’s best friend, Larissa, came into the room, and stopped to listen, and at the end she told me that her mother had sung her that song from the time she was a newborn baby, and that it had always given her so much comfort in times when she was feeling sad or alone. Just a few months later after telling me that, Jesus called Larissa home, and I was able to share that story with her parents, and at their request, at the funeral. Larissa had made me promise to keep singing it to the little ones in our family… and now, here I am, gazing down at Will, first child of her best friend, and keeping that promise again.
I don’t know what it is about “Jesus Loves Me,” but it really does bring comfort and peace to little ones, even before they are old enough to understand the words. Perhaps it is because there is far more power in the spoken word that we usually realize; for our words, when spoken from a heart of joy and love, surely must in some manner release the creative, loving power of the One who is the Logos, the Word, and in whose image we are made. And when those words are combined with music, perhaps there is an even deeper connection to our roots, indeed to eternity, as when we read in Job how “the morning stars sang together And all the sons of God shouted for joy” (Job 38:7) at the creation of the world. (And as CS Lewis picked up this theme in his tale of when Aslan sang Narnia into being at its creation).
And so I continued to quietly, gently sing to little Will, singing the songs that I had sung to his mommy, and the other babies in my life. More songs of faith, like “The Lord’s My Shepherd,” and “Amazing Grace,” and “How Great Thou Art,” and secular songs too, like the “Lullaby” song I learned in our school choir back in grade 7, and those various songs from “The Sound of Music” that have comforted all my children, especially “My Favorite Things” … “when the dog bites, when the bee stings, when I’m feeling sad, I simply remember my favorite things, and then I don’t feel so bad.”
And yes, once again the music does it’s magic. The cries stop, and he gazes up at me solemnly with his big dark eyes. And slowly, slowly the little eyelids start to droop, the little body relaxes and snuggles up closer to me, and very soon, Will is off in dreamland, his little face totally peaceful. And once again, I quietly sing those simple words, “Jesus loves me, This I know… Little ones to Him belong, They are weak but He is strong…” And then I murmur a few words of thanks to Jesus, this One who loves little children more than we can imagine, who said, “Let the little children come to me, and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of Heaven.” And I can peacefully place little Will into His loving care, knowing, as the words of “Because He Lives” have just reminded me as I sang them, “How sweet to hold a newborn baby…. but greater still the calm assurance, This child can face uncertain days because Christ lives.”
Written: September 1, 2008