Earlier this month, I had a conversation with a judge who recently retired after serving as a state court judge for more than 20 years. For the purpose of this article, I’m going to call him “John.” John is in his early 60s, and during our conversation he asked me how many grandchildren I have. I told him that after adding three new grandsons last month, my wife and I have 10 grandchildren.
I asked John if he has any grandchildren, and he told me that he and his wife are still waiting. He said that he has a son who is in his late 30s who made it clear several years ago that he is a “confirmed bachelor.” He also said that he has a 35-year-old daughter who got married earlier this year. He told me that he and his wife are trying not to put too much pressure on their daughter, but they’re hoping that she doesn’t wait too much longer before she has a child.
I felt bad after John told me about his situation. He has always been a decent, hard-working man who was well-liked and respected when he was a judge. While he is the type of person who would have a lot to offer a grandchild, he may never get the chance to take part in that role.
I don’t know if John and his wife intentionally limited the size of their family to two children, or whether they were unable to have any additional children. Regardless of what they intended, I hope they will soon be able to enjoy the role of being grandparents.
The invention and widespread production of the birth control pill and other forms of contraception in the 1960s allowed couples to easily limit the size of their families. For more than 50 years, a majority of the couples in the United States have chosen to restrict the size of their families to two or three children. Unfortunately, as those couples have grown older, many of them have realized that by limiting the size of their families, they also limited the number of grandchildren they would have.
In today’s society, people give various reasons for limiting the size of their families. Some couples want to be able to give their children more than what they had when they were growing up, so fewer children means more resources to provide for their families. Other couples desire to focus on their careers and believe that too many children will hinder their ability to advance in the workplace. Others are simply not willing to go through the sacrifice that is required to raise several children to adulthood.
Both Georgette and I have Lebanese roots. Georgette was born in Tripoli, Lebanon, and was brought to the United States by her parents when she was a baby. I’m third-generation Lebanese. In the Lebanese culture, children are considered gifts from God. They are treasures from Heaven that should be welcomed rather than avoided.
So last month our family received three new early Christmas gifts. The first gift arrived on November 1, 2014, and his name is Liam Augustine Williams. The second gift arrived on November 18, and his name is Joseph William Russell. The third gift arrived on November 26, and his name is Joseph Harry Hercik.
One of our new gifts, Liam, was born with two holes in his heart, one between the upper chambers and the other between the lower chambers. Two weeks after Liam was born, he was hospitalized with an infection. After testing, he was given an IV so that antibiotics could be quickly administered.
Liam’s cardiologist recently told his parents that there is an 80 percent chance that he will need heart surgery in the near future to repair his heart. When my son, Harry, told me what the cardiologist said, I told Harry, “He’s probably going to be the toughest of all your children. Since God allowed him to be born with this heart problem, you can be assured that God has blessed him with the grace and the traits that are needed for him to get through heart surgery and any other procedures that he faces in the future.”
Harry responded by saying, “You know that’s funny you would say that because when he was hospitalized for the infection, the nurses had trouble holding him down to insert the IV needle in his foot. They made several comments about how they had never seen a two-week-old baby who had so much strength.”
Having gone through the experience of Georgette’s open heart surgery four years ago, I don’t like the idea of having to go through another heart surgery. The thought of watching my grandson and his parents suffer is unsettling. But I keep telling myself that this is not a time to be worried, especially after having seen what God has done for our family in the past.
With Christmas approaching, all of us need to be thankful not only for the gifts that we wanted, but also for the gifts that we didn’t want. The “gifts” that we don’t want are those that cause us anxiety, pain, and suffering. But in some ways, those gifts are more important than the gifts that we want to receive.
The special gifts that God sends us are those that cause us to grow in faith and humility. They also help us develop patience, charity, resilience, and courage. Instead of resisting and anguishing over these unwanted gifts, we should be thankful that God has given us the opportunity to imitate in a minor way the suffering that His son was forced to endure while He was on this Earth.
It’s up to you and me to recognize the special gifts that God allows into our lives. If we accept those gifts with faith, love, and enthusiasm, we will find that when we unwrap them, we will grow in wisdom, strength, and fortitude.
I would greatly appreciate any prayers that you can offer on behalf of our new little gift who was born with a heart condition. In turn, I will offer up some prayers for you.