Birthday Presence

Sawyer, Big Brother Cadence, Mommy Elaine. Balboa Naval Hospital, San Diego. November 11, 2010

The Next Best Thing to Being There

During a Skype session with my daughter Elaine and her family, I asked Cadence, who had just turned five, if he had fun on his birthday. “I did,” he said. “But Lala! Why weren’t you there? I wanted you to come for my birthday.”
My heart shrank. Before I could respond, his mother said, “Cadence, Lala and Papa Rich live far, far away. They wanted to be with you, but they couldn’t come. They had to go to work.” Cadence, already moving on to the next topic, demonstrated for us his most ferocious T. Rex roar. 

Today his baby brother is one year old. It hardly seems possible that a year has passed since we welcomed him into the world, into our hearts. It’s been a big year, too. We all vacationed together for a glorious week in July, His daddy, a sailor, has been promoted to chief. His big brother has started kindergarten. His mommy has busied herself making their home into a haven.

And the family has moved to Hawaii. We packed a birthday package for him last week and sent it off to Honolulu. We’ll Skype with them later today and hear all about his birthday adventures. Sawyer stares at the computer screen when we talk to him, as if he’s trying to figure out why we’re not holding him.

I try to figure it out, too. I miss feeling his weight relax in my arms as he drifts off to sleep. I miss his big brother interrupting his play to run over and kiss his baby brother. I miss long, meandering talks with his parents.

I used to feed him. I used to smooth his dark hair, marveling at its silkiness, amazed at how much he looks like his mother. I used to rock him. All kinds of grandmotherly habits emerge when I hold one of my grandchildren.

Fortunately, there’s one habit I haven’t had to relinquish to the thousands of miles of Pacific Ocean that stretch out long and cold between us.

I pray for him. I’ve prayed for him every day since my daughter announced her pregnancy. That vast watery expanse stretching between us doesn’t inhibit my prayer. God hears me equally well whether I’m praying over Sawyer’s crib or holding him in my heart.

I’ve come to think of prayer as the perfect gift. To bring my praise and cares before our Lord, to lift my family up to Him, is a treasure beyond any other. It’s the most precious gift I’ve ever received..

Sawyer, Examining a Problem. November, 2011.

38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8:38-39 (NASB)


  1. Technology does help and it is wonderful. Your photo shows a very smart child. Look at him on top of the problem, trying to get over to the other side. Next he will figure out how to open that gate.

    Separation from your loved ones, is difficult and holding them in our hearts does not substitute for holding them in our arms. May the days pass quickly so that you can take that vacation and hold them even if it is for a short time.

  2. Thanks, Hazel! They'll be home for Christmas. I'm already counting the days!

  3. I don't think I can fully comprehend how much protection and blessing my children enjoyed, this side of heaven, because they had grandparents who prayed for them daily. Keep it up. It matters.

  4. Nancy, thanks for your encouragement!

  5. Eh, you made me cry again, Sheila. Yes. Prayer. Prayer, prayer, prayer. Prayer.

    And I love you.

  6. Brandee….now you're making me cry. There's something about praying for the little ones that just tenderizes my soul.

    I just posted a photo of him with his cake on Facebook. It's pretty classic.

  7. I'm with Brandee. Crying. This is beautiful. And you're so right. There isn't anything better than prayer – especially when it's wrapped up in love.

  8. Aw thanks, Deidra. I always feel like I'm the one who's received, when I pray.

    And I've found I can't pray for someone without loving them. I think that's why we're told to pray for our enemies.