One of my heroes is Abraham Lincoln. I have read several books about his life and in fact, I am reading one currently. One of the things that I appreciate about the author of the current book is that she portrays Lincoln in a very real and honest manner. She does not describe a fairy tale character, that was only a “Great” man. She portrays Abraham Lincoln as a real man with great strengths and great weaknesses. He made great and brave decisions and he made terrible decisions that had grave consequences. He achieved great accomplishments and he achieved great failures. He made great judgments about some people and was fooled by others. He was a real man who faced great challenges and stayed in the conflict long enough to experience great outcomes, and yet the challenges and battles took their toll on him and the country. The key is that Lincoln was willing to face the challenges that lay in front of him and was willing to take them on, “the best that he could”, nothing less and nothing more.
I would like to say that Abraham Lincoln was the founder of the “4 H Club”. No, not that one, but one that we can all benefit from participating in. I believe the key to his success, and ours as grandparents raising grandchildren, could be summarized in four “H” words, Honesty, Humanity, Healing and Heroic.
Of course, his most famous nickname was, “Honest Abe”. He did appear to be an honest man, and yet, let’s be honest, I’m sure he had his moments when being honest was a challenge for him. As grandparents raising grandchildren, we must be honest with ourselves and with our grandchildren, as well with our community around us. Allene and I have committed to being honest with Sebellah, especially related to the story of how she came to us and the challenges her biological parents faced. Our approach is to wait for her to ask questions and to always, in an age appropriate manner, to give her honest answers to those questions, as challenging as they may be. We have to also be honest with ourselves about the challenges of raising a grandchild, at our age. We will get frustrated and tired and will need help and respite from time to time. We also need to be honest with our community around us about the needs of grandparents raising grandchildren and what needs to be done to meet those needs. Our honesty, as scary as it may be at times, will serve us, our grandchildren and our community well.
When I think about Abraham Lincoln, one of the words that comes to mind is, “Humanity”. Fortunately, although it did take him time to develop, he understood the value of all humanity and had a respect for it. He saw the valued humanity in the slaves, when much of the country only saw them as pawns for their own prosperity and wealth. Lincoln was also one of our most human of presidents. To be honest, not all of his humanity was pretty or refined. In my current reading about Lincoln, the author discusses how much the military leadership thought that Lincoln was an unfit commander in chief, especially in the early days, because of his undisciplined manners and modes of operation. Lincoln did appear to be comfortable in his own skin and seemed to create an atmosphere that encouraged those around him to do the same. In our roles as grandparents raising grandchildren, we must remember to allow ourselves to be human and real. We have great strengths and abilities, and we have great weaknesses and disabilities. We will make some great decisions in our parenting of our grandchildren and we will make some terrible ones. Hopefully, we can be honest about those terrible ones and learn from them. Our permission to be human is also a great model for our grandchildren to follow as well.
To know Abraham Lincoln’s story is to know the pain and suffering that he experienced throughout his life. He experienced great loss in many forms, especially the loss of one of his children. He did experience great periods of depression as a result of his losses. I also believe that his own losses allowed him to develop a sense of empathy and compassion for others and their losses. All of our stories include significant losses, as well as watching the losses that our grandchildren experience. Allene and I experienced the loss of our daughter, Sebellah’s mother, and the loss of a six-month-old grandchild, in addition to many other losses. The key to grief recovery is that there are no short cuts to grief. The only way to get through grief, is to go through it. Walking toward grief is a shorter path than attempting to walk around it or away from it. We will experience periods of depression. The best remedy for depression is “expression”. We must find ways to express our pain and sorrow, so that we can heal and have the energy and strength for the great task of raising our grandchildren. Our own experience of healing can help us grow through our pain, so that we can assist our grandchildren with their healing process as well. Facing the pain and grief is our responsibility, and yet, we do not have to do it by ourselves. We can seek help from family members, friends and professionals. One of the reasons that Allene and I have started the support groups that we have started is so we can be a safe place for grandparents to come and to express their pain and grief, and therefore take a step forward along their path of healing. As painful as our grief is, it can become a part of our strength and a strength that we can share with our grandchildren.
Finally, we get to the Heroic part. The first three “H” words laid the foundation for the “Hero” that we know and celebrate as Abraham Lincoln. He was a hero and accomplished heroic feats as our president and the preserver of our union, as well as the emancipator of the slaves. We too, as grandparents raising grandchildren, our “Heroes”, accomplishing great things that is and will make a difference in the lives of our grandchildren and in our community. Although they may or may not treat you as a hero, your grandchildren will look back on your efforts as being heroic and life changing for them. Our grandchildren also deserve the heroic effort that we are putting forward and deserve the opportunity to live in a safe and loving environment that allows them the opportunity to be successful and to live in heroic lives of their own. So, “Here’s to You, Fellow Heroes!”
So, Go Forth and find your “Inner Lincoln” and be the Hero that your grandchildren deserve. You can and are doing it!
Sharing the Journey!