Right now, it may feel as though nobody sees or cares. But later on, that will change.
My grandfather died earlier this month, and I traveled with my husband and our four young children to Florida for the funeral. The time spent with family was healing, and I found myself reflecting a lot on the power of our witness as Catholic parents.
My grandfather left an incredible legacy: He immigrated to the U.S. from Cuba as a young man with his bride, my grandmother. He went to medical school, served in the U.S. Air Force, moved all around the country, and established his medical career, all while raising six children.
At the time of his death, he had 20 grandchildren and 8 great-grandchildren, and counting. One of these great-grandchildren, my son, shares his name.
The weekend before the funeral, most of his 20 grandchildren gathered to share favorite memories of our grandfather. In our stories, he loomed larger than life; his impact on all of us was profound.
What struck me most was the admiration we all felt for our grandparents.
“Grandpa and Grandma are my heroes.”
“They went through so much when they came to this country, and built an amazing life here for us!”
“I always wanted to be just like Grandpa.”
“Grandma is my role model. I admire her so much.”
On and on it went. My grandparents endured great hardships over the years. But now, decades later, their grandchildren stood in awe and gratitude of their sacrifices for their family.
As I listened, I realized that the hard things we do on behalf of our families will not go unnoticed.
Right now, it may feel as though nobody sees or cares what you do as a parent. All the late nights and early mornings, all the hard choices and selfless acts, happen in the privacy of our homes.
But I see that all these years later, the fruits of my grandparents’ sacrifices paid off. All their hard work was worth it. And we, the grandchildren who benefited from their example, rise up and call them blessed (Proverbs 31:28).
Their descendants are not the only ones whose lives were changed by their examples. At the funeral Mass, the celebrant shared a memory about my grandfather that I’d never heard before.
As a young priest, he was the new chaplain at the parish where my grandparents sent their six children to school.
My grandparents lived just a few houses away from the church, and the children walked past the rectory on their way to school each morning.
The priest recalled how he would watch my grandfather, in his white doctor’s coat, walking his children to school every morning on his way to work.
“It made me think of the Good Shepherd leading his sheep,” he said. My grandfather was an example to this young priest of a father’s loving guidance.
So I realized our examples can change other people’s lives, even if it seems that no one knows or sees.
But most importantly, of course, God knows and sees our sacrifices, however hidden they may be.
Perhaps our sacrifices will never bear fruit on earth after all. Perhaps we won’t see our grandchildren honor us. We may never know that our witness touched another life.
But at the end of our lives, we can stand before God and say, “I did all that I could. I gave You my best.”
And this legacy is the greatest of all, the only one that really matters.