Columnist: The 10 year old gift

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 18, 2016

Lynn Walker Gendusa

Contributing columnist

There are so many things we take for granted in life. The air we breathe, the flowers we pass, a warm home and even the family beside us.

When we are young we dream of white picket fences surrounding a house filled with a happy family, a smooth road lined with roses and success.

As we age, we wake up to find reality is a picket fence that always needs a coat of paint, and a potholed road lined with few flowers. Families that have no resemblance to those in the dream, and moments that life takes your breath away. And maybe, the success we envisioned was not what we thought it would be.

However, the one thing that is as close to the dream and to heaven is the miracle of a child. Children are not a dream, but they can fulfill one.

For some, creating a child is difficult. For others, they can plan to have a baby in January, another in two years, and it will happen easily. In our family, for three generations, to be blessed with a child has not been easy.

My heart continually goes out to families that struggle with wanting to have children and can’t. My feathers get ruffled when folks that can, take it for granted.

My middle daughter, Heather, was married for several years, and had been trying to add to her family for a while. One evening, while I was on vacation at the beach, my phone rang.

I took the phone out to the balcony and as I looked out at the calming ocean God had created, I was told that He had created another gift for all of us.

How joyous we were!!!! Finally, a child was on its way!!

The eight months that followed were not easy due to many complications. Finally, on a warm Sunday evening in June, Avery Elizabeth came into our world. We knew we were blessed.

All grandparents think their grandchildren are special. I was to learn just how much this one was over the next 10 years.

By the time she was in first grade she had established herself as a good child, a good little student, and very sensitive to others feelings. “Kind,” was how she was described as well as everyone’s friend. She was just sunshine to us all.

Then she became my hero.

At the very beginning of first grade, her mother was diagnosed with cancer. Our world came tumbling down. Whatever life was before, it would never be again.

I hope you never have to explain cancer to a 6 year old. As much as we tried to educate Avery about this disease, it was hard for her to understand until the day her mother came home from the hospital after the first surgery.

I was standing in the kitchen in their Florida home and Avery was in her room. When Heather and her husband came home from the hospital, Heather was weak and frail. Avery came running out to greet her mom and then saw her. Her broad smile faded as she looked up at the beautiful mom she had known all her life.

Suddenly, she understood cancer. She and her mom collapsed on the tile floor in an embrace that brings tears to my eyes as I write this. The bravado that Heather had displayed all along disappeared into the arms of her daughter as they both wept.

Afterwards, Avery became hope. She rallied the family. She made us laugh through the tears. Her life became so paramount in our family that courage and resolve replaced tears.

Heather was so inspired by her daughter that she battled through many surgeries, chemo, radiation and finally life returned — albeit changed.

Heather became a fighter because of her little girl. Avery’s aunt Amy moved to Florida from her beloved Seattle to be close to her niece and sister. Friends, close and distant, lifted all of us up in prayer. The rest of us just simply thanked the Lord above for every day that followed. We never took for granted the air we breathe again.

Avery’s maturity during crisis, her understanding of faith in God, and her enormous capacity for love fills more vases than a thousand roses.

When Avery and I visit it is our ritual to talk right before sleep in the dark of night. On a recent visit, I was thinking to myself how much I loved this child lying beside me. Suddenly, she reached over me and said, “I love you Grandma. You are the best Grandma ever! My friends think so too!”

Tears filled my eyes, I hugged her tight, and realized I understood the true meaning of “success.” All the years of working hard, every dollar I earned, every coat of fresh paint on that white picket fence was nothing compared to the wonder of this precious 10 year old.

The Bible says, “Children are a gift from God; they are His reward to you.”

We should never take for granted a child’s love and life. If you are so blessed, a child will warm your home, pick you a flower and take your breath away.

Lynn Walker Gendusa is a former LaGrange resident who currently resides in Roswell.