Archdiocese of Toronto parishioner Cindy Tracey, a grandmother of 24 (soon to be 25) grandkids, reflects on her unique role in light of the third World Day of Grandparents and the Elderly on July 23. Cindy's daughter, Carissa Douglas, is the Catholic children’s author and illustrator of the Little Douglings series and Douglings Adventures series. Carissa is married to Patrick Douglas, Co-Director, Office of Formation for Discipleship (Administration) and Associate Director, Family Life.
1. In his message for the third World Day of Grandparents and the Elderly, Pope Francis writes: “The Lord trusts that young people, through their relationships with the elderly, will realize that they are called to cultivate memory and recognize the beauty of being part of a much larger history.” How are you able to live this out with your grandkids?
I love embracing God’s plan for grandparents, who are considered the roots of the family tree. Psalm (92: 14-15): ‘Planted in the house of the Lord, they shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall bear Fruit even in old age.’
As a wife, mother and grandmother, I know God is calling me to do all that I can to become holy and assist my family through example and prayer, as we all seek to become saints. I also tell personal stories that relate God’s hand at work throughout my life and throughout our family’s history. I share about the ways God intervened in our lives and I make sure my grandchildren understand that the bountiful blessings our family has received were given because we entrusted our lives to Him.
It has been mutually beneficial, as recounting the stories remind me of God’s goodness and faithfulness in my past and leave me feeling more grateful.
2. What impact do these relationships have on your life – and on your faith?
My young grandchildren teach me again the excitement of play, the beauty of innocence, and how to fully delight in nature, as they pull me into endless moments of discovering God’s perfection in His creation.
Time spent with them is time to reflect, to listen and to be heard; time to experience again the wonder of being a child, trusting in God and renewing memories of His continual presence and tender compassion and love throughout my life.
3. What have you learned as a grandparent through the gift of 24 – soon to be 25 – grandkids?
My grandchildren range in age from 9 months to 22 years old. I’ve learned that each grandchild is precious, unique and irreplaceable, no matter how many; and I know that our God always provides abundantly in our openness to Life and trust in His care. I’ve also learned that the prayers of a grandparent are very powerful. God hears them and intervenes, sometimes in a miraculous way!
I have witnessed grandkids on the autism spectrum succeeding beyond expectations, and even taking active leadership roles in their Catholic Faith; I witnessed a grandchild overcoming cancer at 2 years of age; and another who was almost lost at 23 weeks gestation with water rupture. He survived and is now on NET (National Evangelization Team). I had a grandson born with low blood sugar almost requiring removal of his pancreas before miraculously responding to medication.
And most recently I experienced another miracle in this vocation.
My youngest grandchild, Elijah, was born in 2022 at only 26 weeks. He experienced a horrific brain bleed, the worst his doctor had ever seen, and we were told to come and say goodbye before he passed away. I flew to Denver and felt God calling me to not only support my son and his wife in the most difficult time of their lives, but to fight for my grandson. My faith rose up within me and I could sense God working another miracle. I felt emboldened to speak up for my grandson, asking if there might be another option that would allow him to live. His grandfather on the other side of the family was similarly prompted to speak. We all prayed, and pleaded, and asked God for clear direction, we even celebrated Mass with Elijah in his little hospice room. In that moment, our role as grandparents became very clear, Elijah needed us to be his prayer warriors.
We all felt like we were standing at the foot of the cross, crying out with tears, and God, in His great love, heard our prayers and intervened. Elijah is now at home with his mom and dad. He’s a smiley, chubby, giggly 9 month old!
4. What are some of the difficulties in this stage of life and how has becoming a grandparent impacted your journey?
As I’m aging, approaching mid 70s, I am becoming more like a small child limited in my mobility and ability for fine motor skills; difficulty pronouncing or even finding the words (or names). Yet, my little grandchildren understand me - we can speak more simply together. I am humbled by them in the most beautiful and necessary way: I see that I must decrease as they increase; they teaching me to let go and trust, becoming as a little child and yet retaining the incredible journey of life with the numerous experiences of divine mercy and subsequent wisdom received!
At times I can feel like a burden, but I know that is a lie. I am a child of God and valued; wherever the Lord leads me and no matter my age or capabilities. The “vocation of grandmother” reminds me that God has an important purpose for my life, and I am so grateful for that gift!