To Molly and Camilla, the twin cousins.
I am writing this the week of your births. I am doing so because by the time you have grown to be ladies, I may not be here anymore. And if I still am, I may have forgotten some of the things I wanted to tell you.
One thing I will never forget is how much your mommies wanted you. As little girls, they dreamt of growing up to be like their mom, and to have babies of their own. That desire never left them. You are the fulfillment of their dreams and the answer to my prayers. Your birth – your existence – is something they longed for and will be forever grateful for. You are precious in their eyes, and you always will be.
As I write this, your childhood is still ahead of you. And while that will hopefully be a wonderful time for you both, most of us are not born to be children, we are born to be adults. Science says we came here to be parents. Religion says we came here to find God. I think they both are right, and you come from long lines of people who have done both. I hope your life will give you the opportunity to continue those traditions.
I am your grandfather. My name is Robert. My grandfather’s name was Royce, and his grandmother’s name was Mary. I hope that you will tell your grandchildren about us. Not so they can learn about us, but so that they can learn about themselves. Sometimes people become confused, and believe that they are alone, that they are disconnected. This is never true. We are all a part of a family, an eternal chain, a heritage and bond that cannot be broken by death or forgetfulness. I have felt Royce and Mary watching over me in my life, and one day I will join them in watching over you.
You are citizens of a Republic that in its first breath declared that all are created equal. You are descendants of people who proclaimed a faith that declared God loves us all the same. These truths are absolute and eternal. No one is any better than you are, and you are not any better than anyone else. If you ever forget either of those facts, you will likely hurt yourself and others.
In dealing with other people, the key is to love and forgive. Everyone, in every situation, the good and the bad, the friend and the foe. It may take more years than you have life to come close to that, so you should start as soon as you can. Remember that the people around you are people. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and mourn with those who mourn. Be a friend and a help to all, and treat others as you would want them to treat you.
You are a mortal, born of mortals. That means that both you and your parents, and everyone on this planet, are imperfect. You and they will make mistakes, and sometimes you will fail. But you and they have access to redemption, to improvement and progress. In your parents’ strengths, find inspiration for your own growth. In your parents’ weaknesses, find understanding and common cause with your own challenges. Neither you nor they are perfect, but you all are precious, and you all were born to grow.
You have a heart and a brain; use them both. The dynamic tension of their occasional disagreement will add color, challenge and richness to your life. You also have a spirit. It is home to your conscience and your fundamental self. It is divine, and consequently so are you. Coming to understand what that means is one of the purposes of life.
You two cousins are unique people and you, like everyone, must be absolutely true to yourselves. You can’t happily be anyone you’re not. The challenge often comes in truly knowing who you are. That may take you years, or most of a lifetime, to figure out. Being yourself isn’t about rebelling, it’s not about other people or your relationship to them at all. Whether your true self is exactly like the people around you – or completely different – is a meaningless coincidence. You be you, and let them be them. If you end up alike, great. If you end up different, great.
The differences between people is the genius of our creation. Each is gifted by God or genetics with unique aptitudes and traits. One is good at this, and another is good at that, and together the family of man rises on the strength of individual talents. Never envy or condemn someone else’s gifts. They all are God given, and they all can be useful. You have to find your own talents, and be a good steward of them, and bring them to bear in the service of others. This is one of the reasons for which you were born.
Finally, I ask you for a favor. I was there when your mothers took their first breaths. You may be there when they take their last. That makes us partners in a way. Let you and I each watch over them in our day, that they may ever know in this life that they are loved and cared for. In my heart I will believe that you sent them to me at their birth, and that I will welcome them at their death, sent to me again from your loving presence. That’s how I believe family works.
I am writing this in the week of your birth, though I know you will not read it for years to come. And what I say to you, I say to all of your cousins and kin.
I want you always to know that I love you, even if I’m not here to tell you.
That’s how I believe family works.