We’ve all suffered through the COVID-19 pandemic with isolating ourselves from our loved ones, staying away from work, and literally hiding in our homes. It often feels as if a raging hurricane is overhead and we’re praying for the sun to one day come out. Like everyone, I’ve had moments of sadness and feeling lost. As an artist, I felt that this should have been a time where the creative juices flowed because I’ve been uninterrupted for hours, but instead I’ve sat listless and unmotivated. Then, in the midst of this giant mess, a child was born. But not just any child—my second grandchild.

In 2017, when I was told on my 65th birthday that I was about to become a grandmother for the first time, my joy was beyond words. I could actually feel my heart swell with love for this little person I’d yet to meet. I always knew I’d enjoy being a “grammie,” and was often told by friends, who were in the delightful trenches, that it was the best thing ever. But it wasn’t just playing with Bo that was so wonderful. It was watching my baby girl, Lauren, become a mother that was thrilling. The gentle way she handles him, and the patience and love she shares, even in her most fatigued moments, has been breathtaking.  

For a year and half, they lived close enough for me to be fully present in his young life. I was hands on as we played on the floor with his toys, read mountains of books, watched Disney movies, and sang silly songs. We ventured out in nature on long walks. The wonder and delight on his face as I introduced blowing “fairies” off of dandelions, picking wildflowers to study their beauty, or hugging trees because they were our friends, made me giggle. But it was in those wee hours of the morning, when we’d snuggle on the couch to allow his parents a few more hours of sleep, that a true love began to grow. In fact, the roots grew so deep into my heart, I often wondered if there’d be enough love left for future grandchildren.

Then, late last summer, Lauren and Tyler announced another bundle would be arriving in April 2020. A new excitement formed as I wondered if it was a girl or a boy. I even went as far as to plead with God to give me a sign—“If it’s a girl, show me white butterflies.” Before I knew it, white butterflies were everywhere, and I began making hairbows. Then Lauren announced she was having another boy (so much for white butterflies).

On April 6th, McCoy J. Neville was born in Austin, Texas, and I couldn’t be there for his arrival because I was on lockdown. And I suddenly developed a new worry. Would I be able to bond with him like I did with Bo? The ache in my heart was palpable knowing they were 1,715 miles away. But when I saw the first photo of our little warrior (for fire is what McCoy means in Scottish and fire is always a warrior), it hit me—you don’t have to be physically present to love a child, for love knows no distance or boundaries. Looking at that precious face, I immediately felt connected to his tiny heart. He was not just a part of his parents’ life, but mine too. And, like his brother, he would become our life.

At this writing, McCoy is almost three weeks old, and I’m constantly updated with photos and videos of the boys. Of course, seeing him from afar doesn’t come close to holding him, but I’m working on trusting there’s a reason I’m not there yet—my greatest challenge in this difficult time.

It’s been said we choose the timing of our lives before we even come to earth for the lessons we need to learn or for those we’re meant to teach. Thinking back to those butterflies, I now see them as a way to announce the coming of a gentle soul whose purpose for being here would be for one special reason—to teach his family more about the art of love, whether close or from far away. What a beautiful gift to receive in this time of healing.

If we leave our hearts open, there are still gifts to receive in these tough times. What have been your gifts?