Grandpa said less every day, his body barely troubling the hospital bed sheets. When we spoke, he'd look in our direction, but his cloudy blue eyes looked through this mortal plane.
And then something magical happened. His great grandchild toddled in.
Suddenly, grandpa's eyes were glistening, he cracked the biggest smile, and watched, wrapt, as my nephew played with a rubber glove and entirely unselfconsciously flashed big, cheeky grins at Grandpa.
Grandpa died a few days later, but there are few moments I cherish more than seeing him and my nephew delighting each other.
Until that moment, I hadn't realised the joy kids could bring.
For Grandma after her husband's death, I'm sure there was no greater weekly highlight than seeing her great grandson marching into the room, charming the staff for sweet biscuits and opening her drawer to put on all of her beads at once. Then, a few months later, having her brand new great granddaughter snuggling into her arm on the bed.
I'd never realised the renewal that comes into a family with the next generation.
Suddenly with little people around, Christmas wasn't a collection of adults talking about the year that was -- it became a magical time full of Santa, bubble blowers and silly toys.
A visit to my brother's became so much more exciting -- would they be awake? Would they be feeling shy?
And to see the gentle way my own parents cared for them was heart swelling.
"We were never this lovely with you," Mum jokes, but I know she loved us just as fiercely as she loves her grandchildren.
My nephew and niece showed me why all the sacrifices in the world are worth it for a child. Because they give back in a way adults can't.
It was Grandma and Grandpa who showed me how joyful the next generation could be.
When I fell pregnant, Grandma seemed determined to be alive when the baby arrived. For the longest time, she'd been telling us she was ready to die, but one Sunday, I visited during a moment of bright alacrity. She asked me the due date, what I was going to call him and then said solemnly: "Make sure I'm still here when he arrives".
At her funeral, I tried to say that it didn't matter that she didn't get to meet our boy, who's due in February.
I couldn't stammer it out. Blame the pregnancy hormones, but all I managed to do was cry by my brother's side.
The tears weren't borne from sadness or mourning. They were happy tears. Because I wanted to say it was Grandma and Grandpa who showed me how joyful the next generation could be. At the end of their lives, quite by accident, they convinced me of the value of having kids.
And because of them, and the family that grew a few streets around them, I know our boy is going to be born into a family that will love him completely. And he'll love them in a way adults cannot.
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