How a Pinterest Board Eased Her Grief

She had always longed to be a grandmother. Then she realized that her life could still be full of love and opportunity.  

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Posted in , Apr 26, 2021

An angel holding a small sprout; Illustration by Carmen Garcia

I snuggled in my favorite corner of the sofa, scrolling through other people’s Pinterest collections on my phone, searching for decorating ideas to freshen up my home. At least that’s what I told myself I was doing. The heaviness that weighed on me when I stopped my scroll said otherwise. “Why can’t I let this go?” I asked myself.

My eyes locked on the collection I’d amassed, a Pinterest board I’d titled “Me and My Future Grandchildren.” Now it saddened me every time I looked at it. “God, please help me,” I whispered.

Pinterest served as a kind of digital bulletin board, a place to collect favorite images I’d found on the internet. I fixed my gaze on a photo of a woman about my age holding a young girl aloft in an artful pose I would have loved to imitate. Another was of an older woman, happily doing her stretching exercises with a baby in her lap. I’d saved plenty of ideas about how to share my fitness routines with a grandchild of my own. I’d “pinned” dozens of heartwarming sayings too: “Blessed are those who spoil and snuggle, hug and hope, pray and pamper, for they shall be called grandparents.” And “Lord, I lift my grandchildren to you.”

These were things I’d never be able to do. It had been two years since my 26-year-old son, Miles, had passed away and with him my dreams of becoming a grandmother, of seeing my family’s legacy continue. My sense of worth faded with my dream. I’d always been a fixture at the gym and active at church, where I served as an elder and a member of the choir. But without the hope of grandchildren, my life felt empty. More than once I’d thought of simply deleting this board and all that it meant to me. But I couldn’t bring myself to do it. Instead, it tormented me daily with thoughts of dreams forever lost.

I put my phone facedown in my lap and reached for a cup of herbal tea on the end table beside me, desperately seeking solace. “Let me move forward today,” I prayed, though I couldn’t imagine this day being any different from the rest.

Miles was my husband Bob’s and my younger child. Our older son would likely not be able to father children, and so I had pinned all my hopes on Miles. Being a mother had given me such joy, such purpose. When the boys grew into adults, I’d assumed a new role as keeper of our family’s story, our place in the world. I’d researched our genealogy with the idea of nurturing our ancestral tree for future generations.

And Miles had encouraged me in my quest. “Don’t worry, Mom,” he was always telling me. “When I get married, I’m gonna give you grandchildren to spoil.” Our laughter filled the room. “I can commit to three,” he’d say.

I was proud of the man he’d become. He owned his flaws, yet remained compassionate, polite, trustworthy and easygoing. Others could count on him. He excelled academically and after college worked as a financial planner.

Known for his dancing skills, one of his YouTube videos had more than 12 million views. His debonair manner, and tall, slim frame captured attention when he strolled into a room with a quiet, commanding presence. To me it was all part of who we were as a family, another branch to a tree I’d imagined growing ever more full. I looked forward to teaching my grandchildren about their roots.

I had endless stories about growing up in the Deep South, where my grandmother had reared me. Even as a girl I’d been inquisitive about my ancestors—especially my maternal side of the family. Occasionally I pulled out the cassette recorder I’d bought with my allowance so I could interview my grandmother. She explained that she could only trace back to her own grandmother, who had died in a house fire as a young mother. How I longed to learn more.

Thinking about the life journeys of all the people who came before me, of their challenges and triumphs, made me feel part of something bigger than myself, a reminder of how God had been a comfort and refuge for us down through the ages. His angels ever present, ever faithful.

As an adult I found new connections by researching my genealogy online. That’s how I learned about the possibility of getting my DNA tested from a saliva sample that could give me clues to my family’s origins from hundreds of years earlier. When the results came back, I felt like I’d unearthed buried treasure.

My ancestors, I learned, were brought over from West Africa, with DNA shared by the people of Cameroon, Nigeria, Congo and Mali. There were indications they’d been sold to slave owners in Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina. A terrible chapter and yet undeniably part of my heritage.

Online I’d combed through census records, death certificates, and birth and marriage records. Miles was always asking if I’d found anything new to add to our legacy. It had felt like we were partners in the quest.

Now on my couch, I looked again at my phone, at that Pinterest board I’d stopped adding to. Slowly my eyes took in the photos, those strong beautiful women loving on children full of life, the sayings I’d collected, each addition perfectly arranged in tiny squares. One of the quotes, near the top of the board, jumped out at me: “Before you were conceived I wanted you, before you were even born I loved you.”

I’d never really pondered the meaning of those words—how God’s love is truly forever, without beginning or end. Eternal love. Like a pebble dropped in a pond, the ripples extending beyond what the eye could capture, each ripple causing another, growing ever wider. These photos and sayings were a part of me, a celebration of beauty and strength and spirituality. Love that was still a part of me, still waiting to be shared. Even if grandchildren weren’t in my future, there was still something here to be cherished and nurtured.

I thought of the angels who had been a source of strength to my family through the generations. Of how they had surely guided me even in making this Pinterest board. My dreams. Just as my ancestors had dreamed. They hadn’t all come true, not by a long shot. But that too was part of our story.

Legacy wasn’t defined by grandchildren, or even by extended family with shared DNA. So many people had blessed my life—people at church and at the gym, friends I’d known for years, even parents I’d connected with over the grief we shared. I had touched their lives too, in ways I’d rarely stopped to appreciate. Until now. My life, the connections I’d continue to make—my legacy was still unfolding, full of opportunity. And love.

I added a joyful image to my Pinterest board to remind me of my place in the world today and my hope for the future—a future that has been carried on angel wings, dream by dream, story by story, since the dawn of creation. It’s the legacy we all share as one family, all of us the children of a loving God. My legacy held a divine promise in every tomorrow, a future God could see as perfectly arranged as the squares on my Pinterest board.

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