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Tomorrow, September 8th, the United States observes National Grandparents Day, the officially-designated time of year to recognize and honor the contributions and the love of our parents’ parents.
This special day not only honors grandparents, it gives living grandparents a special opportunity to show love for their children’s children, and it helps children become aware of the strength, knowledge and guidance older people can offer.
Initiated in the 1970s by a Virginia grandmother and activist named Marian Lucille Herndon McQuade, National Grandparents Day became official when President Jimmy Carter signed her proclamation into law in 1979. Mrs. McQuade had 15 children, 43 grandchildren, 10 great-grandchildren, and one great-great grandchild when she passed away in 2008. Along with her effort in the U.S., many other countries around the world have begun to celebrate grandparents with specially-designated days, as well.
Marian McQuade insisted that the holiday, observed by Americans every year on the first Sunday after Labor Day, not become just another commercialized observance. Instead, as her proclamation said, she wanted the day to reflect the fact that:
Grandparents are our continuing tie to the near-past, to the events and beliefs and experiences that so strongly affect our lives and the world around us. Whether they are our own or surrogate grandparents who fill some of the gaps in our mobile society, our senior generation also provides our society a link to our national heritage and traditions.
We all know grandparents whose values transcend passing fads and pressures, and who possess the wisdom of distilled pain and joy. Because they are usually free to love and guide and befriend the young without having to take daily responsibility for them, they can often reach out past pride and fear of failure and close the space between generations.
The intergenerational unity that National Grandparents Day promotes has enormous resonance in the Baha’i teachings, with their emphasis on a loving, supportive, unified family life. In a tablet to an individual Baha’i, Baha’u’llah, the prophet and founder of the Baha’i Faith, wrote:
Show honor to your parents and pay homage to them. This will cause blessings to descend upon you from the clouds of the bounty of your Lord, the Exalted, the Great.
Abdu’l-Baha asked Baha’is to pray for their parents:
O Lord! In this Most Great Dispensation Thou dost accept the intercession of children in behalf of their parents. This is one of the special infinite bestowals this dispensation. – Abdu’l-Baha, Baha’i Prayers, p. 64.
In this sweet, touching letter to a Baha’i man whose mother had recently passed away, Abdu’l-Baha even said that “the lights of his love may also take effect in his grand parents:”
The maid-servant of God, she who hath ascended to heaven … hastened from this mortal world to the divine world and soared from this temporal realm to the expanse of the Kingdom. She abandoned the earthly cage and flew toward the bower of the upper world; so that, like unto a nightingale of significances, she may, in that divine rose-garden, engage in praising, glorifying and sanctifying the True One, with the most marvelous melody.
Consequently, do ye not sigh in grief because of her decease, and be not dejected on account of her ascension.
To the people of adoration, death is an ark of deliverance, and to pure souls, flight from this world of dust is the means of attaining the Kingdom … the divine world, and the invisible realm.
To be brief: I hope her noble son may seek the Path wherein his mother walked, and may become better and more illustrious; nay, rather, the lights of his love may also take effect in his grand parents.
As to ye who are friends of that bird of the meadow of guidance, ye must, after her, have such unison, love, association and unity that it may make things better and more favorable than they were during her days. – Abdu’l-Baha, Tablets of Abdu’l-Baha, Volume 2, pp. 443-444.
So if you have living grandparents, you might want to call or visit them tomorrow – and make it a day to connect the generations. If your grandparents have ascended to that invisible realm, you could visit them through prayer and meditation, and ask the Creator to cradle them in light:
It is seemly that the servant should, after each prayer, supplicate God to bestow mercy and forgiveness upon his parents. Thereupon God’s call will be raised: ‘Thousand upon thousand of what thou hast asked for thy parents shall be thy recompense!’ Blessed is he who remembereth his parents when communing with God. There is, verily, no God but Him, the Mighty, the Well-Beloved. – The Bab, Selections from the Writings of the Bab, p. 94.