Meditations on Love
I used to hate Valentine’s Day. Really, really hate it. “Singles Awareness Day,” one of my former students called it. Even after we got married, I didn’t love (ha) the fact that I was supposed to make a show of my love and affection on a certain day, preferably with consumer goods.
And it is a show in high school. My female students who happen to be dating on February 14 come laden with flowers, balloons, stuffed animals, candy, and other tokens of their beau’s attention. It makes me cringe. (It makes some of them cringe too.)
What I have noticed recently are more concrete examples of True Love, which have nothing to do with perfumed, saccharine, Hallmarked romance.
- After receiving a call that our car was parked inconveniently too close to the front of his house, I went to apologize to our elderly neighbor. He invited me in to visit with himself and his wife, who is several years into Alzheimer’s. This tall, thin, gray, former Army man gently guided his petite wife into the living room, helped her into her cardigan, and sat next to her on the sofa with his arm wrapped around her shoulders. In telling me that he doesn’t read very much anymore, this man who loves talking about literature squeezed his wife’s shoulders and said, “I spend much of my time taking care of my favorite person.” And she smiled, eyes downcast. He eagerly invited me back to talk more about books, and the overwhelming sense I got from their home is the sacrifice that this man has chosen in order to care for his life partner and great love.
- Nicole helped our kids make handprints on a giant card for us for Valentine’s Day, with incredibly sweet messages from them. We are so lucky to have her.
- When my dad was here helping me while Alan was gone, the first of several blizzards struck New England. He checked the weather as often as my weather-nerd friends (you know who you are), and called my mom to check in, strategize, make sure she would be okay. Their neighbor across the street borrowed another neighbor’s snow blower and cleared my parents’ driveway for her.
- True love is lying in bed in the dark, holding hands with my husband and decompressing about a Saturday from hell with our kids a few weeks ago. Laughing about their over-the-top-ridiculous behavior. Letting it go, together.
- My kids have been into get-well cards recently. Whenever they hear about someone’s illness, Theresa usually suggests that they make the person a get-well card. Audrey made one for me when I was down-and-out with the stomach bug two weeks ago.
- We met a couple who delivered the boy-boy-girl triplets at 27 weeks by emergency c-section. The babies are in the NICU and doing okay for being so early, and the parents wrote a note about being overwhelmed by the support of friends and family, particularly in the meal department. They have not had to worry about food for weeks–as they should not have to, since they need to dedicate so much time and energy to supporting their babies. When I brought them soup and bread and other goodies, they were exhausted and exhilarated, and so grateful for the love that surrounds them.
- One of my students in The Girl Effect club will be showing this documentary next week. Just the backstory moved me to tears.
- This song from a Sufi chant:
The ocean refuses no river, no river
The open heart refuses no part of me, no part of you.
I am one with all that is, one with all;
All that is is one with me, one with all.
- One of my students told me about a life-changing revelation about their* identity–a revelation that changes everything about the way this student interacts with the world. To have this kind of self-awareness, integrity, and courage as a high school freshman is beyond amazing. I always thought this student rocked; now they have my even deeper admiration and respect.
- The e-mails of support and inspirational messages that have been sent back and forth among a group of college friends to bring light and sometimes levity to our suffering friend. We’ve had Isaiah, Shel Silverstein, Psalms, Rumi, an Irish prayer, and a song from a Belgian film called Broken Circle Breakdown. Our friend sent us back this Yeats poem about the love of old friends:
THOUGH you are in your shining days,
Voices among the crowd
And new friends busy with your praise,
Be not unkind or proud,
But think about old friends the most:
Time’s bitter flood will rise,
Your beauty perish and be lost
For all eyes but these eyes.
When I think about hearts, I think about my babies’ hearts. I check on my kids before I go to bed at night. Put a hand on each chest. Feel their heartbeats. I remember the first time I saw their hearts. I was 8 weeks pregnant, and there was a little clamshell in each sac, flickering its pulse. Tiny blips on an ultrasound screen.
Each of these hearts turned into Audrey, Theresa, and Jamie.
They will beat in that same chest for whatever lifetime they have.
I saw them first.
It makes me think about the truest form of love, which is forgiveness. Each heart is born with a finite number of beats. If we could see each other’s hearts and understood how many beats they have left, what would we do differently?
*Incorrect plural pronoun form used purposely to avoid gender identification. English so needs a gender-neutral personal pronoun.