While getting ready this morning the song “Closer to Love” by Mat Kearney came on. It was the first time I had heard it. While I didn’t catch every word, the lyrics I needed to hear came through. “I guess we’re all just one phone call from our knees…crying in her room , praying Lord, come through…You pull me closer to love, closer to love.” I can’t begin to assume what the song writer meant by each word – but that is what I love about music. Great songs can take on different meanings for each listener. They can provide words to feelings too hard to speak aloud. This song did this for me. Hence a new blog post, my first in years.
It is undeniable that I have been through a lot in the past six years. I watched my mom go through sickness, die, planned her funeral, and still grieve her loss. Then I watched my twins struggle to survive for months, learned a whole new world of medical terms in order to parent them and adjusted to a world with kids who need more. I took deep breaths for a couple of years before I stood with my dad as he battled and lost to cancer, and again, planned another funeral.
Now I learn how to survive, to carry on, to grieve, to examine life as I never have before in my new world of “normal”. All of this has irrevocably changed who I am. Some changes have been or the good, others have not – I am working on those. I have always been a reflective person and I find myself, in my quiet moments, while they may be few and far between, reflecting on my life as it has turned out so far. These moments sometimes lead to me asking “why?” or “how?” – I sit stuck in wonder of how my life ended up the way that it did. I never saw any of this coming.
This line of thinking never helps.
It is what it is. I can’t change it. I can only learn, adapt and move on. Hopefully for the better.
Today, this song, “Closer to Love” brought on a revelation for me. The message was so intense that I found myself sitting in my driveway writing on every scrap of paper I could find before heading off to run errands. Many blog posts have popped into my head since losing my dad. I haven’t written any of them down. I don’t think I was ready to, to really examine my thoughts seemed scary to me. I couldn’t be sure where it would lead me and I wasn’t brave enough to pick up my pen and find out. Today, this post idea, these words gave me a sense of hope. Dare I say, of joy? An emotion I can admit I have been avoiding over the past year. Joy, as the opposite of sadness is just as difficult to experience for a person going through grief. When you feel joy, you can’t help feel the juxtaposition of the sadness you normally carry with you each day. This idea of being closer to love became so clear to me, and became a positive twist on the obviously negative moments of my past six years.
This morning I came to realize that each struggle, each death, each trying time has led me closer to love. Not the “I love you because…” kind of love, but the love that one feels with every inch of their being, down to the core of a person. Gut-wrenching love that can make a person feel connections with people that wasn’t possible before the true meaning of love was truly understood.
I knew I saw the world differently after my mom died. I knew I became infinitely more empathetic to the people around me after the boys were born. Since my dad died I find myself more forgiving, more considerate and more loving. This morning I realized these changes are because I now know, and have learned to recognize in my life, true love.
Before these turn of events you may have heard me say, “I love you because you make me laugh.”, “I love you because you…(fill in the countless things here)” I know we have all said it, been to weddings where brides and grooms profess their love for each other in terms of the “becauses”. These reasons are sweet, they are nice compliments to give a person, but they can’t be the basis for true love. With real love there is no room for because – in real love – you just love.
Telling someone “I love you because you make me laugh.” will make them feel good that you appreciate their sense of humor but what happens on the days, or months when they don’t make you laugh? Does your love diminish? Professing to your partner that you “love them because you know they will always be there for you.” is a comforting thought. But what happens when you don’t see eye to eye during a difficult time and your partner isn’t standing in your corner defending you? Does your love weaken? These prerequisites on your love are only natural, but fragile in their existence and all too reliant on all things remaining the same as it was on that first day you fell in love. An acquaintance of mine is completing research for her doctorate on effects of trauma on a marriage. She shared with me that statistics show an alarmingly high rate of divorce among parents who find themselves dealing with medically fragile children in the Neonatal or Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. Is that because they shared the “I love you because…” kind of love? A love based on what a person does for you? For how they make you feel, who you are when you are with them? In times of trauma partners do very little for each other and instead focus their efforts and attention on just getting through the day. Each one struggling just to keep themselves from falling apart, with little energy left to check on their partner. The “becauses” come less frequently and a couple prerequisites for love are pushed to the side. Well, at least that is how I see it. I am not a doctor, a psychologist or an expert on love. I could be totally wrong – I can’t presume to know why marriages fall apart.
Perhaps we should say “I love it when you make me laugh.” or “I love it when you make me feel safe and supported.” This way your love for a person isn’t tied to their actions. You love their actions in addition to the deep down love you feel for your partner. You can love an action, you can love getting flowers, love getting love notes…just as long as these aren’t a stipulation for the love that you give a person. Because, I can tell you from too many periods of trials in my life, that getting flowers, love notes and being the center of someone else’s world gets put on hold when you face a time of life and death.
True love accepts. My parents were flawed. I still loved them. I still love them. I love them regardless of their flaws, and I don’t need to ignore their imperfections in order to keep my love alive for them. And since they are now gone, all of my “becasuses” have to be thrown away.
As my mom lay in the ICU, already passed on, I held her hand and kissed her forehead. In those moments I have never felt such intense love. In those moments I had to stop loving her because I knew I could always count on her to be there for me. I couldn’t love her because she would always support me, or always be there to help me raise my kids, or give advice or listen when I needed to vent. In those moments, all of those things my mom had previously done for me ceased to be a possibility for the future. As I sat by her bedside and rubbed her hand, I sat there and cried and just loved my mom. Gut-wrenching, down to my core kind or love. That moment brought me closer to love.
During my dad’s final weeks things were awful for him and for us. And that is about as much detail as I can bear to explain. It was just awful. In spite of it all, in the midst of it all I loved my dad more fiercely than I had ever done before. His time of doing things for me were over, and still I loved him. In those weeks I felt more surrounded by love, as my closest family members sat beside him and poured their love for him out for him to hear. Witnessing this kind of love changes a person, and now I can say that those weeks absolutely brought me closer to love.
In the same way as losing my parents helped show me the true meaning of love gaining my boys, with their rocky beginnings, also brought me closer to love. The first few weeks after Griffin and Carter were born and they struggled to survive in the NICU my husband and I sat at their bedsides. I examined their translucent skin, the wires and millions of dollars of machinery attached to them to keep them alive, we couldn’t be sure if they would make it through the day. I hadn’t even held them, I’d only touched them briefly with the slightest of pressure a handful of times. And still I sat there, day in and day out thinking about how much love I felt for these tiny little boys. There was no room for prerequisites, there was only room for true love.
This revelation on love has also taught me a valuable lesson on how I view my own self worth. Like most people I know I want people to like me, and some to love me. Throughout my whole life I have gone to great lengths to ensure that I would be worthy of a person’s love and approval. Sometimes, my desire to be loved would lead me to bend and break myself down in order to prove just how worthy I was of their love. All these changes to my own sense of self just to show how lovable I was. However, just as walking through the life that I have over the past six years has brought me closer to the true meaning of love I feel for others it has also taught me to recognize the true love I share with others. Love without prerequisites, love given to me, not because I: make them them laugh, boost their self esteem, buy great gifts, have the right look…the list of prerequisites go on. But the kind of love given to me just because I AM.
Recognizing this love around me brings me joy. It also gives me permission to let go of those in my life who loved me with a love full of prerequisites. I lost family this year, and not because of death. But because I now understand love and this understanding gave me the strength I needed to let go of relationships based on me bending and ignoring my own self to prove my worth to them. I now know I don’t need to do that. I am worth love. SO I can walk away. It still saddens me to lose even more family when I feel like I have already lost so many. However, I now know I deserve to be with those who know me and love me in spite of; not because of.
And so here I sit in what I believe is a pivotal time in my life. This day has given me a gift of a small sense of understanding during a time when I find myself questioning.
If nothing else, I can say that these years have brought me closer to love. And for that, I am grateful.