I have recently become the father of a baby boy, the second of our children. As will happen, it has given me pause.
I think of my mother. My father died when I was a boy, leaving her to raise three children on her own on a teacher’s salary. Under those conditions, it was of course not an ideal childhood for any of us, but she was unrestrained in her expression of love and pride for her children. We felt it always.
Her love was not limited to her children. Not by a long shot. A person with more love in her heart, you would not find. She was unabashed in how she showed her love and admiration. Often to strangers.
My mother passed away last year, and it was not easy. She withered to her death over many difficult days. Eventually she could no longer speak or get out of bed. Later still she became unresponsive. You could have blown a bugle in her room and she may not have flinched. There was no muscle left in her arms. The atrophy throughout her body was complete.
Yet, when I would sit on the edge of her bed and cry, she would raise her arms and pull me toward her in an embrace. It was the last reflex to go.
A rather powerful thing, that sort of love. I don’t believe you must be a parent to experience it, nor, sadly, do I believe every parent harbors it. Its strength is immeasurable and inexhaustible.
Oddly I had difficulty communicating to my mother how much I loved her. By God, I hope she knew. I can’t stand the thought of the alternative.
I will never be able to express love for so many people the way my mother did, letting them bask in it—a bit bewildered; a bit empowered. I don’t have that gift. But I do know that her spirit of love was passed on to me because I can feel it and see it in my behavior toward my own children. I love them and adore them openly and without restraint. I do so not because it’s an important part of parenting. I do it because I cannot help myself. I am utterly incapable of not exuding love in their presence.
It’s an awakening for many parents—the realization of how intensely we have been loved our whole lives. Yes, we may have known we were loved, but you cannot truly know the depth of that love until you feel it yourself.
Someone for whom love is a foreign concept might think, if only quietly and cynically to herself, But what is it good for? What does it get us? If someone has it, what are they supposed to do with it? Can you parlay it into a career? Is it a fuel that can help you win friends and influence people? What’s the conversion rate?
Here’s the answer: It gets you nothing else. It is not a means to something else. In fact, it is the end. The end all and be all. It is the reason, whether you know it or not, why we do anything else in this life. The only thing you can actually do with that kind of love, is make more. Use it everywhere and spread it on thick. Produce it internally so it comes out of your pores. Because when you leave this life, as we all will, you’ll want it with you in the end as my mother did. It is all that matters, and it is the one thing of any true value that you can leave behind.