I think Valentine's Day has lost the focus of Real Love. It becomes centered around romantic love and the measure of your worth becomes correlated to whether or not you have a partner or what you do to celebrate being with that partner. It’s all crap really. The cliché runs true in my mind that it should be celebrated every day.
But it does have me thinking about love and... in particular, real love. The deep kind that goes beyond the Valentine's Day hearts and chocolate. The kind we are all capable of giving.
A few days ago we went to Mount Sinai to visit our friends who just gave birth to triplets. It all happened quite frantically and with urgency. No books or stories or months to “prepare” yourselves for triplets could prepare you for the journey that they are now on. All three boys are in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and are being cared for around the clock. It is (as our friend said) an experience full of “extreme highs, and extreme lows” throughout the course of a single day.
The baby boys are growing and striving for life and healthy development. One of them is striving for the very air that he breathes. The other is working on digesting the very sustenance designed to help him grow. The third has had the chance to be cuddled with both mom and dad! They are beautiful, tiny, magical human beings. I couldn’t help but be lit up by the very sight of them.
To watch their parents – our friends – watch their babies through the glass of the incubators, to wave and to talk to their baby boys was beyond moving and was the essence of Real Love. The love that they show their babies with a single glance is enough to make your heart swell bigger than your chest cavity allows for. The flicker of light in the eyes of their mom and the grin of their dad as they bid them goodnight. I’ll never for the rest of my life forget the sweet sound of their mother cooing “goodnight baby boy, mommy loves you.” Or the look on her face when she told me that through a video call her 2 year old daughter asked "Mommy, where da bradurs?". Real Love.
I can't help but think of other miracles of life. Some miracles were waited for patiently and the struggles came before the life even began. There are many people in my heart facing a struggle to conceive life and yet the love is there already before the life has even started. A miracle before the miracle – to love something or someone that is yet to come. Even more miraculous, to love someone that almost came but had to leave. A love that is so deep within our cells that it precedes us. It is a deeply human love, one full of connection to each other and to the possibility and hope of literally carrying that connection onwards. It seems like magic, pure magic. When you tap into it and are around it, it emanates from those who give it and want to give more of it. It is absorbent.
Real love is the kind of love that I see on a daily basis from those of us who care so much for others. Whether they be our children, our pets, our friends – and sometimes strangers. It’s the real human love that keeps us going, that keeps us connected and willing to open doors for someone, to hold space for someone who needs an ear, to make a meal for a friend and share time together over coffee. It’s the kind that you give without thinking, it’s so deeply entrenched in your bones that you just can’t help it. Over time, I think that it can become dulled and muted and so I hope that by reading this it ignites a flame in you to show the kind of real love that I’m feeling and talking about as I write this. It doesn’t have to come in the form of grandiose gestures, just small loving and caring moments shared between humans.
And so as I think again of our friends who are living in downtown Toronto and staying at the Ronald McDonald House (what an amazing organization!) while their three baby boys are loved and cared for by amazing doctors and nurses, I ask that you take a moment and send a little love their way, and to all those in your life who show and share love – and even those who don’t (because likely it’s they who need it most!)
This piece was painted with the Williams Family in heart and mind.
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