Love is a mystery. Certainly, we can talk about what it feels like when we love or feel loved. Neuroscience can tell us about our brains in love, poets can expose some of the depths of the emotion, and psychology and mindfulness can awaken us to how it arises in ourselves. Yet, relationships touched by love have qualities that go beyond anything we can consciously explain.
My Mom died 15 years ago, yet every Mother’s Day I still have an urge to do something for her. I feel she is alive and have to remind myself she is not. She so often reminded me to be aware of other people’s feelings, not just my own, that I still search for her within myself.
She didn’t talk about empathy and compassion but showed it. She was able to take people in, to see who a person was and embrace them. When I first brought Linda, who is now my wife, to meet my parents, my Mom accepted her right away. There was no mother-girlfriend conflict. The same was true with her relationship with my brother and his wife.
She still appears in my dreams at times and talks to me. Maybe we all have similar experiences, not only with our moms but with anyone dearly loved.
One night, just as my wife and I were about to enter a restaurant in our hometown to eat dinner, I got a lesson about just how deep a connection can exist between two people. As I grabbed hold of the door to the restaurant, I suddenly felt an intense pain in my chest. I let go of the door and bent over. I stayed there for a few minutes, unsure what to do. In a few minutes, the pain dissipated, and we went in to eat our meal, feeling a bit worried and confused.
When we left, I checked my cell phone for messages. I often turn it off. I had only one message; it was from my Dad. However, as I listened, I didn’t hear my Dad speaking to me. Instead, I heard his voice, sounding upset, and at a distance, mixed in with other loud voices. At first, I was bewildered. But as I listened, it became clear I was hearing a recording of EMTs trying to revive my mom. It turns out she had had a heart attack just as we were about to enter the restaurant. My dad found her a few minutes after the attack and called the EMTs. Then he called me and accidently left his phone on recording my Mom’s death.
If I didn’t have a witness, many people would doubt that this occurred. I even doubt it myself sometimes. To borrow from Shakespeare, there is more to love than can be dreamt of in any of our philosophies.
My mom modeled what it is to love. She did this in the way she took care of us. She did this with my Dad in the way they cared for each other. My parents showed me what relationship was about. They showed what life could give us. Whatever or whomever I love carries their influence. My Mom and Dad live in my ability to love.
It’s weird that we must learn and re-learn these basic lessons over and over again….