The boys aren’t boys anymore. They are full grown men, with their own lives to lead and their own paths to follow. Once again they were home for Christmas. For a couple of mornings, when I’d get up and walk the hallway in the pre-dawn darkness, their rooms would be full again, just like they used to be, when home meant the same thing to us all. Now they have left, and once again, like it feels every time they leave, the house is cold and empty.
At this moment, I’m sitting here alone in the midnight, listening to Patty Griffin sing “Heavenly Day”, and I’m thinking about love. It occurs to me that pain and anguish and suffering are constant and never far away. Love isn’t the denial or the absence of pain, rather, it is the defeat of, the triumph over, however temporary, our suffering. Love is concurrently fleeting and permanent – even when it lasts for only a moment, its traces remain etched in our subconscious forever, and the memory of its healing power lasts long after the particulars of its instance have faded and dissolved.
We enter the world cold and alone, small and fragile, and then we are gathered in our mother’s arms, and the first thing that is communicated to us, the very first thing we learn, is love. It is our initiation ceremony to this universe, our true baptism. The power of that baptismal love and its ability to make us quiet and still in the enormous and harsh and frightening new world we have been thrust into is burned into the core of our being. The simple truth that love is as vital to our survival as air to breathe or food for sustenance never leaves us.
So it is that, spurred on by a gnawing ache, we spend so much time blindly flailing about, stumbling over and confusing needs with desires, in a desperate search for love. The need for love is so primal and constant that it can distort us, and distort our memory and knowledge of what deep down we know love to be, until all we have is the raw and unsatisfied hunger for that which we no longer can recognize, and we are blinded and preyed upon by those who have turned their backs on love. To deny love is to embrace the black emptiness of cynicism. Cynicism is the corruption of love, the betrayal of its pure and selfless essence, the manipulation of love into something dark and sinister. These manipulations can destroy a love, but they cannot destroy the capacity for love. Only love can wipe clean the dark stain that cynicism leaves on the soul.
Love is transformational. The love in which my children were conceived has transformed into a love for them that has continued and deepened over the years. It is a love that has sustained me and buffered me from the eroding forces of pain and anguish, and I hope that it is strong enough to shield them from the suffering that will be just as inevitable a part of their journey. Above all, may they forever carry my love inside of them, and may it sustain them in times of need, as it has sustained me.