Love You Forever

1 Jan

There’s a creepy children’s book that my family loves (because we cherish the odd, I guess). In it, a mother talks about her love for her baby son…”I’ll love you forever, I’ll like you for always, as long as I am living, my baby you’ll be.” It’s not so creepy at the beginning but towards the end of the book, she drives her car across town, puts a ladder up to her adult son’s window, climbs in, rocks him and says the line above. Clearly she doesn’t grasp that he can still be her baby without breaking and entering.

But aside from the creepiness, the sentiment is true.

A few days after the Newtown tragedy, I found myself at the Children’s Hospital in Boston reading Christmas books to very sick little kids. It was our second year participating in honor of my friend’s death and it felt even more poignant.

In the middle of Eloise, one little girl said “Why is she crying?” (pointing to my late friend’s mother). “Did her baby die.”

“Yes, he did.”

“Was he my age?”

“No, he was mine.”

“That’s NOT a baby!”

To her…he will always be her baby.

In the middle of the Grinch, this time a little boy: “Once your heart grows three times, can it shrink again?”

“Not usually. I think once you begin to love people, your heart just gets bigger.”

“What happens if the people you love aren’t there anymore? Do you forget?”

A dozen expectant eyes peer at me. The unsaid question hovering awkwardly in the room is Will my parents forget about me if they outlive me?

A memory from my childhood: sitting in the van still smelling of chlorine from my swimming lesson. My friend’s Mom is driving us home and she is crying. Later, my Mom explains that it was the anniversary of her little girl’s death, run over by a school bus.

Another memory from childhood: my Mom pointing out a grave, where a friend’s child died as a toddler. He had Down Syndrome. Later, my Mom writes a poem for him.

Parents will never forget. And others won’t as well. And once a heart has expanded three times its size full of love, it won’t be shrinking back down again.

“If you never tasted ice cream again after today, would you still love it?” I ask. A plethora of assertive nods.

Later, at dinner, we tell stories of my friend. He was a provoker, a tease, a pest, a fantastic athlete. Not every story we share shows him at his best. “He could exasperate me like no other” said his Mom. “But he was mine.” “He was ours” says her husband firmly. “He still is.”

And they reach over and hold each other’s hands. I can imagine the hands caressing little heads in hospital beds. The hands wiping away tears in Connecticut, reaching out to hold each other.

If loving someone forever is the greatest gift we can give, being loved forever is the greatest gift we have already received.

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