I’ve had a bit of a heavy heart recently. This past year – and last year as well, truth be told – has seen the passing of too many close, dear loved ones. The kind of loved ones that hold a huge part of your heart tightly with them at all times. The kind of loved ones whose presence is always somewhere in the back or even the front your mind, a sort of protection against the world when things are rough and an additional uplift when things are wonderful. The kind of loved ones who leave a ragged, aching hold in your heart when they’re gone.
I’m crying as I write this. This is strange, because at the passing of some of these beloved individuals, I didn’t shed a single tear. The shock of their passing was too great for my emotions to wrap around. For others, the tears came hard and couldn’t be held back, no matter how much I tried. But tonight, as my thoughts wander from one missed loved one to another, the tears come softly.
The most recent loss came just a couple days ago, and it was a doozy, and it came only weeks after another loss. I won’t go into the who or the why, but suffice it to say that this was one of those losses that cut deep. I haven’t cried yet, but I suspect it’s coming. My mind just cannot comprehend that this vibrant and amazing human being, someone I have known literally my entire life, isn’t here physically any longer.
The first time I experienced a loss like this – the kind of loss that takes days and days to accept – was almost 20 years ago. My grandfather – the patriarch of my family and one of the most impressive and dynamic and brilliant and loving and exceptional individuals ever to walk the earth – passed away exactly one week before my first wedding (yes, I’ve had two weddings; deal with it). To say I was stunned is an understatement. I found myself alternately silent and giggly throughout his funeral and burial; his lack of existence on this physical plane was too ridiculous to accept. Two weeks later, however, the dam burst as I was attempting to drive home from work, and I had to pull over in a parking lot where I cried uncontrollably for two straight hours. It was the first of many such sessions.
Tonight, my thoughts wander and dance and drift across the idea of protecting one’s heart against heartbreak, of keeping love at a distance to avoid just this sort, or any sort, of deep ache and sadness. I wonder, as many others do, at the futility of loving as fully and deeply and openly, knowing heartbreak could always be imminent and that hearts are fragile things.
The thing is, I am aware – every minute of every day – of how fortunate I am to have as many close acquaintances and colleagues as I do. Even for those people who aren’t necessarily close friends, I would do just about anything, and I know that so many people in this same group would do the same for me.
Still, there isn’t a huge number of individuals I would consider very close friends, but to those who are I give my whole heart, freely, without limits. That’s a risky thing, if you think about it. That involves an insane amount of trust – not just in each person but also in circumstance. In that situation, each individual has the power to crush your heart, but so does fate. And fate’s been having a bit of a field day lately.
Add to this the fact that I’m an emotional person. I’m essentially a giant ball of emotion crammed into a small body. I practically burst at the seams with emotional energy – mostly happiness, but anger and frustration and giddiness and sadness and everything else come in this package, and pretty dramatically so. Heartbreak is no different. It can be a bit overwhelming.
So that begs the question: is it better to continue to love deeply and trust wholly and give my heart fully to each loved one, or is the potential for pain and heartache just too much to bear without putting up some boundaries and protections? It’s a quandary.
For now, I think that I can only continue to open my heart widely, to dream broadly, to love fully and to accept that by doing so I make myself vulnerable to heartbreak and the aching pain of loss. Because there is power and brilliance and unparalleled beauty in loving so completely. And eventually, after the pain of a deep loss has eased somewhat, the memory of such a love brings its own satisfaction and helps heal a hurting heart.
Tonight, I'm counting on that. I'm counting on the fact that the memory of this most recently lost loved one eventually will bring a smile where tonight the loss feels like a grey shadow, an emptiness in the world that this beloved soul used to fill so perfectly. It will happen, and for now I'm focusing on remembering how fortunate I was, how incredibly lucky I was, to know her and to call her family and to have her around for so many years. What a gift that was.
So for me, for now, I choose love.