Can you love someone who is gone? Really. Can you?
I think the vast majority of people are saying, “Yes, of course you can.” Just because your loved one is no longer here, you can still love them. You loved them when they were alive, you cared about them, you hugged them; you nurtured them. But now they are gone.
But can you still love them the same way?
When it comes to parents, I think that is a different question. We expect them to pass before us. They were here our entire lives, they raised us, they actually taught us how to love someone. They gave us life and taught us our values and our morals, and we love them for that. Now that they are gone, we still visit them, we talk to our kids about them, and we still love them. We honor them at events, we have pictures of them, and they are our children’s namesakes. But I think it gets harder as time goes on. As many of you know, I lost my father when I was a young boy, just fifteen years old – it was over thirty five years ago. I still love my dad. There are pictures of him in my office, I talk to him once in a while, I post pictures of him for Veterans Day. I talk about him to my few friends who knew him, his words and teachings are still a big influence in my life, and I named my beloved son after my father. I still love him.
But, how do we define love though? unfortunately, the memories of my dad are fading. I was young when he passed, and it was so long ago. I have thirty five years of new memories that have been replacing those older ones. Like all memories, those that I have with my father fade – and it kills me that I have a limited number of them. I look at pictures of trips we took, places we visited, family pictures, and I recall memories from them, but still, they are limited. So what do I love? Do I love the person who I only knew for a brief fifteen years, and who was taken from me so long ago? Or do I love the concept of the person who was my dad, and do I love the person who was in those memories, who happens to have been my dad? I am not really sure. I go to his grave, and sometimes I cry, sometimes I do not. I cry because he never got to meet my family, never got to become a grandfather, and he never got to live the life he wanted. Do I cry because I miss him, or because I miss someone who I loved so long ago? Do I still love him the way I loved my father when he was here? I really don’t know.
Now for the hard part. My son. The relationship between a father and son is special. I loved my son so much for the twenty one years I had him. I never knew I could love someone that much, or care about someone that much, and be so concerned and worried when he was out, or when he did not call home enough. Now he is gone; there is no more physical relationship, there is no more hugging or worrying, or caring – of him physically. But do I still love him? I think anyone can answer that question – of course I do. I love him as much now as I did before, and probably even more. Dorothy says it all the time – she loved Andrew when he was here, he was her life, he was what every mother wants and loves. She says that she has grown to love him even more in the past two years. Her love for her son has grown deeper, and more profound than she could have ever imagined. Pam also says that she loves her Doug even more, now that he is gone. During his life, she loved him because he was in her arms, because he was her son, because he was hers. But now, she loves him even more because he is in her heart, he is a part of her soul, part of her forever – and she loves him more now than ever, and that love keeps growing each day.
Will that love fade over time, as the memories might? Or will it change over time and become something else? Who knows, but I doubt it. I know parents who are ten or twenty years out, and they still talk about their children as if they lost them yesterday. They still think about them every single day, and love them as much as the day they were born, and every day they lived. They are still their children, and will be forever; as they will still be loved forever.
So, to Marge, can we still love our lost children? Of course we can. We have to. They are still as much a part of us now as they were when they were alive. You can argue that they are more a part of us now, they are in our hearts and souls forever. And If we don’t love them forever, who will?