It has been a long time since my last post. I honestly haven’t had anything I felt was worthy of your attention. Grief is grief and I don’t want to repeat over and over what you already know. I want you to read this because there is something to take away from it. I want some tidbit to stay with you and somewhere, someday, it may help you through a moment, an event, a holiday or whatever you find to be a challenge. If that has happened for you already, I would love to hear your story.
Today I sit, looking out over snow and ice, and thinking about Valentines Day. Many say it is just another ploy to generate income for businesses, Rick called it a “Hallmark” holiday. The card industry usually does well as do the floral and candy shops. I started thinking and the symbol is of course the heart. It is about love and caring and the sentiment that you are special.
I was struck this morning about how much the heart symbol and the word means in our life. The heart is the reason we are here. Being a medical person, I was drawn to this realization that without our heart, we cannot survive. It is the single most vital organ in our body and if there is even a hiccup in function, we must get is fixed right away. The beating heart is why we feel alive.
For those who were fortunate enough to hear their baby’s heart for the first time, can you remember the exhilaration you felt? It is the very beginning of life and will be a part of everything you feel, say or do for the entirety of your existence. The heart becomes a reality at birth and that little human immediately occupies a spot in your heart forever. It doesn’t matter how long or how short the journey, your heart holds a permanent space for that love. No matter how many times you experience it, another spot opens up and the heart swells to accommodate it.
You are loved by your parents as I described, but your first experience will be your love for them. As you met eyes the first time, it was instant and your heart held that space. Your parents are your true foundation and although there may be bumps in the road, the heart is where you feel it the most. Not all parents are perfect, actually none of them are, but to you they are your world, simple as that. They set the tone for how you live your life, what you value, how you treat others. Their lessons are simple and to the point. My mom taught me the “Golden Rule”. ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Can you imagine if everyone lived by that one simple rule, it would definitely be a different world.
Next is that love of a sibling, if you are blessed with a brother or sister. It is your first and always, lifelong friend. You bond over what you have in common and you bicker over what you don’t. You have a unique relationship that no one else understands. It is your first “best friend”. Often you don’t realize this until later in life, as you go your separate ways. Some sibling are close, some are not, but the tie that binds runs very deep and should never be ignored. Your sibling occupies another part of your heart. It’s getting a bit crowded you’re thinking, but the heart is phenomenal because it can hold all it needs to and continue to have open spots for the future.
This brings us to the love you develop for a partner, someone you start to share yourself with. It is first that excitement and anticipation which later becomes someone you can count on and someone you trust. It is like panning for gold and finally, there in the bottom of the pan is a small almost inconspicuous nugget that becomes your soulmate. Now of course, everyone isn’t that lucky and may have to pan a lifetime looking for that nugget. Those who find it are blessed indeed and the heart fills in all the empty spaces with this new love.
There are many other spots that can be filled with aunts and uncles, grandparents and friends. Friends may come and go, it’s like a temporary parking spot because as you meander through life, friends will take a space. Many are there for a short time and some will finally take a permanent spot. These are the people you don’t see everyday but will always hold a sacred place, and the mere thought of that time will make you feel warm and loved.
This all sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? That glorious organ that is like an expandable storage unit for all that is good, but what about the times that life isn’t good. What happens when bad things happen? Where does all that stored love go. Well I can tell you this for sure. The heart can break and it may happen many times over a lifetime. That incredible, muscular pump that keeps us alive can also shatter into a million tiny pieces.
So what happens inside? A Cardiac Surgeon can often put you back together physically, but how do you repair emotional pain. Where does the stored love go? Is it like a glass vase that can be glued or a tire to be patched? No dear friends, it cannot be physically repaired because it is not a physical problem. It is all that stored up love, all those precious memories, all that is never going to be again.
Here is my theory. First you have to want to put the pieces back together. You have to want a future even though you have lost a precious loved one. I think this is the most difficult step. The overwhelming pain far outweighs the desire to survive. You have to work to overcome the pain, it’s like rehab for the heart. In order to build that heart muscle, you start by exercising, eating healthy and changing certain things that you can control. With emotional pain, you do the same thing. You never forget what it was like before and you never will. That is the most wonderful part of all. You never forget.
Now what happens to the space in your heart that holds the love for that person? It starts to scar and creates permanence. No one can take its place. Your heart is changed and you are changed. You will never be the same physically after a cardiac incident. You will never be the same after a loss. People want you to, because it’s easier that way. They can’t make it go away so they just wish it wasn’t there and you could be who you were. Not going to happen. You’ll never be that person again, but you will grow into a different and possibly more compassionate and understanding person. You will help mend those broken hearts with whatever you have to offer. It may be words or deeds or merely being present, helping them as their rehab is slow and arduous at times. You will watch them struggle with the treadmill of life, knowing if they let go, they will go flying off their path. You will let them be who they are now and not wish it could be like the old days. You will give them space to grieve, to cry, to laugh, to grow and to survive. This is what will help you on your journey when things just don’t turn out the way you thought.
Yes, the heart is an amazing thing and definitely deserves star billing in the cinema of life. It holds space for love as well as for pain and in the end, it is what makes life work. It keeps us alive physically and it fills us emotionally. No wonder it is a symbol of happiness as well as love.
Have a wonderful Valentines Day.