It took me awhile to fall asleep the other night, lying there between my husband and my 9-month-old daughter. As I cuddled my sleeping girl, I couldn’t wrap my mind around the heartache of those who have lost their loved ones.
On my mind was the pregnant mother who recently died in Virginia, leaving behind a husband and four young children. I thought of the new mom in Indianapolis who lost her husband a month before their daughter was born. I thought of Hanna, who lost her young husband to cancer. I thought of a baby boy, the son of a friend, who was born this month with a genetic abnormality and lived for just over an hour. I thought of an even closer friend, who just received news that her unborn baby girl will also live only a few hours or a few days.
I wondered if one day I would have to endure the pain of losing my spouse or child. I prayed to God that I would not.
Believing in love seems easy. We all want happiness—to love and be loved—to have our relationships change the world. But when we love we also take the risk that our hearts will be broken—by breakups and broken vows—but also, inevitably, when our loved ones are taken from us. This is the kind of heartbreak I most fear. When we find the person we want to spend the rest of our lives with, and make a vow, when that love brings forth life and then one (or more) of those lives are lost, that’s when the pain sears and cuts us to the core.
I remember thinking about this “risk” before I was married. It was enough to tempt me not to love. It seemed easier to protect myself from getting hurt than to risk loving, and accepting the love of, another. But then I realized my problem. It was all about me. You see, loving someone is making the choice to put his or her wellbeing above your own. Refusing to give my all because I was worried about my own pain was not love, but selfishness.
I wish I could say that this temptation ended with this realization, but it did not. When I got pregnant with my son, and then daughter, this fear revisited me. What if I would miscarry? I’ve had friends who’ve miscarried, some even more than once, and I knew it could be a traumatic experience. But again, I was worrying about myself. Instead, each time I’ve chosen to love that little baby with all my heart. I want to be the best mama I can be for that child, whether it’s for eight weeks or 80 years. I want my baby to know what it’s like to be loved.
I still get scared sometimes thinking about “what ifs” and the risk love is. Thankfully this fear reminds me not to take my family for granted, but to cherish each moment as best I can. It challenges me to love my husband and children with all my heart so that should an unfortunate event occur, they’ll know they’re loved. Every day I’m faced with small opportunities to choose love or myself. Should I change that dirty diaper out of love for my husband, or leave it for him so that I don’t have to encounter that putrid smell? Can I be the one to take the kids for an extra 30 minutes so that my husband can get a little downtime after a hard day’s work, or demand that he keeps working the moment he walks through the door? These small, commonplace events in our lives are brimming with opportunity to love those dearest to us. I’ve learned over and over that I must choose to love and reject the temptation to become self-centered.
Ultimately it comes down to this question: do I want to live life scared, or live life loving others? Faced with that question I choose love a million times over