Loving With Every Bit of My Heart

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I suppose that my favorite parable is the story of the Prodigal Son. It encapsulates my feelings about the people that I love. A son turns away from his family and is estranged from them for a very long time. When he decides to return his father greets him with love and forgiveness without question. I tend to very much be like that father. I value my relationships so much that even when someone has hurt me, I am willing to take them back into my good graces if they decide to return. My commitment to family and friends is for life, but I am also realistic enough to understand that there are some situations that make reconciliation almost impossible. 

In my work I have heard of unbearable abuse of women by their husbands, and children by their parents. There is no reason to think that those who have been maliciously hurt should welcome their tormentors back into the fold. Some people are so toxic that the only healthy thing to do is to cut them off like a cancer. Freeing themselves from either emotional or physical battering is a necessary step in asserting their own worth. Nobody should ever have to endure the pain and hurt of bad behaviors that tear them apart. It’s important that we support those attempting to extricate themselves from horrific situations. 

I have never had to endure either verbal or bodily beatings so I can only imagine what it is like for those who have been badly injured by someone who should have loved them. I saw only glimpses of uncontrolled anger in the moments when my mother’s bipolar disorder lead to a mania so debilitating for her that she raged with words that she would never have uttered when she was well. Such times were a sign to me and my brothers that she needed medical help to still the demons of her diseased mind. I knew to ignore her outbursts because they were only an outlet for the fears brought on by psychosis. Medication promptly returned her to her usual loving self. 

In most cases we lose friends or family members because they simply move on to a new phase of life, not because of a disagreement. As we grow and change so do our relationships. We may find that we don’t feel as comfortable as we once did with someone who had been very close. We drift apart and are lost to each other before we even realize what has happened. Sometimes people who have been far away from us suddenly return and we realize that it is possible to pick up the friendship once again without effort. We fit together like two pieces of a puzzle.

So it is with my friend, Nancy. She and I met in high school and felt a strong connection almost immediately. Both of us had lost our fathers when we were quite young. Both had beautiful caring mothers who worked hard to keep us safe and happy. We went to the same university and spent time dreaming of our futures which ultimately took us in different directions. Time passed so quickly that we were retired before we connected once again. The magic of our friendship was still very much intact. We picked up our conversation exactly where we had left it forty years before. Our reunion was as smooth as if we had only been apart for a few days. 

I have a cousin who moved away from the family years ago. I have only seen him at funerals for the past fifty years. He comes to honor those who have died and then promptly returns to his life in another state. He is not much for writing or talking on the phone. He does not even send Christmas cards, but my love for him is as deep and warm as it always has been. I sometimes worry that he does not realize that he is forever in my heart. I know that he has his reasons for staying away and I respect his decision, but I find myself hoping that he does not think that I have forgotten him or that my feelings for him have weakened in any way. 

I fight for some relationships and let others end because I know that it is best to halt them. People come and go and sometimes come back again. It is the way of the human experience, and yet like the father of the prodigal son, I am always open to welcoming them back into my life whenever they choose to return. The magic of reigniting a long lost friendship is one of the most beautiful feelings that there is. 

My first best friend was Lynda Barry. We met when we were only six years old. She lived across the street from my house and we hit it off instantly. We spent whole days playing childhood games and making pinky promises to never desert each other. Life and our careers took hold and sent us in opposite directions but now and again we call each other on the telephone and converse for hours just like we did as little girls. We seem to have a mind meld that is unbreakable and ours is an understanding that we will love each other forever even if we do not see each other again. 

In this Christmas season I think of the people I have known and loved. I can’t begin to describe how important they have been to me. Some have gone to other places to live their lives, others have died, most are still very much present. All of them have been worth fighting for, worth loving with every bit of heart that I have. 

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