One night last week I was sleeping when my oldest daughter woke me up. I drowsily looked at her and was waiting for her to tell me the dog was snoring (he’s an old, fat lab that snores loudly and sometimes makes the floor vibrate enough to wake her up) or that the brother she shares the basement with was sleep walking again. Instead, she told me she had just thrown up and didn’t make it to bathroom.
It had been years since she had done that. I got her moved and comfortable on the couch. I gave her some water and kissed her on the forehead. Then I cleaned the mess and scrubbed the carpet. As my hands were emerged in the soapy water, I thought to myself, “I’m glad I was here to take care of her.” Especially since she let me kiss her on the forehead, as a teenage girl, she is not the most affectionate creature with her parents.
It was late and I was tired and I fell back asleep without much more thought. The next day though, I thought more about it. She has 2 1/2 years of high school left. The next time she gets sick and needs her mom, she could be in college. I will be sad to get that phone call telling me she is sick and I’m not there.
I then started to reflect on the young woman my daughter is. I’m not going to be an overly braggy mom and list all the things I love and admire about her, just know I think she is remarkable. I was telling all of this to my husband and I thanked him. He has spent countless hours with her coaching and supporting her love of basketball. They have been able to travel the mid-west together. He’s spent lots of hours on the road parenting her. He is a huge influence in her life and he deserves much of the credit for helping to mold and shape the young woman she is becoming. He was being annoyingly humble and started to say something, but I cut him off and said something like, “all I’ve done is feed her and wash her clothes.” He response was, “you’ve loved her.”
He is really a wise man. I didn’t tell him, but I had to fight back tears. His words were so unexpected but they struck a chord with me. It’s true. I have loved her, still do and always will.
I’m not going to say that my mother did not love me, but it was not always evident to me that she did. I did not always feel it. I don’t blame her; as an adult I understand that she was struggling with her own things. However, as a child I never believed I was loved.
I often thought and claimed that if God loved me then all the bad always happening to me wouldn’t always happen. I convinced myself I was unlovable. And although God never stopped loving me, I felt unworthy and denied believing he did. God even put people in my life that tried to teach me otherwise but because of an inconsistent relationship with my mother, foster homes, a biological father I barely knew serving a life sentence in prison, a step-father in and out of prison, poverty, and all that comes with a child trying to make sense of all of that on their own, I truly believed it was my fault and my punishment was that no one loved me.
I worked pretty hard to make sure no one would love either. To this day, I know God is the only reason my husband waited to be my husband while I worked very hard to make him not love me. But, it really did take my husband to pull me out of that life void of love. He loved me and I believed him. He brought me to the church, he introduced me to a priest I loved dearly and who loved me and I believed it. My world was changed. Had I never known love, then graduating college, finding meaningful work, earning a master’s degree, maintaining a happy marriage, and growing a great big family full of love may never have happened.
My daughter started out ahead. She started with love that she never questioned. And if me loving her has helped make her the remarkable young woman that calls me mom, then I have done enough. Love is the difference. Love is the matter. Love is life changing.
This week I have seen several times the quote from Mother Teresa that says, “If you want to change the world, go home and love your family.”
It has been true in my life. My husband changed my world because he loved his family. My husband and I have changed the world my children know because we have loved our family. My husband’s love has had ripple affects on every life my life or our children’s lives touch. And he loves so well and so much because he is from a family of people who have always loved him.
It is not just my family that love has changed the world for. If you think about it, I’m sure all of you can think of someone who loved so much that they changed the world. I’m thinking of a woman now that has not only inspired thousands, probably more, to follow her, she has been the force behind monumental change in the world of those living with and affected by Duchenne and other rare diseases because she loves her family so much.
Love. Love hurts. Love is true. Love is powerful. Love makes you strong. Love can change the world. Love is what matters. Love is the matter of living life. Love is the matter.