Wednesday, February 1, 2012

It Is Better To Have Loved

In 1850 Alfred Lord Tennyson penned these words in his poem, In Memoriam 27 and even if you don't love poetry you probably have heard a portion of this piece:

"I hold it true, whate're befall;
I feel it, when I sorrow most;
'Tis better to have love and lost
Than never to have loved at all."

As my children buried their pet toads this week, I read this very poem to them and tried to explain that what they were feeling is beautiful. It was because they loved that they feel pain. Although I spent most of my afternoon comforting mourning boys who wear their hearts on their sleeves, it was precious to see the love in their hearts...for all!
He checked the tank and gave the grave report...."I think Brendan's toad is...frozen." Brendan looked over to me with his sad if to say..."he doesn't mean frozen does he Mom?" Then my youngest came back and said with tears.."Mine is frozen too Mom!"

A flood of memories hit me. I was a freshman in high school, had come home from school and found my great Aunt had died on her bedroom floor. I was in shock. Called my parents at work and said that she had fallen out of bed and wouldn't move. I couldn't say the words I knew to be true. Death was hard to speak about.
My sweet Shane had gone to feed the toads and noticed that Toto was "frozen" so he went back to pick up Hopper and he was still alive. Shane held him, placed him on the table and Hopper hopped once. Thinking all was well, Shane looked at Hopper's belly to watch him breathe...and right there in his hand..Hopper took his last breath. Oh there was heart ache!

Then Kyle frantically searched the tank for Darky. It has been a little chilly in the mornings so the toads tend to bury themselves in the dirt to keep warm. We couldn't find the toad. I suggested we take the tank outside and bury the other toads. We went outside, the boys made crosses for the grave sites. Shane dug Hopper's grave. All the while crying. I'm sure wondering why this had to happen. What a sad day. Then as he went to get his "frozen" toad out of the tank he saw was Darky..Kyle's toad.
What mixed emotions. This from a boy who has been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, this from a boy who has an enormous heart and who knows how to express his feelings and emotions. Who loves deeply! He didn't know how to act. What he knew to be true, that Darky was "frozen" like the rest of them, was no longer truth. I watched everything transpire in Kyle's mind and heart. Elated that his toad had survived (God knew what he was doing), but sorrowful for his brothers...Kyle quietly pick up his toad...cried mixed tears...and decided to let him go.
He placed Darky by our neighbor's Oak tree with his homemade cross. Said his goodbyes as the other boys looked on. What a beautiful sight. The other two boys were happy for Kyle and happy for Darky...LOVE in the purest fashion. Kyle was cautious about his reaction...LOVE...displayed through the purity of compassion. We all wished Darky well as he hopped away...alive. Kyle placed his cross at the base of the tree and told Darky to stop by and "remember to thank Jesus every day for what He did...He saved you Darky."  Wow...this from my boy who has been diagnosed with ASD. He is indeed...special.
We went back to mourning...the loss. As I watched my 8 year old dig the hole that he would place his "friend" hit me...this is a moment of growth. I saw a little man out there with that shovel. As he ever so gently placed Hopper in that grave, letting one of his own tears drop on Hopper's belly (LOVE physically displayed),  he instinctively said some of the most beautiful sentiments. "I love you Hopper. I remember when we played in the backyard and you hopped in the grass, and when I set up the obstacle course for you with all of the were so happy. I hope I see you Heaven...I think you knew about Jesus...he did right Mom, how could he not know? I will never forget you Hopper."
We prayed for Shane and we thanked God for Hopper. What a joy it was to know him and we are thankful we showed him love. I looked at my son..tears flowing down his face. So many questions, so many memories. Memories of deaths past...his Pa and his Meme. Then the questions..."Mommy what if Dodger dies? Mommy please tell me you won't die?" I know he knows that death is a part of life...we've had this conversation before. I just let him ask questions, answered each one the best I knew how and held him close..all the while knowing that this is a lesson in life and LOVE.
It was hard for all three boys. They were broken for each other. I watched my little superheros come to the rescue of each other. It was one of the highlights of my Mommy life. The words of comfort that they gave to one another. "Rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep." Romans 12:15
I could see Jesus in all of my boys that day. I could feel His presence and was thankful for the wisdom he granted me for that moment. I knew that this was a big deal...LOVE is a big deal!
My sweet Brendan. Most tender of all hearts, most selfless of all three. He took this so hard. As he took one last look...he says to me. "Mom, I'm thinking of all the things I didn't do. I didn't feed him like I should, I didn't play with him as often as Kyle & Shane, I don't think he knew how much I loved him. Is it my fault he is dead?" Looking at me, longing for me to rescue him with my words. I did the best I could. He whispers in my ear so his brother could not hear..."I don't know if I believe toads go to Heaven Mom...they do not have a soul...they really don't have a Savior."

No my son, but they do have a Maker.
As Brendan tries to take my advice and think about the good things about having his pet, I know this child is totally thinking of the most recent death that he had to experience...his grandmother. He cried so hard at the funeral. He is also very aware that his Pop is going to be 94 this month. One of the questions he asked was how I think the toads died. I have no idea...we talked about the toads' age and life expectancy.
He prepared the much harder for boy who wears his heart on his sleeve. My deep thinker. He had to give Toto some comfort, even in his death...he had to wrap him was the only decent way.....LOVE...respectful. "Taking Jesus' body, the two of them wrapped it, with the spices in strips of linen." John 19:40
Questions were asked, fears were relieved, hearts were in pain. Pain, because we love so deeply. As one boy mentioned..."I wish I didn't love my pets! It wouldn't hurt then if they die."
Ahhh...but it is better to have the memories of the love you have shared, then to have never loved before. Imagine NOT having those memories at all! Imagine not LOVING at all!!  How very sad that would be. Those very memories will soon turn to joy. I promise. For now, it hurts...I know.

Tomorrow it will get a little easier, and we will think about LOVE a lot. We will be conscious about how we demonstrate love, how we spread love and how we don't. We might be more mindful of making memories...memories made out of LOVE that live on...after the grave. Oh boys, it really is better that you have LOVED and loved deeply.

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