Saturday, April 28, 2012
To A Niece Upon Her Birthday; Love Flows Like A River
I love my niece. Perhaps, more importantly, I admire her beyond measure for the the life she has made. If I were to tell you I have spent less than a couple of weeks in her company during the last thirty years, you might think that statement remarkable.
But, sometimes, and with some people, you can see into the soul so very clearly...and when that soul is so life-enriching their "life force" washes over you, refreshes you like a cool rain on a hot day.
One of the problems I've had is that I've seen so little of my extended family over the last forty years. I lived all over the world through 22 years with the Air Force, then spent a decade living and working in the Middle East. As a result, a couple of generations of "family" have been born and flourished and my only familiarity with them has been a panorama of photos on a living room wall somewhere. I am now getting to know my extended family through Face Book. I see the family I grew up with and their faces are familiar. Looking upon those faces I see crow's feet about the eyes, perhaps wrinkle lines in the forehead, the natural culmination of the years of "living".
When I look down the "chain" of family, I see the bright shining eyes of the younger generations and I struggle to figure out which child belongs to who. I am getting to know all of them by visiting their "walls" vicariously through Face Book...and I like what I see.
My niece is something of a different story. Like soldiers who have fought a battle together become brothers, my niece and I share a common tragedy. Mine came somewhat later in life while she had to endure loss at a tender age, and when one is least prepared to deal with such a loss. No one can lose a child and not be scarred by it. But one who has suffered this tragedy, and can still have the strength to persevere, to refuse to surrender to life's tragedies, who possesses a reservoir of love to give to others, has achieved great personal victories. Surely, some of her strength derives from her grandmother who also lost a child, yet had more than enough love to give to four other children. Now I see her family chronicled in photos and Facebook posts and it is clear to me that both she and her creator have worked together to build a rich, loving and rewarding life. Beginning slowly, love has now flowed through her life like a river.
Admiration is a wonderful thing, but love is even more wondrous. I fell in love with my niece ten years ago as my mother lay dying. As we grieved, as we watched my mother begin her journey toward heaven, my niece was there every day, helping with feeding, helping with sponge baths, lending comfort by just sitting with her grandmother and holding her hand. Sharing our pain and sharing her love.
I didn't have a lot of time during the caring period, or during the mourning period, to fully appreciate my niece's support. But after a time, after contemplation is again possible, I began to think about what a remarkable young lady my niece had become. Even later I began to think of the commonality of tragedy we shared and how this young lady had persevered through it and established a family where love thrives and life is reaffirmed.
I still don't see my niece very often. No matter. It's enough for me to see her smiling grandly, with husband and children by her side, at a park, at Disneyland, or just proudly cheering her children on at a school event or around a Christmas tree.
Love only comes to you when you give it. My niece has an abundance of it....as love flows from her like a river. Happy Birthday, dear niece.