Does love end with the final breath?
Does it stop when one no longer walks the earth?
This question twirls and spins about my mind of late. Not because I’m about to breathe my last. No, I’m thinking about my precious little girl, my Emma. Her birthday is near and thoughts of her life crowd my waking moments.
Did Emma’s love end when she closed her eyes at home that fateful March morning? Or in the hospital when the ventilator was removed?
Did her love end when her body was lowered in the darkness of the earth, so near and yet so very far away from me?
I can almost feel the tightness of her hug as she wrapped her arms around my neck and squeezed every ounce of love she could from her little body to mine.
And love wars. I love you bigger than . . . one of us would begin.
I love you bigger than a chocolate chip cookie. She giggled.
I love you bigger than our house. A smile.
I love you bigger than a giant. A wink.
I love you bigger than the sky. She paused and looked at me with the most serious face that would then break into her smile. Oh that smile. The one that she reserved for me, and for the ones she loved. Wow, Mommy, you got me there!
It then became my turn to giggle. If only she knew just how big my love for her really was.
How big it remains.
A friend texted me recently and shared an insight unnoticed to me before.
I love how God shows you His love for you through Emma.
How did I not see that?
Emma’s life was a gift, a precious and unexpected gift. We hadn’t planned on adding another child to our family. But God knew. He knew we needed to experience a love that surpasses life and death, a taste of love that lasts for eternity.
“Three things will last forever - faith, hope, and love - and the greatest of these is love.” Psalm 119:159, NLT
I learned so much from her precious life. How love conquered fear and tickle fights were more fun when sleep was supposed to come. How sharing a chocolate cupcake made it taste better than eating it alone, and how a simple touch could convey what words sometimes could not.
The warmth of her body, covered in pink footy pajamas, snuggled next to me.
The feel of her fingers winding through my hair as sleep wooed her off to dreamland.
Her longing for love to win and her family to speak kind words to one another.
There was a season after she died when love escaped me. Or perhaps it scared me too much because the loss of Emma’s love shredded my heart. Grief chipped it away until my heart became so worn and bruised that love seemed too powerful to let near. What if love was lost again? Was it worth the risk of another broken heart?
“The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease!” Lamentations 3:22, NLT
Yet Emma loved so completely, so fully that her love followed me through the years since she died. A love that reached through the veil, that thin place between heaven and earth, and knit the broken pieces back together. A wisp of memory as the weight of her arms squeezed me tight. A whispered memory of I love you. The joy in her sister’s voice as a memory of Emma singing surfaced. Even the tears of longing to hold her close just one more time.
Yes, the pain of loss and grief cut deep, far deeper than I ever thought possible. To the marrow, I’ve read, but somehow I think it goes even deeper. Because love goes deeper. It surpasses time and lasts through eternity. Pure love born in the Creator’s heart and poured out into each of ours. Lavish, deep, and abiding love.
“And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is.” Ephesians 3:18, NLT
Emma’s life, in all its fullness, revealed a greater love that sustains me through my darkest days and rejoices with me in joy-filled moments.
So as the day of her birth draws near, I celebrate every minute I held her close. I embrace the greatest lesson my sweet girl’s life taught me - to risk the love because love is the greatest gift one can give another. Love that continues on far after the final breath was drawn.
Happy seventeenth birthday, sweet girl.