Love 101 (Lessons on love and forgiveness from my grandmother)

Last Sunday night, Eric and I went to visit our favourite 101-year-old, Grandma Horne. (All photos on today’s blog were taken at that visit). She is about the cutest little older lady ever.

 

When I was a child she continuously invested in my life in tangible, physical ways such as through home cooked soups, handmade sweaters, way-too-competitive games of crib, enthusiastic attendance at my sporting events (with her little dog Tuffy in tow, a tiny poodle with curly white hair who looked just like her), tender advice, and warm, ample hugs.  But even more importantly she offered to me the most valuable thing in all the Earth: love.

Now at 101, there are no more soups or sweaters or enthusiastic cheering. She cannot give me advice about life, even though sometimes I yearn deeply to hear her perspective on a problem I’m facing.  Dementia has stolen all that.
But dementia, while a worthy adversary, hasn’t stolen everything.

Far more important than the pots of homemade soup (the recipes of which are stored in my heart anyways),  is her love, which remains unchanged. In fact, she brims with love.

 

Sunday night she kept kissing my hand and exclaiming things like “Jennifer, I just love you so much!” or “I’ve loved you from the first hour of your life!”

Sometimes my life can have pretty big challenges, but how can I ever complain when I’ve known love like that in my life?

Having experienced the transforming power of love in my own life challenges me to prioritize love towards those God brings across my path.

That sounds good on paper, but unfortunately, at various times in my life I’ve been pretty hit and miss with that.  Words come easily to me, and I cringe sometimes when I think back over the years of my life to times I’ve used hurtful, creatively cutting words that may have wounded others. I can tell myself that the other person deserved it because they were being hurtful first- but that is an excuse.

Because the truth is simple:  when love is shared, people stand tall. When love is absent, spirits crumple.

Grandma Horne has also taught me about love shown in the form of forgiveness when hurt.

Many, many years ago, I was a minor party in an event that caused my grandma an afternoon of pain and embarrassment.  I regret it to this day.

However, my Grandmother’s response to the situation became a great teacher to me. She never once wavered in her love for me, didn’t hold it against me, and continued on treating me with the same gentleness and care she always had.  She never made me feel less than because I hadn’t taken a different course of action that day.

It is a pathway that I want to follow in loving others who have caused me pain.

However, it certainly isn’t easy.  Long, long, long ago, someone hurt me in a way that caused me such great pain that all these years later I still feel the aftershocks in my daily life.  An area I’d like to grow in is to find a way to love that person despite their actions.

Because, love means opening our hearts to another, even when they have hurt us.

However, let me clarify that love doesn’t mean not setting boundaries or being cautious.  It doesn’t mean allowing someone to cause continual abuse or hurt or pain in our lives.

Sometimes the most powerful way to love someone is with an emphatic, very firm: “NO.” Sometimes love means making known what that person did in the light of day, so that they cannot perpetrate harm towards another.  Love doesn’t mean allowing ourselves to continue to be a victim.

Love does mean genuinely, in our heart of hearts, truly wanting the best for another person’s life.  Of wanting successes and blessings and joy and peace and happiness to fill the other person’s life and heart. Of being gentle and tender in spirit towards that person.

My Grandma’s love, as well as love I experienced from others such as  Eric and my parents, has been a healing balm to my  spirit.  It helped me to grow into a woman today who has a heart and desire to genuinely love others.  I know what it is like to hurt deeply, and so I want to be someone that never causes pain in another like that. I want to be a force of peace and joy and love in others’ lives.

Unfortunately, anyone who has lived on this earth for more than a short period of time has known hurt at some point.  It is, terribly, a painful reality of living- and that means that there are a lot of wounded people walking around with pasted on smiles on their faces that hide bleeding hearts.

And sometimes the result of a bleeding heart is a person who isn’t gentle.  Which is where in the past I’d jump in with my own caustic words.  But where from now on I hope that I instead seen an opportunity to bring gentleness and love to someone who might be facing things I don’t even know about.

One thing I truly believe is that all of us, no matter our stories or backgrounds or life experiences, truly desires to be deeply loved. And when we receive love, we are changed forever.

Never, never, never underestimate the transforming power that love can have on those around you.

Love can help heal a multitude of broken hearts, and love is what changes our world for the better.

Love really is the most important thing in all the Earth.

 

 

 

 

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