(Note: I seldom use names in any of my pieces out of respect for anonymity. But those who I write about know exactly who they are, and my silence of their names is not a question of love. It is respect for it.)
I have always admired wedding photographs. I like the frozen moments in time and the smiles from the bride and groom, which define the happiness and love in their hearts. And whether their version of “Forever” lasts until death do them part, or only a few years, the frozen moment remains and for that day, they loved each other to the best of their ability.
I love wedding albums and videos. I love the smiles of the wedded couple’s parents. And dancing photos; I love them most. I love them because for that moment and that moment alone, nothing else matters except the celebration.
Love is not an easy emotion. It is the bravest we can share because there is no guarantee of its return.
Love is a risk. But where would we be without it? What would life be without risk, other than stagnant?
I have always enjoyed thumbing through photo albums and viewing the captured memories, which are forever contained on a thick page beneath a clear plastic film.
I love baby photos too. Those are the best.
I enjoy the facial expressions on say, the grandparent’s, or the crazy aunt and uncle’s wide eyed coochie-coo look.
These moments are priceless.
The most beautiful are the mother and child pictures. These are the ones right after birth; these are the ones taken when mother meets child for the first time. I love them because of the endearing look in the mother’s eyes as if to say, “I’ve been waiting my entire life to meet you.”
I have a picture of myself in my daughter’s room. I am wearing a hospital gown, a mask, a cap, and my daughter is in my arms, swaddled in the hospital’s blanket. This picture is only a glimpse into my heart. It is clear I am smiling, and though there is a mask covering my face, my cheeks are raised, and the energy leaking from my eyes is brilliantly obvious.
I was happy, scared, intimidated, uncertain, but I was also overwhelmed with an outpour of love.
I was holding my child for the first time. I was afraid I might be holding her wrong. I worried about the common basics like, “What do I do now?” and “When do I feed her?”
“How much formula do I put in the bottle?”
“What do I do if she gets sick?”
I was so wonderfully frightened and cautiously gentle with her.
I have a family album of photographs from before I was born. I have some black and white photos and colored pictures from the late 60’s and early 70’s. I have some of my infant photos, which were taken with my Old Man. I think the story behind one of the photos is I accidentally peed on him and that’s why he was laughing in the picture.
And this is why photographs are so valuable. They are valuable because they capture moments so they will never slip away. And we need these memories; otherwise, we have nothing to defend ourselves with when life seems loveless or cold.
Parenting, like love, is also a risk. We dive in and we try. We raise our children to be the best they can be. We let them go outside, and sometime they fall. Sometimes they break a leg; they break a bone, or need stitches.
Sometimes our children will make us so angry; we nearly forget how precious they are. We forget about the bundle of joy we welcomed home when say, the diarrhea monster strikes, or when they cry for hours and our frustration passes its limit. There are tough times in parenthood—but none of us would ever trade them away.
I remember a little girl named Alison . . . she died before she reached the ae of two. I remember going to the hospital and sitting with Alison’s mother and father. I wished I could have done more. I wish I could have been a better friend, or said something, or helped in some way.
As I write to you, I am preparing myself for a memorial ceremony. This one is for a little boy named Jake. After seeing what happened with Alison, I could not sit back without lending a hand. And along with other incredible people, we rolled up our sleeves, and went to work.
Each time I visited the hospital to donate platelets from my blood, I heard the nurse call out, “We have another donor for Baby Jake!”
The key word is “Another,” and the outpour of love in this case is unlike anything I have ever seen.
I repeat, love is a risk and so is parenting. But life without risk is what leads to regret.
Alison’s parents have no regret. They may question the treatments they chose; but they tried and they fought. They gave their heart, and they gave their all. But the value of their time with Alison is still and will always be immeasurable.
As for Jake’s parents . . . They created a beautiful boy. They would trade anything to see Jake again. I know this; however, they would never go back and undo the wonderful moments of Jake’s life. And like Alison’s parents, they too have no regret. They gave their heart. They gave their love, and they gave their all.
Love is frightening, but we mustn’t be so afraid they we refuse to dare. We cannot be so afraid that we refuse to try—or love, or give ourselves.
To love completely is the most generous action we have as a species. And we mustn’t be so frightened that we shy away in fear of its failure.
We cannot regret yesterday or its vanished miracles.
We can only embrace them.
We need to learn from them.
We need to live as best as we can, grow, love with all our hearts, and above all else, regret nothing.
It is written, “In my Father’s house, there are many rooms. If that we not so, would I have told you that I go there to prepare a place for you?”
It is also written, “Blessed are those who morn, for they shall be comforted.” Matthew 5:4
But know this: The sickness is no more, but the son you created and his donation to the world will live on throughout eternity.