“Who could refrain that had a heart to love and in that heart, courage to make love known?” (Shakespeare)
Hearts. This week has been all about them: red hearts, pink hearts, gold and silver hearts, candy hearts, balloon hearts, card hearts, flower hearts, chocolate cake hearts. Hearts as far as the eye can see.
But what makes a heart?
Is it the red paper, the white lace, the scissors and glue? Is it the once-a-year words written with ink that fades as the months go by? Is it the glitter, the sparkle, the shine?
Is it the 144,000 beats per day, day in, day out, month after month, year after year for, perhaps, eighty years or more? No time-outs, no vacations, no rest, one beat after another: thump-thump, thump-thump, thump… Four billion, four hundred and forty-four million, eight hundred thousand beats in a lifetime?
Or – is it more?
Is the heart the leap you feel the day he says, “Will you?” or the day she says, “Yes!”? Is it the chest-racking sobs the night your door slams shut for the last time and taillights disappear down the road and fade to black?
Is it the single tear trickling down your cheek when you stand helplessly by as the quiet beep-beep-beep of the heart monitor withers to silence? Is it the choking loss for words that comes when the doctor looks you in the eye and says, “benign”?
Is it the moment you meet your newborn, ten tiny fingers, ten tiny toes, a vulnerable heartbeat ticking against your pounding chest? Is it the swelling in your throat as you walk your baby down the aisle and place her hand into the hand of her future happiness?
Is it the huge white moon hanging above the glittering waves or the pelting rain upon your face? Is it the squish of wet sand between your toes on a solitary beach or the giggling swish of arms and legs in the fresh, cold white at the birth of a snow angel? Is it the deep crimson roses delivered to your door on your birthday, your anniversary? Or not delivered…?
What makes a heart?
Is it the day you cut the bright ribbon and open the doors of your dream? Is it a piece of paper saying “Mr. and Mrs.” or “Class of 2017” or “I was thinking of you.”?
Is it the pink rage on your cheeks the day your child gets off the bus, head bowed low, and whispers a word you prayed he’d never have to hear? Is it the green haze that clouds your eyes and pollutes your soul when she walks by, owning his hand instead of you?
Is it the smile you give to a stranger, the last dollars in your pocket you give to a penniless man, or the time you give to read that same storybook, out loud, over and over, for the forty-third time?
Is it the extra job you work at night so you’ll see those shining eyes on Christmas morning, or so you’ll finally climb high into the clouds of that mountain you’ve dreamed of conquering since you were ten, or so you’ll watch that one walk across the stage who could never have walked there alone?
Is it the day you collapse hard onto your knees with no words, slow tears pleading for someone to hear your heart splintering? Or is it the slow, red dawn that speaks that the bleak winter of your wandering has finally come to an end?
What makes a heart?
Not shiny black cars or shimmering diamonds or crisp hundred dollar bills but loud laughter and quiet tears, hidden sorrows and public joys, endless mornings of hope-filled prayers and as many nights of sleepless fears. It’s gratitude too deep ever to repay and forever friendship – pinky sworn; it’s empty caverns of the soul carved by loss, and it’s mama-bear love.
Life makes a heart. And life breaks a heart.
But without all of life, there can never truly be a heart.