TO FORGE A HEART
This week, Valentines Day arrives—and for some in my family, it’s a week of sorrow and for others, a week of joy. There has been a death in the family—an exemplary man—a cherished husband, father, and grandfather who fought a long and brave fight and who, I have to believe, is now in a better place. Also this week is the wedding of a beloved niece, about to start a new life with the love of her life. And both of these events are occurring in the midst of a week symbolized by hearts everywhere we look—candy hearts, balloon hearts, card hearts, flower hearts, chocolate cake hearts…
So I have to ask—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? Or 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… Four billion, two hundred and four million, eight hundred thousand beats in a lifetime?
Or—is it more?
Is the heart the gasp you feel when he says, “Will you?” or when she says, “Yes!”? Or is it the chest-racking sobs the day your front door slams shut for the last time and taillights disappear down the road and into the dark night?
Is it the single tear trickling down your cheek as you stand helplessly by as the quiet beep-beep-beep of the heart monitor fades into silence? Or is it the 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 little fingers, ten little toes, a vulnerable heartbeat ticking on your chest? Or 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 scarlet sunset across the sparkling waves or the pelting rain upon your face?
Is it the deep crimson roses delivered to your door on your birthday or 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 2018” or “I was thinking of you”?
Is it the pink rage on your cheeks the day your child gets off the bus, head hung 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 day you collapse hard onto your knees, unable to speak, slow tears pleading for someone to hear your heart splintering ?
Is it the smile you give to a stranger, the last twenty dollars you give to a young man without a coat, or the time you give to read that same storybook, out loud, for the forty-third time?
Is it the extra job you work long into the night so that you’ll see those shining eyes on Christmas morning or so you can pay that tuition bill for someone who could never dream of succeeding without you?
What makes a heart?
Not shiny cars or shimmering diamonds or crisp hundred dollar bills but laughter and tears, sorrow and joy, hope and fear, gratitude and friendship, love and loss.
Life makes a heart. And life breaks a heart.
But without all of life, there can never truly be a heart.