A little over a week ago, I lost my grandmother.  She was 89 years young and beautiful to the end.  Her health had been on a steady decline for several years, but over the last few months her decline was more rapid, and the last week was almost at rocket speed.  Even though I had been anticipating this loss for years, it still caught me completely off guard and let me feel a pain I haven't felt since we miscarried or since my brother died - complete heartbreak.

My grandmother was more than my grandma.  She helped raise me from the time I was six years old.  When I was six, she sold her house, most of her belongings, left her friends and family and came here to help my mom raise my brother and I.  We were able to move out of the small duplex on the wrong side of Central, to a bigger house with grass in the backyard.  My grandma invested a lot of her own money to remodel that house and help turn it into a home.  She cooked our meals, did our laundry, shuttled my brother and I to school and after school activities.  She was the one to stay home and care for us when we were sick.  She was the caretaker and provided us the opportunity to not live at daycare or be latch key kids.  She gave my mom the peace of mind in knowing her kids were taken care of and took some of that single mom burdan away.  While my relationship with my grandma was rocky and strained when I was younger, it blossomed into a beautiful friendship and relationship over the past 18+ years.  She helped me get through school, gave me her car and sent me money to help me through college - she became my biggest cheerleader, supporting me however she could.
I have seen her at least once a week, every week, since Kaylee was born.  My girls don't know a life without our weekly visits.  When we brought Bridget home, she was instantly smitten and would hold Bridget's hand telling her how much she loved her.  The feelings were mutual.

Losing my grandma has made me think a lot about love. What was it that made my grandma leave everything she knew and move to a place she didn't know?  Love.  What made her raise two more children after already raising three of her own, and my cousin?  Love.  What made my mom live her life around my grandma for the past several years, never going on vacation, never skipping a Sunday to bring her flowers?  Love.  What was it that made my grandma so special to me?  Love.

Love.  What is love?  I thought I had a pretty good idea, I mean, I've been married for 12 years, I have four beautiful children...I thought I had a pretty good grasp on this "love" business, but as it turns out I am just starting to scratch the surface on understanding what love is.  

As a child, I would have told you that love was merely an emotion, something that you feel.  I loved my dog, but I did not love my older brother.  I based that on feelings.  My dog was friendly. She liked to play catch, sit with me while I watched T.V. and keep me company during thunderstorms (where we both huddle in my bed, afraid).  My brother, on the other hand, would call me names, steal my things,and make me cry (don't worry, we worked it all out and have a great relationship now).  

I also based love on preferences.  I loved cereal, but hated tomatoes.  Cereal is the perfect food; good anytime, day or night, and its vitamin fortified, so it's healthy, right?  Tomatoes, on the other hand, are red, like Satan.  They taste horrible and the little seeds slime their disgusting ick on lettuce, ruining any salad a tomato is in.  Cereal = good = love.  Tomato = horribleness = not love.

When I got married, I grew into thinking love was an action.  It is something you "do".  You won't always "feel" like you love your spouse, but you "do" it anyway.  And even though I had this new understanding, I still treated love as an emotion and a preference, but also realized that I treated love as a condition, as in "I'll show you love, if you show me love".  I "loved" my husband, because that is what you do.  But in those early years of our marriage, I hardly showed him love.

Then came children.  Oh, NOW I understood love, right?  This person, this tiny human being that grew in my belly for 9 months and stopped crying the instant the nurses handed her to me (and then proceeded to urinate on me too) THIS was love!  I loved Kaylee with every fiber of my being.  I would do anything to protect her.  I wanted to give her the world.  I would do ANYTHING for this child.  Then came 3 a.m..  The endless nights of crying.  The constant explosive poop, spit up, non stop nursing, more crying... Then that fuzzy, lovey dovey love I felt for this child - this precious little being that I thought had redefined love for me, made me understand a whole new level of rage, desperation and fear.  I didn't think it was possible to love and despise someone at the same time, let alone so much.  I completely began to understand sleep deprivation and why it was used as a form of torture.
 My understanding of love was still naive.  It was still focused on me and what I would get out of it.  When things were easy (and I was getting more than 2 hours of sleep) I could love, but if the conditions were not perfect, love was a very hard thing for me to do.

Enter Adoption...Now, here I am, being asked to love someone I have never met.  I love my husband because I know him.  We dated, we fell in love, he tolerates me and makes me coffee.  I love my kids.  I spent hours in labor with each or them.  I have watched them grow before my very eyes and have fallen in love with them, their personalities, their quirks, their creativity...but now, God has asked me to love a stranger.  A child that has not grown in my womb.  A child that has not written me love letters.  Adoption has once again redefined my idea of love.  I see now that it is more than a feeling.  More than a preference.  More than an action.  It is obedience.  I am not asked to love, I am told to love.

The first time my Grandma saw Bridget, she instantly loved her.

Not because she had too, not because she knew her, not because she was lovable or because she would get anything in return, she just loved her.  

I have struggled to understand love all my life, but looking at my grandma, getting to be with her all these years, holding her hand as she slipped away, reflecting on how imperfect our relationship had been, but how perfect it had become - it gave me hope.  Time taught her to love better and it is teaching me the same.  


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